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Raising a Shutterbug: How Our 4-Year-Old Became a Photographer


This is our son River, he’s had a camera in his hands since he started to drool. When both your parents are photographers I guess it’s just in the genes and he loves it. He started out with a film Holga and Diana F+ and graduated to a Canon Rebel when he was 2. He is now 4 years old and shoots with our Canon 5D Mark IVs.

We absolutely shoot on manual and so does he. We get the initial exposure set up for him but he knows if it’s too dark or too light and he can change the shutter speed—something he just learned how to do since his tiny fingers just got big enough to hold his massive camera and move the dial next to the shutter release at the same time.

He really loves going on scouts with us to find the best spots for other family or couple sessions. When we first arrive to a potential location, he demands to have his camera: “me first” (yeah he’s still a regular 4-year-old) so he takes pictures of us first and then we take turns. He knows when the camera is on him he’s the model, he usually gives us the best smiles and he models like he’s on a freaking runway. Then he turns back into his little prankster self and when we say action he pretends he’s dead, eyes closed and tongue out with a little grin because he knows we “hate” that… we don’t.

In the pictures below, when you see him pouting, he’s really begging for his camera. “My turn!” he says. We have turned him into a sunset hunter like us. He gets anxious on the way to a location saying, “Mama you gonna miss the sunset, hurry!” and when we are at home during sunset he always asks if Dada can send the helicopter (drone) up so we can take pictures of the sunset.

When we are in the car, he’s taking pictures of interesting things he sees-mostly trucks and construction equipment—with his iPad. If you have a little one, you know what I mean. When he finds bugs or cool plants he grabs his camera and snaps away and examines his specimens later on his iPad.

River is a photographer, there’s no maybe about it. It’s something we started doing as a family and I hope we never stop raising our little photographer.

Here are some tips to get a camera in your little’s hands:

  1. Hand them a camera. Yes it’s scary we know—stay close to them (especially around water!) It helps if it’s a cheap camera at first so you are not so nervous. It also helps if you have a camera too. Kids mimic everything you do and they are paying closer attention than you think!
  2. Keep the camera close all. the. time. It can be an old iPod or tablet or even your phone (with the otter box on it!) that you keep in your pocket or purse or diaper bag. Making the camera available is half the battle, you never know when the moment will strike.
  3. Explore! Exploration is key when trying to get a little interested in photography. Show them bugs, show them a new field or mountain or waterfall or beach. Kids love nature. Making it a learning experience and reviewing what they captured later is also important.
  4. Encourage! Everyone needs a little encouragement, especially artists and especially kids. River is enthusiastic when he reviews his work on the back of the camera because we praise and encourage him. We genuinely love what we do and get excited when we capture something cool and so does he. Photography is like finding treasure after a big dig and we encourage him to release that excitement.
  5. Bracket mode. We believe photography should never be stagnant. Keep it moving like a movie set, give your subject something to do and say ACTION! When your camera is on bracket mode you can hold down the shutter release and capture the moments in between moments which is exactly what we are looking for! Photographing people should be fun for everyone involved!

Check out some of River’s Photography below!

And here are a few from our adventures together:

About the author: Christine and Danny Johnson are the husband and wife team behind Love & Sol Photography, a fine art wedding and lifestyle photography studio out of Harpers Ferry, WV. To see more of their work, visit their website or check them out on Instagram and Facebook. This article was also published here, and is being republished with permission.