Picture This

Photographer Coliena Rentmeester shares advice on how to encourage your child to get behind the camera

In the age of digital cameras, smart phones and photography apps, there’s no shortage of ways to take pictures of children. While the focus is usually on the kids—snapping photos of them eating, sleeping, playing, potty training, smiling, crying and generally documenting every minute of their precious lives—photography is also a great way to let children explore their own creativity.

And who better to lend some advice on this topic than photographer Coliena Rentmeester, mother of two: Julian, 5, and Phoebe, 3. Rentmeester, whose work has appeared in W, The New York Times Magazine, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Lucky and GQ, nurtures her own children’s inclination to get behind the camera. “Photography encourages patience, social skills, focus, and appreciation of the world around us,”
she says.

What camera do you use?
I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1DS Mark IV, Mamiya RZ67, and the H2, a Hasselblad with a digital back.

Are there any cameras that you think are particularly suitable for children?
I like disposable or plastic cameras. I don’t have to worry about them dropping and ruining precious equipment. I like the idea of my children having to wait for the film to develop. It makes the reward even greater. And, if there’s a finite amount of frames to work with, they’ll think more before taking a picture.

What are some of the best places to go to for photo snapping with kids?
Anywhere—the options are endless for places and things to photograph. The other day my son said, “WAIT! I have to get this shot!” He took a picture of a painting hanging in our foyer.

How can you turn a photo session into a learning experience?
You can teach your child about colors, shapes, and the qualities of light. Taking photos also improves hand/eye coordination.

Are your children drawn to the camera? Do they like to take pictures?
My kids are very visual and budding artists. They love to draw and paint. My daughter Phoebe uses my iPhone to take photos and create digital drawings. My son Julian is becoming more and more fascinated with our point-and-shoot camera.

Do your own children have any favorite things they like to photograph?
They like to take pictures of themselves!