Mul­ti­me­dia Ex­pert

Keep the kids – and your­self – entertained this sum­mer with our round-up of cre­ative projects that the whole fam­ily can en­joy

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - Photographer, mu­si­cian, sound en­gi­neer, de­signer and video pro­ducer Ben Pitt guides you through a mul­ti­me­dia project ben@com­put­er­shop­per.co.uk

Are the kids get­ting bored with the long sum­mer hol­i­days? Ben Pitt has some great cre­ative ideas for bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers

THE SUM­MER HOL­I­DAYS: six long weeks of fun and re­lax­ation. That’s the the­ory, at least. In prac­tice, the kids are bored by 1st Au­gust and climb­ing the walls a week later.

There’s no need to buy them off with expensive trips or to park them in front of the TV or games con­sole. The cre­ative pho­tog­ra­phy projects de­scribed on these pages are mostly free, will pro­vide many hours of fun and may just spark their in­ter­est in a new hobby. Older chil­dren may pre­fer to do them with friends, while those with younger kids, grand­chil­dren, nieces or neph­ews can en­joy them to­gether as a fam­ily.

You could com­plete these ac­tiv­i­ties with any cam­era or smart­phone, but giv­ing chil­dren a proper cam­era to use will en­cour­age them to take care over their shots – and hope­fully take care of the cam­era, too. Vir­tu­ally all cam­eras come with a wrist or neck strap, so if you haven’t at­tached one to your cam­era, see if you can find it in the cam­era pack­ag­ing or buy one from a cam­era shop for a few pounds. Make sure that chil­dren un­der­stand not to touch the lens, and the need to hold the cam­era re­ally still when tak­ing a photo. For younger chil­dren, a rugged cam­era might be a shrewd in­vest­ment.

Con­sider set­ting the cam­era to shut­ter pri­or­ity mode and pick­ing a fast shut­ter speed (such as 1/250s) to min­imise blur due to cam­era shake. This prob­a­bly won’t be prac­ti­cal in low light, as images will end up be­ing dark or grainy. Other­wise, don’t get bogged down in cam­era set­tings. Ev­ery cam­era has an au­to­matic mode, so keep things sim­ple and let the chil­dren con­cen­trate on hav­ing fun. Let them take as many pic­tures as they want, con­grat­u­late them on their best shots and ex­plain why you like them. As with pho­tog­ra­phers of any age, the best ed­u­ca­tion is to get stuck in.

PHOTO SCAV­ENGER HUNT

Vir­tu­ally all chil­dren en­joy be­ing cre­ative, and for those who aren’t tempted, the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of this project might pique their in­ter­est.

A scav­enger hunt in­volves col­lect­ing var­i­ous mis­cel­la­neous ob­jects from a list.

Ev­ery cam­era has an au­to­matic mode, so keep things sim­ple and let the chil­dren con­cen­trate on hav­ing fun

A photo scav­enger hunt sim­ply means they need to collect pic­tures rather than the ob­jects them­selves. That makes it easy to in­clude a much wider range of ob­jects of all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Ex­am­ples might in­clude the tallest tree you can find, a re­flec­tion, the moon, a tasty treat, a flag, some­thing begin­ning with the let­ter Z or a sym­met­ri­cal leaf. You could also in­clude peo­ple and ac­tiv­i­ties: a baby laugh­ing, some­one fast asleep, the long­est conga line. You might like to in­clude things that are spe­cific to your lo­cal area, such as a photo of the old­est per­son you can find in your neigh­bour­hood, or the small­est book in your lo­cal li­brary. It’s a chance to en­cour­age chil­dren to visit places, meet peo­ple and do things that they might other­wise miss out on.

If you want to make your photo scav­enger hunt a bit more so­phis­ti­cated, you could rank chal­lenges by dif­fi­culty and award more points for the harder ones. You could even hook up with your lo­cal com­mu­nity group, youth club or lo­cal Face­book page to share the chal­lenge with all the young peo­ple in your neigh­bour­hood. Photo en­tries could be shared as an al­bum on In­sta­gram, Flickr or any other photo-shar­ing plat­form and sub­mit­ted as a link. If you (or your lo­cal com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion) is feel­ing gen­er­ous, there could even be a prize for the high­estscor­ing sub­mis­sion.

