Jill-Smith-kids-and-camerasWith all the photo shoots we do around here, it was no surprise when my little guys started to take interest in cameras and taking their own photos. So when my oldest was around 4 or 4 ½, I came up with an idea to give him some creative independence and our DSLR a little less chance of being dropped on the sidewalk.

I purchased a Fujifilm Instax 210 camera, packs of film, an unlined Moleskine notebook and some colorful washi tape.
Jill-Smith-kids-and-cameras02The camera itself is big and bulky, which is what I wanted in this case. If it could have been covered in armor, even better. It is easy to use with only a few buttons, all of which are large for small fingers to use with confidence. And it magically dispenses photographs that you can hold and show instantly.
The day I pulled it all out and put it on the table, my little guy had a perma-smile tattooed on his face from ear to ear. He was so excited to have his own camera. I sat down with him and we went through the instructions, how to load the film, how to turn it on and the basics of how to care for it. I did this painfully slowly. By the time I finished talking and pointing out every single button and feature, he was panting and begging to get his hands on it. I think the time we spent doing this part together was key because he felt hugely responsible for it. He put the strap around his neck with such care I started to think that armor may not actually be necessary.

After we went over how to use and care for the camera, I laid out a few ground rules for the film. Each photo ends up costing about 85¢. Or in my words ::: expensive. I explained this the best I could to a pretty hip little 4-year old and then told him he could take one photo a day. The exception being the very first day I gave him the camera in which he was able to take a whole pack of 10 photos. This way he could get his excitement out, his practice using the camera in and his creativity going.

The last step we discussed is that he would get to take his photos and tape them into his fancy, grown-up looking Moleskine notebook. This part is also great because it gives him a reason to put the camera down and have something else to look forward to doing, instead of asking me 643 times if he can pleeeeeaaase just take one more photo today.
We’ve been doing this for well over a year now and it is something that he has not tired of. Sometimes he will go weeks without taking any photos, but then remembers the camera and is right back to it. Then I hear how it’s been ONE HUNDRED days since he’s taken a photo, so would it be okay if he took ONE HUNDRED photos today? So we’ve updated the rules to be that if it seems like it’s been ONE HUNDRED days since he’s taken a photo, he can take three that day to catch up.

This idea has turned out to be a wonderful project for our family. He is taking care of something that is his and truly enjoying it. He gets free creative reign, other than us occasionally saying something like, “You might want to get a little closer when taking a photo of that ladybug on our back fence while you are standing in our front yard.” Mostly we keep our mouths shut and he does his thing. And now we have this very fat book full of photo documentation of our day-to-day life from a different (and adorable) perspective.
Links to shop for the camera, film, Moleskin, similar washi tape (or a set of washi tape).
Photography by Brooke Schwab.

PS ::: Little brother is still pretty happy with this vintage pretend version.