Tuesday, April 10, 2012


(Look close: Quite possibly one of my most treasured pictures EVER.)

PICTURE it: Our first family vacation. A cruise on a HUGE ship. A three year old. A nine-month-old. Haiti. Jamaica. Florida. Beaches. Memories. Bliss. It was poised to be the best vacation ever, and I was ready to capture it to savor it forever.

Fast forward to Day 4 with restless kids, sunburns, close quarters, and a day at sea, and it was time for some sort of new entertainment. My three-year-old was getting restless, so I whipped out a tiny point and shoot camera and let him go to it...at first it was hilarious experimentation- snapping pictures of doors, waiters, carpet, passers-by, everything.

Rule of the camera #1:

Kids never run out of things to take photos of, but sometimes it helps to give them specific objects to search for.

It was then time I realized I had to give my son a little more "concrete" direction, so I had him take pictures of different shapes:

Squares- the tiles around the lazy river pool on the ship.

Triangles- the cone on the steps at the water park.

Circles- the patterns on the bar where we shared a (virgin) strawberry daiquiri the first day.

More circles- in the pattern of the carpet in the Windjammer restaurant, carpet that I would have never noticed if he didn't photograph it!

Rule of the Camera #2:

You'll be amazed at how well children can communicate abstract concepts through photos.

We had exhausted the shape concept, it was time for something new. So, I then had him take pictures of things he really "liked" and wanted to remember, a bit more of an abstract concept:
"The stuff so you can see the fishes and sharks so they don't eat you".

A new-found love for strawberry soft serve ice cream cones, available to hungry boys all afternoon!

"Our spot" on the deck where we set up shop every afternoon. We're creatures of habit, mmmmmmmmk?!

The beautiful Caribbean Sea.

I was amazed at how the camera captivated him for HOURS. HOURS ON END. Digital photography motivated my son to observe, focus, and see the world around him in a new way. Are your wheels spinning? Wondering how you can get your children started with digital photography and use a camera to encourage learning (and fun!) at home and in your classroom? Digital photography could be particularly useful for students with learning disabilities or language delays. Digital photography is also awesome because it's eco-friendly and the delete button is fab-u-lous!

You could purchase an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera (or a child-proof one) for students in your classroom and embark on the following learning adventures:

-Ask them to find and photograph a certain number of objects that are a particular color or shape—like 10 red objects or 12 square objects.

-For a more advanced game, ask them to photograph concepts like "love" or "warmth." You'll be amazed at how well children can communicate these abstract concepts through a photo.

-Once the photo fun is done, it's fun to sit with your students to talk about their photos. It's an enjoyable and creative way to see the world through his or her eyes.

-Encourage your children to tell stories and talk about their photos. You can ask questions like:
-Which one is his/her favorite photo?
-What color or object would he/she like to photograph next time?
-What order would your child put the photos in?

When I asked Reece about this picture today, he told me this story: "This Daddy-Monster is gonna get me. He has sharp teeth. He likes to eat popsicles and Fruit Loops. He is a nice guy when it is light outside. He sleeps on a high-up bed (bunk-bed)".

On Day 5 of the cruise, I realized I had lost all 600 precious pictures I had shot of my kids, the boat, and our vacation. My memory card had gone corrupt and I broke down in a puddle of self-pitied misery. My memories were gone. Being a semi-professional photographer, everyone expected beautiful pictures of smiling children, soft sand, and blue skies gracing my Facebook page and my photo albums.

Luckily, I have the precious memories that my son thought were important. Things I didn't notice as I was behind MY lens. Things that HE will remember and can tell stories about. Details of the boat that we (as adults) overlook. Pictures and memories that were important through his lens, like the picture at the very top of this post, likely one of my most treasured photographs ever taken. His pictures make me laugh, and caputure his personality moreso than I could have ever captured through my lens.

Joanna Davis-Lanum is a National Board Certified Art Teacher and teaches at Garden Elementary School in Venice, Florida. She is the mom of two creatively wild and crazy boys whom she has taken 1,298,976,587 photographs of. She is the author of her classroom blog We Heart Art and blogs about the inspiration her kids give her for art projects. For an extension of this lesson using an app called FotoBabble where students use voice to talk over a photograph, and give it a QR code, you can check out this post here.


  1. How heartbreaking to lose all your photos, Joanna. It's so good you at least have your son's photos ... and I love how you encouraged his photography. I'm a real fan of photography for kids, and I love your suggestions. I started a new Photography for Kids Pinterest board with your post at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/photography-for-kids/

    1. thanks, Deb! these pictures mean so much more...SO much more, and as we scroll through them he tells me all about the who, what, where, and when's. i love it.

  2. Yeah!!! The pictures are really great.

    Games for Kids

  3. I've let kids loose with my camera once...and liked the results. I want to find an inexpensive camera that is available all the time for kids to use. It's on my list!

    And I love the pics your son took! It's a great way to see things through the child's eyes.

  4. This is such an exciting idea. My PK4 students are into labeling pictures they draw I was thinking they could make booklets with the photos they take and then label the photos. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.


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