If prizes are in­volved, you may need to en­sure the sub­mis­sions have been cap­tured with a cam­era rather than a Google im­age search. It’s usu­ally pretty ob­vi­ous, but to be sure you could in­sist that en­tries are via Flickr only, and check the cam­era meta­data to see that all photos were shot with the same cam­era on a date since the com­pe­ti­tion was launched. Flickr ac­counts are avail­able to chil­dren aged 13 and over, so younger chil­dren will need an adult to sub­mit images for them.

PHOTO CLUE GAME

Here’s another game you can play with a cam­era, but this time the kids get to set chal­lenges for the grown-ups – or each other.

Photos are taken around the lo­cal neigh­bour­hood, with just enough in­for­ma­tion for peo­ple to fig­ure out where they were taken. That might mean a close-up de­tail of an eas­ily recog­nis­able land­mark, the ex­te­rior of a dis­tinc­tive house, in­side a pub­lic build­ing, part of a shop sign, or per­haps a shot of the coun­try­side or park that peo­ple should recog­nise but may strug­gle to pin­point.

A sim­i­lar game in­volves se­lect­ing some fa­mil­iar house­hold ob­jects and tak­ing photos of them ei­ther as ex­treme close-ups, at un­usual an­gles or par­tially con­cealed, and ask­ing peo­ple to iden­tify them. You don’t nec­es­sar­ily need a spe­cial­ist macro lens.

Com­pact cam­eras usu­ally have a macro func­tion that de­liv­ers great re­sults. If you’re us­ing an SLR or mir­ror­less cam­era, zoom right in and move the cam­era to find the clos­est po­si­tion that the lens will suc­cess­fully fo­cus. It’s usu­ally about 30cm for a kit lens. It’s much eas­ier to get sharp macro photos with the help of a tri­pod, so show chil­dren how to use one and how to select which part of the scene to fo­cus on.

Once again, these chal­lenges can be shared with friends, fam­ily and the lo­cal com­mu­nity via so­cial me­dia.

ATOZ

A photo A to Z is a pop­u­lar chal­lenge for pho­tog­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts of all ages, and it’s one that chil­dren can re­ally get ab­sorbed in. Our al­pha­bet is a col­lec­tion of sim­ple shapes, and these shapes ap­pear dot­ted through­out the nat­u­ral and man-made world. Some let­ters, such as O, I and L are rel­a­tively easy. Oth­ers, such as Q, Z and R might be a lit­tle trick­ier, but it’s part of the fun to be in­ven­tive – per­haps lin­ing up two or more ob­jects to com­plete the shape.

Chil­dren will get a sense of achieve­ment from com­plet­ing the en­tire al­pha­bet, and it will look great when printed out as a col­lage of images. If the kids have gone to all the ef­fort of mak­ing it, you could re­ward them with a big print for their bed­room. On­line print­ing ser­vices such as Pho­to­box or In­stant­print of­fer poster print­ing for around £10 plus de­liv­ery.

If all 26 let­ters seem too much, they could just go for the let­ters in their name to cre­ate a sign for their bed­room door.

PICK A COLOUR

This is another project that’s by no means lim­ited to chil­dren, and it’s more artis­tic than the oth­ers we’ve cov­ered so far.

Choose a sin­gle colour and spend a week look­ing out for photo op­por­tu­ni­ties where that colour dom­i­nates the frame. It’s a sim­ple way to cre­ate a co­her­ent theme across a col­lec­tion of photos. It should also en­cour­age young pho­tog­ra­phers to be al­ways on the look­out for photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, and to think cre­atively about how they frame their shots. What’s the best way to en­sure that one

colour dom­i­nates and isn’t dis­tracted by other colours in the back­ground? Does a photo need to show a sub­ject in the same way that peo­ple nor­mally see it, or are there other an­gles that are more in­ter­est­ing?

