3 Lessons on Photography to Start your Tweens and Teens out Right!

blog feature imageTweens and Teens

Start them out right!

Remember, kids learn things much more quickly than us old people, lol, don’t limit them by thinking something is too advanced. The important part is to give them a solid foundation of the basics in which to build upon. I suggest teaching them from the beginning to shoot in manual, they will likely blow you away with how fast the catch on! In the beginning it may work best to just do one lesson at a time, but if they are eager for more and catch on quickly, don’t be afraid to do more!

Lesson 1: Focus First

Other than knowing how to turn your camera on and off, inserting/ejecting the memory card and being able to charge the battery, focus is definitely one of the most important building blocks for your teen’s solid foundation in photography. Teach them about manual vs. auto focus and how to change it. Then explain focusing points and how to select them. Then follow it all up with a skill builder. Here is a list of tasks for lesson 1:

  1. Remove battery and charge
  2. Insert battery
  3. Turn camera on and off
  4. Practice inserting and removing memory card
  5. Show where manual/auto focus switch is and how to focus in both modes.
  6. Discover focusing points and how to move/select them and why.


skill builder #1

Line up several items on the same plane. Practice using auto focus and selecting focusing points(without moving camera) for each of the items. Then practice the same thing but using manual focus. Then move the items to different planes and do the same exercise. Have them just practice quickly selecting the focusing point they want and snapping a shot. They could even practice on a moving subject like a pet or sibling or even a car driving by.

*note: the camera will be left in auto exposure mode for this exercise. I know I said start out in manual, but this lesson is essential and doesn’t require knowing how to expose manually, that will be Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: The Exposure Triangle

Now its time to teach them about the exposure triangle; the three most important settings on your camera. Then you will have them practice getting proper exposure by metering to 0. Here is how I explained it to my 13 year old daughter:

I started by giving her a visual example of the Exposure Triangle. I explained to her how ISO controls noise, Aperture or F-stop controls Depth of Field and Shutter Speed controls Motion Blur. The_Exposure_Triangle1

I also used this helpful cheat sheet (included in The Posing Key) to further explain ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.


The Photographer


skill builder #2

First, I gave my daughter several examples to trouble shoot and helped her work through them to discover the answers, such as:

  1. If you have a fast moving subject which is the most important setting of the 3?
  2. If you are shooting in a place with low light, what are 3 ways you can lighten your exposure?
  3. If you have an ugly background that you want to hide, which of the 3 settings(ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed) do you uses to blur it out?
  4. If you are shooting a fast moving subject, in a place with lots of light, but not the most ideal background- Which would setting would you set first, second and third?
  5. If you want a very shallow DOF but your are under exposing (meter in the – area) what are to things you could do to get proper exposure?
  6. If you want to make sure you have very little noise would you set a high ISO or a low ISO?
  7. If motion is frozen in your photograph, but you want to capture motion blur, would you move your shutter speed up or down?
  8. Give me 3 ways to properly expose the following images:
    • If your ISO is 400, your Aperture is 4.0 and your Shutter speed is 800, but your image is underexposed (metering below 0).
    • If your settings are the same as above, but your image is overexposed (metering above 0).

*You could always come up with more examples if your Tween or Teen needs more practice.

Second, I had her practice photographing a subject or item and metering to 0 in several different lighting situations, such as outside and inside.

Lesson 3: White Balance

Now that she knows how to focus and expose properly, its a great time to introduce White Balance. I start by explaining white balance and showing her how to select basic white balance settings already programmed in the camera. Then when they are ready you can use a chart like this to help explain Kelvin settings.

The Photographer


skill builder #3

Have you Tween or Teen find a place to take a picture in each WB situation. For example: ‘Photograph something in the shade and set your WB accordingly.’ Then have them do the same for the rest of the White Balance modes. 


The Icing on The Cake: The 5 Keys to a Great Photograph

Now that they have got a pretty good grasp on shooting in manual mode, it’s time for the real fun!! Posing, Perspective, Composition, Lighting and Expression! Can I get a WOOT, WOOT!! I have created the perfect tool for you and the best part is that you can do it together! Not only will it stir your own creativity and improve your photography skills, but also that of your Tweens and Teens dying to learn to be a great photographer. Here is a little sneak peek of this crazy awesome 30 page PDF, The Posing Key.

All the Cool Kids Posing Key-2All the Cool Kids Posing Key-3All the Cool Kids Posing Key-4

Want to see if my FULL Posing Key is available to buy right now?  Cross your fingers and click below!

xoxo, jenny

the tpe posing key

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Jenny Gibson

Jenny Gibson


Married and living in Roseburg, Oregon with 4 kids of her own, she is one of the most real, honest and down to earth people you will ever meet. It’s been said that Jenny has an uncanny ability to elicit great expressions out of any kid. She believes there isn’t a child out there that she couldn’t get a great photograph of. Her secret?? Patience. Determination. And an understanding and love of children.

Jenny’s confidence and passion spills out from her ‘Can Do’ spirit. She doesn’t believe being a successful photographer is a matter of what gifts you were born with, but how hard you’ve worked and how many failures you’ve overcome. Being completely self-taught has presented her with many challenges, but also an understanding for the needs and doubts among aspiring photographers. She never claims to be the absolute expert, but is willing to do whatever it takes to figure it out, and to help those around her succeed.

Jenny has earned recognition as an award winning photographer by the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, Shoot and Share Magazine and various other blogs and websites. When she’s not being a mama or photographing clients, you can find her filling her time with a variety of creative avenues like: refinishing furniture, redesigning/remodeling her home or cutting a friend’s hair.
Jenny Gibson