Keeping Creative at Home: Let’s take some photos

Filmmaker & cross-arts facilitator Justin Allder specialises in working with at-risk and vulnerable young people, as well as those with special educational needs. Here he shares some accessible photography activities to try at home

29 June 2020

Whether you're a teacher, a parent, or both, we hope our Keeping Creative at Home blog series will help you and your children through this tricky period of adjustment.

We're aware there's currently a lot of pressure on parents in particular around home education. So, first and foremost, all of the activities in this series are designed to be fun, creative experiences for your children (and hopefully for you too!), but there is also potential for learning in all of them.

These accessible photography exercises can be used to help young people explore and make sense of their home and the wider world around them. All they will need is a camera and their imagination. These practical, child-centred exercises are designed to be carried out with the support of a parent or carer, and to encourage learning through play.

We have also included audio description for all of the tasks.

Top Tips for taking photos

  • Keep as still as possible when you’re taking your photo. Hold the camera with both hands and tuck your elbows into your sides to making a nice sturdy triangle as a base to shoot from
  • Don’t forget the lens is the camera’s eye. Make sure you don’t cover it with your fingers when you are taking your photograph
  • Make sure you have plenty of light when you are taking your photographs. Take them outside or near a window for best results

1. Seeing circles

This exercise introduces young people to using a camera and helps them to start to look differently at the world around them.

Let’s practice using a camera and go on a shape hunt!

Step 1

Turn your camera on. Practice taking a photograph of your parent or carer. Check the photograph to make sure it’s not blurry and it looks the way you want it to.

Step 2

Now, go on a hunt for circles around your home. They are everywhere!

Step 3

Take photographs of all the circles you find. Make sure you get close to your circle and hold the camera still when you take your photograph.

For further support, try this:

You could show your child examples of circles and ask them to show you which one they like better, before helping them to snap photo of it. You could try comparing different sized circles.

2. Animal eye view

This exercise develops understanding of viewpoint and camera angles.

Let’s explore life from an animal’s point of view.

Step 1

Choose an animal that you would like to be. Pretend to be that animal. For example, you could pretend to be a mouse crouched on the floor, or a worm slithering along the ground, or a bird swooping around…

Step 2

Take a picture as if you were looking through your chosen animal’s eyes. Think about how your body is positioned. Are you lying down, sitting or standing? Think about where you are looking. Are you looking up or straight ahead or looking down?

Step 3

Try taking some more photographs from different animal’s points of view. What would a giraffe’s view of the world look like? How would the world look to an ant?

Step 4

Look at all your photographs together. How are they different?

For further support, try this:

Find pictures of animals or toys and demonstrate pretending to be each animal first, making the noises and doing the actions. You could also take photos from different heights and body positions like, low, high, sitting, lying down and then match the photos to the animal.

3. Composing with colour

This exercise develops students’ understanding of colour and composition.

What’s your favourite colour? Let’s make a still life photograph only using that one colour. A still life is a picture of a group of objects arranged together.

Step 1

Collect together at least 10 objects of the same colour from around your home.

Step 2

Choose a plain background like a table or a large piece of paper or the floor. Arrange your objects together. Think carefully about which way round you want each object and which objects will be next to each other. Do you want space between your objects or will they touch each other?

Step 3

Take a photograph of your still life from above looking down. Make sure you hold your camera as still as possible so the photograph is in focus and not blurry.

Step 4

Look at your photograph. What do you like most about it? Try choosing a different colour and take another still life photograph.

For further support, try this:

You could find objects of the same colour first and ask your child to choose which colour they prefer from a choice of two. You could then help them arrange the still life by asking them to choose an object one by one or two at a time.

4. Exploring textures

This is a great way to encourage young people to physically engage with and look more closely at the world around them.

Let’s take photographs of different textures in and out of the home. Texture is how something feels when you touch it.

Step 1

Start by exploring a range of different textures. Have a tray of objects with different textures that you can explore and handle. Try to describe the way they feel: smooth, rough, crinkled, fluffy, etc.

Step 2

Take pictures of as many different man-made and natural textures that you can find in and out of the home. Look really closely and observe all the details. Move your camera close to the subject of your photo so the texture fills the whole screen.

Step 3

If you have access to a printer, you could print the photographs and try to arrange them into groups of similar textures.

Pictures you can take:

  1. The tray of objects
  2. A hand touching something
  3. A close up of a texture

For further support, try this:

Arrange a tray of different textures and take a photo of your child feeling them. You could show the close-up photos of the textures and ask the child to find the correct object. You could also let them feel the texture again while looking at the photo of the texture.

Texture - object collection.JPG

5. Shooting through objects

This exercise gives young people the opportunity to play with filters and create interesting effects in their photographs.

Let’s add some mystery to our photographs by holding see-through objects between the camera and the subject. A ‘subject’ is the main thing you want to photograph. In this activity, your subject can be anything you want – the focus of this activity is on using objects as filters, rather than the subject.

Step 1

Explore your home to find things you can use as a filter. These might be objects with holes in them like a net or a tube, or that are partly see-through like bubble wrap or a glass. Collect the best ones together and try holding them up to the light and looking through them.

Step 2

Choose one of your objects. Ask someone to hold it in front of the camera while you take a photograph through it. Experiment with how close the object is to the camera. Try taking photographs of different subjects through your object.

Step 3

Take a look at your photographs. How do they make you feel?

For further support, try this:

You can help your child to choose objects to use as filters by collecting things that have holes or are partly see-through. Shine a torch through them to see if they will work.

Shooting through - action shot.JPG

6. Reflections

One for a rainy day! This exercise develops understanding of light and camera angle.

Let’s take photos of reflections. When it’s been raining, you can find reflections everywhere: in puddles, and on wet surfaces like windows or cars. You can even see reflection in tiny raindrops.

Step 1

When it’s stopped raining, explore outside your home. Look for smooth, wet surfaces that you can see a reflection in. What can you see? Trees, plants, the sky, buildings, maybe even yourself!

Step 2

Take a photograph of a reflection. Experiment with where you stand to take the photograph, see how the picture changes as you move.

Step 3

Look closely at your reflection photograph. What can you see?

For further support, try this:

You can use other reflective surfaces inside the house too, such as spoons, mirrors, a TV screen etc.

More Keeping Creative at home blogs

This blog is part of I Am At Home Festival – a unique online celebration of creativity with SEND settings and disabled-led organisations. Find more blogs, resources, videos and events on the festival web page.

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Image credits: Justin Allder