For older chil­dren, this project pro­vides a su­perb in­tro­duc­tion to Raw im­age pro­cess­ing. Switch the cam­era to Raw mode, im­port the shots into edit­ing soft­ware such as Light­room, and they will be able to ad­just White Bal­ance, Vi­brance and Sat­u­ra­tion con­trols to bring out the colours. Mean­while, Light­room’s Hue/ Sat­u­ra­tion/Lu­mi­nance (HSL) con­trols al­low spe­cific hues to be ad­justed in­de­pen­dently; for ex­am­ple, to make the greens look lush and vi­brant while sup­press­ing other colours.

CRE­ATE A PIC­TURE BOOK

From Lego to ac­tion fig­ures to dolls’ houses, lots of toys are de­signed to let chil­dren cre­ate make-be­lieve worlds and act out sto­ries. Add a cam­era to the mix and you can help them record and savour these sto­ries, and let you in on their imag­i­na­tion.

At its sim­plest, cre­at­ing a tableau scene with a col­lec­tion of toys can be a fun project in it­self. This will al­low younger chil­dren to en­gage in the process of cre­at­ing a pho­to­graphic com­po­si­tion, and un­der­stand how the cam­era can adopt a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to what they see with their own eyes. For ex­am­ple, get­ting down to the same level as the toys will make them seem more real than an ae­rial shot. They may need a mini tri­pod to po­si­tion the cam­era pre­cisely, but fail­ing that, a small pile of books should do the trick.

This project could be de­vel­oped into a pic­ture book, with a se­ries of photos that tell a story. You could even use a photo-book print­ing ser­vice to turn it into a real hard­back book. It’s a great re­ward for their work, and some­thing you can all trea­sure for years to come.

To take it even fur­ther, why not have a go at stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion us­ing a phone or tablet and ded­i­cated stop-mo­tion app? We cov­ered this topic back in Mul­ti­me­dia Ex­pert, Shop­per 304, and we hope to re­visit it again soon.

A great ex­am­ple of photo story-telling is the vi­ral sen­sa­tion that is Di­novem­ber. It be­gan as a bit of fun for a fam­ily in Kansas, where Refe and Su­san Tuma would cre­ate funny scenes us­ing their chil­dren’s toy di­nosaurs to sug­gest they had come alive each night through­out Novem­ber. This caught the pub­lic’s imag­i­na­tion, and Di­novem­ber has spawned books, T-shirts and count­less web­sites with other peo­ple get­ting in on the act.

BRING VEG­ETA­BLES TO LIFE

Here’s an idea that could get chil­dren away from their screens, do­ing some­thing cre­ative and per­haps even eat­ing more healthily, too.

Fruit and veg­eta­bles come in all sorts of in­ter­est­ing shapes, colours and tex­tures. These can form a rich pal­ette of ma­te­rial for

cre­at­ing col­lages. Faces are the ob­vi­ous sub­ject mat­ter. You might start with tomato slices and a car­rot for eyes and a nose, run­ner beans for lips and pak choi for hair. How about pick­ing fruit and veg to cre­ate a por­trait of a par­tic­u­lar per­son? Per­haps Mum needs grapes for eyes and chilli lips, Dad has a nose like a strawberry, and Grandma’s hair re­sem­bles flo­rets of cau­li­flower.

Cre­at­ing flat images on a table or plate is eas­i­est, but you could al­ter­na­tively use cock­tail sticks to make fruit and veg­etable peo­ple that can stand up. Throw in some goo­gly eyes, sun­glasses or jew­ellery to com­plete the look.

It’s more of a sculp­tural than a pho­to­graphic project, but don’t for­get to take a pic­ture of your cre­ations at the end to share with oth­ers. And don’t for­get to eat it all up once you’re fin­ished.

