Teaching Photography to Teenagers

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andrewmoodie

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Has anyone got any advice?

I'm going to be doing a couple of sessions with a group of teens next week. Any suggestions? The first session is going to be on taking pictures so I'll mostly talk about ideas, inspiration, thoughts etc. The next session will be on printing so I will of course be more technical then.

I'd welcome any tips from anyone who has done this kind of thing before.

Thanks
 

Poco

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Don't take any degree of photographic knowledge for granted. I remember what a revelation it was when I was taught the relationship between f-stops and shutter speeds and how they can be manipulated to to keep exposure constant while affecting DOF and the "freezing of action." I thought it the coolest thing in the world at that moment and felt inspired to explore the possibilities immediately.

I guess what I'm saying is, focus on inspiration, vision, etc... is fine and all that, but I wouldn't ignore the basics in the first session. They, too, can be inspirational.
 

Flotsam

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I have no real experience there but I have a suggestion.
When you start printing, have a pre-tested negative all ready to go. Every long-time photographer that I have ever met speaks fondly of the magical moment when they saw their first image appear in the developing tray as if it were yesterday. Make that first print as dramatic as possible and you are bound to hook some of them.
After that you can teach them about test strips and chem mixing and the other, less sexy aspects of the darkroom. :smile:
 

Les McLean

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Give them some film and tell them to photograph what they see, you'll be surprised at the results you get back. It may be wise to give them a little help on how to use the camera meter to get in the ball park with exposure. Don't bore them with fstops etc at this stage, in my experience many youngsters find that a big turn off at the early stages. Encourage them to experiment and some of them will come up with some wacky images and that helps get them more interested for they are doing their own thing. Once they are hooked they'll come to you to find out what they need to know. If your experience in this is anything like mine you're in for a great time and I'd predict a few excellent and probably very different images from what you imagined.
 

BWGirl

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I agree with Les! All that 'techie' stuff just sounds like "yada, yada, yada" (or the English equivalent thereof) to kids. I have seen the photos of teens in the High School where I used to take my B&W photo class through the Jr. College. These kids have an
eye that will astound you! Basic understanding of light, shadow and "seeing" in black & white will be most helpful. I'd have them suggest themes...and maybe coach them on how to approach those subjects (like stopping action, or blurring it).

Maybe once you finish with them, have them post, or post for them to one of the galleries & let us know so we can comment on their work! I think we'd all like to give them some help & perhaps win a few young analog advocates! :D Maybe Sean could set up a temporary student gallery for you. I think they'd get a kick of having people from all over the world comment on their photos!
Jeanette
 

Poco

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Guess that shows how weird I am, LOL.

I'd taken plenty of pictures before I took that short photo course, guided by nothing but intuition and instinct -- not sure another few rolls shot the same way would have done much for me. It was the news that you could actually CONTROL what a photo looked like that made the course a revelation to me and that I found so exciting.
 

ann

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Double Les's thoughts, we do a workshop for teens every summer.It is a week long , 4 hours a day session. So, Keep it simple. They will ask what they need to know and will get to where you wanted to go. That is not to say that you don't cover the basics but give them just enough understanding about how to use the camera and send them out to make pictures. Then all that "nuts and bolts" will begin to make more sense.

One thing that was great fun (and i had serious questions about) was to do "photo grams". This was a lead in to printing negatives. It gives them the opportunity to handle the equipment, use the process etc. I was blown away with their results. I was also surprised that they would enjoy something so simple. Some wanted to know what would happen if they put their "chemical hands" on the paper; so my response was go find out. THey began to do chemical painting and it was a wonder.

Another really great experience was to mount, frame and have a mini show of their work at the end of the week. While we mounted, spotted, framed, etc, the gallery director hung each students work along with a proper name card in the gallery area. We had ask the parents to come for cookies and punch at the end of the day and surprised them with a photo exhibit. It was all very professional and folks loved it.
One parent even comment "my gosh these photos have contrast". However, more important every one had a great time and wanted to go out and take more pictures. they all were so proud, even if they didn't act like it (remember these are teenagers); however, the parents couldn't believe their children produced these images.

How many really understood fstops and shutters speeds? Who knows? How many really grasped the fine points to printing. Probably none, but they had fun, got excited about taking and making pictures. Wanted to continue having that experience.

Plant the seed; who knows what will happen! The reality is you may never know :cool:
 

Timothy

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In all seriousness, for anyone who gets involved in trying to teach something that they feel passionately about (and especially to youngsters), I highly recommend that you get a copy of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" and read it thoroughly. It is really easy to read and actually rather brief; you can finish it in an hour or so. And incidently, one of the lessons contained in that classic would be pretty much the same as what Les said.

Tim R
 

Aggie

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From a different aspect, have an area set up for food (munchies) The food should stay just in that area. Have some of their style music playing in the darkroom. Make the environment a bit more friendly to them, and they will be more recpetive to your teaching. Beyond that keep it simple and teach more as they ask more.
 

Les McLean

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Timothy,

"Johnathan Livingston Seagull" is a very well thumbed book in my collection, that's good advice you pass on.
 

Jim Moore

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Les McLean said:
Give them some film and tell them to photograph what they see, you'll be surprised at the results you get back. It may be wise to give them a little help on how to use the camera meter to get in the ball park with exposure.

This is what I did with my 15yr old Daughter the first time she went out with me.

I handed her the camera (Pentax 645), showed her the basics and said "have fun"..... It was an overcast day so the exposure was constant.

Here is two of the photos she took on that day. (She printed them her self too).

Jim
 

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Whiteymorange

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I've been teaching art to kids for almost 30 years. The only advice I can give you is say little and do lots. A lot of talking at the beginning of a new venture is a hurdle kids won't appreciate. Let them get out there and make mistakes. It is only when a kid wonders why something happened that he/she is really receptive to hearing about it. The "need to know" principle means that when someone decides its necessary to know something, because they want to accomplish some task that they have defined as important, you will only have to explain it to them once. (OK, twice... they're still kids.)

More important than anything else - have fun! It's why you do this thing, isn't it? Pass on that passion and everything else will take care of itself.
 

mark

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As a teacher I say show them to use the meter then let them shoot. No offense but your first session, unless you jump around and act like a clown will probably cause some serious spacing out. Let them shoot first and develope what they get. Then you will have what they did to talk about that whole inspiration, and image stuff.

Show them how to have fun with the equipment and they wil be yours talk alot and they will go on vacation.
 

noseoil

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My 15 year old son and I just printed his first black and white images this afternoon. I found an old 35mm SLR on ebay for him and he was interested in printing his first images. They turned out pretty well. I try to give him just enough practical information to get the job done. Not much theory, just the basics he needs to know to do the next step. He's very proud of them.

This seems to be the easiest way to learn. Go out, take the pictures, look at them and decide what would be better next time. The theory is much easier to understand if there is something concrete on hand to examine as a point of reference.
 

argentic

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One technical advice:

When you send them out to photograph, make sure they use a film YOU are used to. Tell them which ASA value to set on the camera (and control it !). An overcast day is best. And develop everything in a two-bath developer. That greatly reduces the amount of unprintably hard or soft negatives.

In the beginning most people probably like a little more contrasty prints than you would.

Good luck.
 

joeyk49

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I've been in a classroom with kids from different age groups and found that teens are not the hardest to get to (7th and 8th graders top the list). All of the points mentioned are very good and will definitely help. It sounds like they all want to be there, so basic motivation won't be a factor.

But, with teens, I've found that you still have to reach out and grab them right away. Wow them with an example or two of what they might be producing if they put their mind to it. Now the catch: Try to connect the art with their culture. Sure some will want to shoot flowers and birds and clouds right away. But the majority will need to be shown (just a gentle nudge, mind you) that cars, or athletes, or kids hanging out on the street corner can make really cool images too. Don't tell them what to do. Hint at where they might find some ideas and let them get it themselves.

Ask more questions. Make fewer statements.
 
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andrewmoodie

andrewmoodie

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Thanks for the advice everyone

And keep it coming. I find teaching quite a challenge but it's something I'd like to get better at. All of the advice you've given me is very useful.

I'm not done yet. Last week I provided them with masses of pictures to look out and I asked them to pick out the ones they liked and I asked them to say what it was they liked.

Then, mercifully, the cameras and the films arrived and I let them go to it. One of the other exercises I did was pick out pictures and then ask them to come up with words. When they got the cameras I then suggested that they think of the word to describe what's in the view finder. I get the films back in a couple of days so I'll see what they came up with. Can't wait. The printing advice you've given me will be very useful.

Thanks again everyone.
 
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