Monday, May 01, 2006

Cameras for Kids

Ever since my children were quite small, I taught them how to use a camera. Thankfully we live in a day and age when cameras are easy to find and easy to use. I remember being taught how to use a camera in which we had to put a new flash bulb each time we used it. I remember burning my small fingers on the bulb when I took it out before it had cooled down. Yet, when I first taught my children to use a camera, the flash was built in and automatic. They simply had to learn to look through the lens, find what they wanted to photograph, and push the automatic button. In our world of automation, my kids (and I) found it quite easy. Soon, we were buying our five and six-year-old daughters, the small, disposable cameras so they could take pictures if we went somewhere for the weekend. We had to teach them not to waste the cameras just taking pictures of their bedroom or the cat and dog, but they soon learned, and we were amazed at how quickly they took very good photographs.

A few years went by and when my oldest daughter was about nine-years-old, my mother-in-law bought her a Polaroid camera for her birthday. At the time, I was not aware that Polaroid cameras were still being made. We went out and spent an extraordinary amount of money on the film and watched as my daughter happily took the instant pictures and tore through the expensive film in no time. After that, she bought the film with her allowance and soon learned once again, to be sparing in her picture taking; and again, her photography improved.

We also had a video camera that had long since worked well. The battery was outdated and dead, and we could not find another match that would fit, because the camera was so old. The only way the camera could be used was by keeping it plugged into the wall. When our daughters discovered it, we had a little boy staying with us during the day over the summer, while his mother worked. The three of them soon were making their own television shows, movies, and their favorite - interviews. They were entertained for hours, putting on costumes, writing scripts, and having a wonderfully good time with that old, and we thought useless, video camera.

Finally the day came when we purchased (for ourselves, nor our kids) a digital camera. Our daughters were fascinated, of course, and we let them use it from time to time, but each time they did, flashes of dollar signs danced in our heads - the dollar signs it would take to replace the camera, were they to break it. But they were very careful, as we had taught them to be, and before we knew what was happening, they were taking short videos of each other with our camera - something we did not know it could do. Soon, our then thirteen-year-old oldest daughter began putting the short videos on our computer, so we could watch them. She taught herself how to do editing and she began amazingly creative work. After that, our younger daughter joined in, and they began doing things we knew nothing about.

For her twelfth birthday this year, our younger daughter asked for her own digital camera. It was the only thing she wanted. We talked long and hard about such an expense. Was it frivolous? Would she break it? Were we indulging her to do such a thing? Well, as you might imagine, we caved and bought her the camera. Now, months later, they both are using it and they are still amazing us with their video editing and web building skills. Who knows what may be next? One day they both might make careers out of this type of thing; and it all would go back to the days when their dear old parents taught them to use a camera and allowed them to use the high tech, expensive equipment. If that day comes, I know I will look back and thrill that I can say that somehow, I was part of it all!

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