HID­DEN FACES

This one is sim­i­lar to the A to Z chal­lenge, but rather than look for let­ters of the al­pha­bet in every­day ob­jects, the task is to spot things that re­sem­ble faces. This is a great pas­time in its own right; tak­ing a photo just means you have a chance to share your dis­cov­er­ies.

The best thing about these faces is that they’re of­ten full of char­ac­ter. Their wonk­i­ness, spaced-out eyes or enor­mous mouth tells a lit­tle story in each shot. I fondly re­mem­ber the one-eyed gorm­less ro­bots on the handrails of the 341 bus that ran past my old house, but since I’ve moved and didn’t get a pic­ture, you’ll have to take my word for it. Coat hooks on doors that re­sem­ble an ine­bri­ated oc­to­pus have be­come an in­ter­net meme. Search for “drunk oc­to­pus” and you’ll not only find lots of ex­am­ples, but a range of T-shirts and even

tat­toos in­spired by the im­age. While you’re there, search for “faces in things” for a wealth of hi­lar­i­ous inspiration.

PER­SPEC­TIVE TRICKS

This is more of a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge, but it’s a good op­por­tu­nity for chil­dren to work on their pho­to­graphic tech­nique. Some­times known as forced per­spec­tive, this is an optical il­lu­sion whereby two parts of the scene are care­fully po­si­tioned so they ap­pear to in­ter­act, even though one is much fur­ther away than the other.

Our shot of a girl pick­ing up her big brother with two fin­gers is a clas­sic ex­am­ple, but search photo-shar­ing sites or Google images for “forced per­spec­tive” and you’ll find lots of other ex­am­ples, such as peo­ple trapped in­side bot­tles or drink­ing from wa­ter­falls. If you’re shoot­ing with a large-sen­sor cam­era, such as an SLR or mir­ror­less cam­era, it may be nec­es­sary to set it to aper­ture pri­or­ity and select a small aper­ture such as f/11 or higher so that the whole scene is in fo­cus. This may re­sult in a noisy or un­der­ex­posed im­age when shoot­ing in low light, but it shouldn’t cause any prob­lems when shoot­ing out­doors dur­ing the day. How­ever, try to avoid di­rect sun­light if the re­sult­ing shad­ows are likely to spoil the il­lu­sion. It may be help­ful to use a tri­pod to help line up your sub­jects, but in prac­tice it’s of­ten eas­ier to make sub­tle ad­just­ments by shoot­ing hand­held rather than ask­ing your sub­ject to move.

OF­FI­CIAL PHOTOGRAPHER

If all else fails, just hand over the cam­era and let the kids do their thing. Most chil­dren re­ally en­joy fam­ily gath­er­ings such as birth­days and weddings, but it usu­ally gets to a point where it’s bet­ter for ev­ery­one to give them some­thing to do. Ap­point­ing them of­fi­cial photographer not only keeps them busy, but it gives them a chance to prac­tise a new skill. It also pro­vides a set of photos that you prob­a­bly wouldn’t get by any other means.

Peo­ple tend to be hap­pier pos­ing for chil­dren than they are for adults, and there’s nearly al­ways a sense of fun and ad­ven­ture to any bud­ding young photographer’s photo reel. The most im­por­tant tip here to share with chil­dren is to make sure that peo­ple’s heads aren’t cropped off. Other­wise, just let them get stuck in.

⬆ Do you know where this shot was taken?

⬆ Chal­lenge the kids to find photos where a sin­gle colour dom­i­nates the frame

➡ Di­novem­ber is the fam­ily photo project that be­came a pub­lish­ing sen­sa­tion

⬆ Things take a turn for the worse in The Tale of the Haunted Doll’s House

➡ Would they rather pho­to­graph their greens than eat them?

⬆ Search Google for “faces in things” for some comic inspiration

⬆ It’s such a friendly look­ing toi­let, it seems a shame to use it

⬆ Every­day ob­jects can be ar­ranged to look like a funny face suck­ing a lol­lipop

⬆ ➡ Trick shots are great for cap­tur­ing chil­dren’s imag­i­na­tions

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