The Wall Street Journal | When Your Kid Is the Family Photographer

This article was originally published in the Wall Street Journal by Alina Dizik @Dizik

Thanks to smartphones and a crop of editing apps, children as young as four are taking pictures—with surprisingly professional results.

Need help taking a great selfie? Just ask your child. Thanks to smartphones and a crop of editing apps, children as young as 4 are taking pictures—with surprisingly professional results.

Photo-taking now is commonplace among youngsters once kept far from chemical-laden darkrooms and delicate equipment, says Michelle Dunn Marsh, executive director of Photographic Center Northwest, a Seattle-based photography nonprofit. “The tools of photography have become very simple and very good,” she says. “We’re not seeing a 5-year-old who is setting up a lighting environment.”

 

Erin Stewart’s daughter Natalie, here in a selfie with her sister, Katie, likes to take black-and-white pictures.
Erin Stewart’s daughter Natalie, here in a selfie with her sister, Katie, likes to take black-and-white pictures.  PHOTO: NATALIE STEWART

 

Erin Stewart, 41, lets her older daughter Natalie be the official photographer on family vacations and at parties. But results can vary. On a trip to Paris more than a year ago, Natalie photographed the carousel near the Eiffel Tower but skipped the landmark. And rather than capturing her younger brother blowing out his birthday candles, Natalie opted to photograph a nearby friend eating a snack. “What interests them is sometimes different,” says Ms. Stewart, a stay-at-home mother of three in Orinda, Calif. Natalie, now 10, uses apps to add a grained look to photos. She likes capturing images in black-and-white, which Ms. Stewart isn’t crazy about because it makes her daughter look older.  Children as young as 10 can take a course on mobile photography and video for social media as part of a four-week or seven-week program at Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts in Wheatley Heights, N.Y. The course allows students to take photos using “what’s most familiar to them” and is now one of the most popular, says instructor Michael Barraco.

 

 

The class is great for younger

students,

because it doesn’t involve pricey equipment that’s often part of a more traditional photography course, Mr. Barraco says. Instead, participants use affordable smartphone-compatible macro and wide-angle lenses. They also figure out how to store and share images that they accumulate on their phones. “They take as many photographs as possible, but there’s not always a lot of thought of what’s going to become of those images,” he says. After completing the course at Usdan last year, Teryn Hickson, now 11, says she takes fewer selfies and more close-up shots of landscapes and family. This year, the fifth grader from Amityville, N.Y., says she has been the photographer at her brother’s college basketball games, often switching lenses to capture on-court shots. At school, friends turn to her for help recreating images she posts on her social media accounts, including pictures of loved ones who look as if they are flying, thanks to careful posing and some post-photography editing. But she’s reluctant to disclose all her tricks, especially her arsenal of editing apps: “Some of them I keep secret.”

 

Becca Bojia has taken family pictures such as this shot of her father, Yadesa Bojia, and her brother, Isaiah.
Becca Bojia has taken family pictures such as this shot of her father, Yadesa Bojia, and her brother, Isaiah.   PHOTO: BECCA BOJIA
Entrepreneurs are stepping in to fill the gap between toy cameras and breakable digital ones. The Pixlplay, a $30 case that turns old smartphones into 35mm-type cameras and can be safely handled by 3-year-olds, will be in stores in June. “Smartphones have made photographers out of the youngest of kids,” says JP Stoops, a former toy-company merchandiser and founder of Pixl Toys. This year, Mr. Stoops launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Pixlplay. He raised $64,000—more than twice his original goal—to produce a case that allows parents to convert a smartphone to a kid-safe camera without the risk of a shattered screen and with the option to turn off browsing. The Pixlplay includes an app, which makes it simple to edit and transport photos, Mr. Stoops says.
Toy companies have long sold kid-friendly cameras. Vtech Electronics North America, of Arlington Heights, Ill., started offering the Kidizoom camera, a 1.3-megapixel camera in 2007. They added the Kidizoom Action Cam in 2015 and a Kidizoom Smartwatch in 2014. Both products can take pictures, which is their most-used feature. “Kids at a younger age have started to look for adult technology,” says Jennifer Eiselein, vice president of marketing. App developers say they also are seeing younger visitors using their offerings. Last month, Anita Wong emailed the makers of Enlight, an iPhone editing app launched in 2015, on behalf of her 11-year-old daughter Lindsay. Ms. Wong needed directions to help Lindsay figure out how to overlay a selfie in a dancer’s pose on an image of a dandelion. The makers replied within a day, and Lindsay now uses the app to adorn her selfies with anything from mermaid tails to fairy wings. “There’s almost a narcissistic element,” says Ms. Wong, an attorney who lives about an hour’s drive from Toronto. Photographs by children often bring a fresh vantage point, says Yadesa Bojia, a musician and artist in Shoreline, Wash. His children, 7-year-old Isaiah and 9-year-old Becca, borrow his smartphone to take pictures. Becca’s moving shot of her father watching TV news about his native Ethiopia became the cover image for his latest album because it “captured me in a very candid way,” Mr. Bojia says. Three years ago, he was surprised to learn that Isaiah’s picture of him bending down to his son’s eye level was chosen for a photography exhibit developed by Ms. Dunn Marsh of Photographic Center Northwest. “You could see he just snapped [the photo] and ran away,” he says.
Young Isaiah Bojia snapped a portrait of his father, Yadesa Bojia, which was chosen for a photography exhibit three years ago.
Young Isaiah Bojia snapped a portrait of his father, Yadesa Bojia, which was chosen for a photography exhibit three years ago.  PHOTO: ISAIAH BOJIA