4 Things My 3 Year Old has Taught Me About Photography

You read that title correctly.  My son Michael is 3, and he has taught me so much about Photography.  It started back in November of 2013 when we took a trip to St. Louis.  We were about to go into the botanical gardens and Michael, 2 & 1/2 at the time, asked to use my wife’s camera, an old Olympus EPL-1.  Sarah and I looked at each other for a minute, shrugged our shoulders and put it around his neck.

I bought that E-PL1 to play with it.  I bought it refurbished for like $150, so if he broke it, we wouldn’t be out a whole lot.  To our surprise, he was very good with it, better than most two-year old’s would be.  He followed me around, bent down when I did and snapped away.  Surprisingly enough he took some GREAT pictures and before I knew it he was off on his own not following my footsteps anymore!P7120912

Just this last weekend I was cooking dinner and Michael, now 3, said, “Can I take a picture of you cooking dinner Daddy?”  How the heck can I resist that!  The E-PL1 was hanging out on the kitchen counter, so I handed it to him.  He proceeded to turn it on, unlock the lens and start snapping away.  Yes, a proud Photographer Dad here, VERY Proud!


As he was taking pictures, a sense of jealousy kicked in.  As I analyzed my “jealousy”, I learned some things about Photography in the short 10 minutes he was snapping away.

1.  Just Pickup the Camera

As photographers, we get so caught up sometimes with when to shoot.  I know as I have become more “professional” I have used my camera less.  I seem only to use it when I am prepared to use it, or when I have made time to use it, or better yet when it is sunset or sunrise.

I used to pick up my camera at every instance I had.  I would walk by it, pick it up and find something to photograph.  I didn’t need an excuse, I didn’t need a plan, heck I had an Olympus E-510 with a bunch of kit lenses, I didn’t have anything special, but I also didn’t need anything special to use it.

 Thank you, Michael, thanks for inspiring me to shoot more.

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2. Shoot Everything

One thing I noticed when Michael was taking pictures the other night was that he took pictures of everything.  He took about 15 pictures of the TV with Curious George on just to see what it would look like in a picture.  He turned around and snapped a picture of my feet while they were crossed on the ottoman.  He took super close-up pictures of my face with no regard to how blurry and horrible they would come out.  The most interesting part about it, as abstract as the blur made the picture, he still knew it was his old man.

If I did that at his age with my Mom’s camera, I probably would have been grounded for a week!  Not because I touched her camera (which ironically is now mine, Canon AE-1), but because the film was so darn expensive back then!  Not only grounded I would probably be grounded with a red butt too!

We have the luxury to shoot as many images as we want these days with 0 regards to what the shot will “cost” us.  I can go out and shoot 3000 pictures tomorrow.  Divide that by 30… 100, that would have been 100 rolls of film @ $4-6 per roll.  That’s $400-$600 just to take pictures, not to mention the developing cost!

So what am I so afraid of these days, snap away, who cares, I can always delete the trash pictures.  Thanks Michael for the lesson in being snap happy!


3. Low angles Are Awesome.

Everything for Michael is at the height of 38″, even if I bend down I am barely that tall.  However, Michael shoots everything from this very low vantage point.  A vantage point that I often shoot from for “clever” shots, but seldom do for every shot.  The pictures he took of me cooking dinner were just awesome!  Such an interesting perspective warp at his height, even with the EPL-1 kit lens (14-42, 28-84mm equivalent on 35mm).

So the next time I go out and shoot, I am going to take the same shot, but at the lowest vantage point just to see how they turn out.  I know I can always change my camera angle, I am a “professional” after all, but sometimes I get so stuck on one angle or one certain shot that I forget to shoot from different angles.

Thanks, Michael, for getting me out of the death spiral of envisioning the shot from one angle.

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4. Forget Technical Stuff

Michael just picked up the camera and started shooting.  He didn’t put it in any certain mode. Actually, he did, he turned the dial to look like his old man, but he had no idea what he landed on.  He does this with his toy lawn mower too, flicks the dials to look like me with the big lawn mower.  I am getting side tracked… the point is, he simply picked up the camera and started shooting.

Of course, Michael knows nothing of Aperture, ISO would just be a fun word he would probably make a song to, and shutter speeds would all be “49” (he says its 49 every time he looks at his watch).  Even if I attempted to tell him what these things meant, he would just nod his head as he ran away with the camera.  There was a time when I was the same way, and surprisingly it was not that long ago.  But I would do the same thing, just put the camera in Auto and shoot for the sake of shooting.  Now I get caught up in Apertures, Brackets, Shutter Speeds, Filters, and how I am going to post process the image after its done.

I am not saying you should go out and shoot haphazardly for the sake of taking pictures.  But realize that we have gotten so caught up in technical issues that we rarely experiment like we did when we were new to the whole thing.  It pays to know all of the camera settings and what combinations will be ideal for the image you are trying to achieve, but sometimes you just have to go back to what matters… the passion for the process.

Thanks, Michael, now what can you teach us about post processing? 🙂


My favorite picture anyone has ever taken from me came from my son… at 2 and a half years old! Incredible!


Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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