familyphoto120.jpgThe world of photography has been completely revamped by digital photography. This is a boon for everyone, but is especially great for kids who want to learn a new skill and have some fun.

As schools close for the summer break, summer fun begins for the kids. Parents and grandparents scramble to find ways to keep the kids busy and out of trouble.  My parents were smart. They always got me involved in summer projects.  Usually that just required encouraging me to work toward a Girl Scout badge.

One of the summers that I enjoyed the most was working on a photography badge. At that time, to get the badge, you had to not only learn how to take good photos, but you also had to develop your own film. My dad let me use his camera, but I still had to save for months to accumulate enough money to buy film, chemicals, and papers for developing the film.

That summer was filled with treks around the neighborhood taking interesting photos of birds, buildings, and people. There was a lot of darkroom fun and experimentation.  My photographic endeavors, however, were forced to stop before the end of the summer when funds for film and developing ran out.

Today's kids are much luckier. Digital photography has made it possible for kids to really investigate their photographic talents without any cost other than that of the camera itself. Even better is the fact that they can experiment to their hearts content without additional expenditures.

They can take a picture, change the camera settings, the perspective, or the lighting and then retake the same photo. A side-by-side comparison will show the difference between the two. This can be a real learning experience. With digital photography you can take as many photos as you like without any film or development costs.

Photography requires little manual dexterity, making it ideal for kids of all ages. Even young school-age children can understand using a simple point-and-shoot camera. Older children can start to experiment with SLR-type cameras. Everyone can enjoy taking pictures of animals, flowers, and simple objects. They can move on to self-portraits, panoramas, special effects, and whimsical photography.

Just about any inexpensive digital camera will be a good starting point. You don't need a 14-megapixel camera... start with a simple 5 or 6-megapixel camera and if you can afford it, promise them a better camera as they progress.

If you have a really young child, you can find digital cameras made specifically for pre-school and young school-age children. If you happen to have a child or grandchild who is a bit on the wild side, don't exclude them from this photographic fun. Just buy them a camera that is made rugged use. Last year Olympus had a commercial for their Stylus Tough camera that showed a young boy using the camera as a fetching stick while playing with his dog. Hopefully your child won't do this, but if he does, you can be covered by purchasing a camera that is shockproof and waterproof.

Depending on the age of the child, adult supervision will be probably be required. That's okay because you might have some summer fun yourself by creating projects for the child and overseeing their endeavors. If you need a guide I recommend a new book called Photography for Kids!: A Fun Guide to Digital Photography by Michael Ebert & Sandra Abend. Geared toward 8-12 year old kids, it is filled with basic information and projects and even includes things like what to do with your pictures.

There are also plenty of ideas and tutorials for budding photographers on the Web. Once they become proficient, they can even enter contests specially made for kids.

Photography is a rewarding hobby that may be a perfect way for you and your children or grandchildren to bond. The skills they learn will never be forgotten and you never know, they may even be on their way to becoming the next Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz.