Digital Photography for a Two-Year-Old

My toddling daughter is taking digital photos with compact digital cameras. Am I worried she will break the cameras? Nope. They are already broken. Sort of.

Little Miss has been enamored by my picture taking since her earliest days. Just now 2-years-old, she will stop, turn her head and smile for me on cue. She often grabs for my camera, insisting that she is the photographer. Ummm, not with daddy’s work camera, honey.

I shopped around for cameras oriented toward kids, but I only found film-based options and digital cameras without LCD screens.  I knew Little Miss needed the instant gratification of framing and seeing photos on a screen just like daddy.

Photo of four wooden toy cars on a playmat on a wooden activity table. Wooden toy train track is in the background.

My next step was to post a "wanted ad" on the Freecycle mailing list:

WANTED: Old digital camera for child
I am seeking an old digital camera with an LCD viewing screen. The  camera can be feeble, banged up and otherwise undesirable. This is for my young daughter. It just needs to provide the instant gratification and excitement of displaying a picture after it is taken.

Within a week I had two free offers for compact digital cameras. The original owners considered their cameras broken. To my toddler, the cameras are a hoot. The specific models and their issues are detailed at the end of this article.

Photo of a Strawberry Shortcake doll sitting on a toddler-sized rocking chair.

Camera Handling

I turn the camera on and show Little Miss where to place her fingers. The cameras are small enough that Little Miss can hold one up with both hands and frame a shot using the LCD display. After four photo sessions, her instinct is still to put her left hand over the lens area. That will take some work to overcome.

Capturing pictures is a little labored. A shutter button is supposed to be pressed halfway to activate a camera’s autofocus, then pressed fully to take a shot. That distinction is lost on a two-year-old. Sometimes she fails to take a photo and other times she gets blurry images.

As my daughter struggles with the shutter button, she sometimes swings the camera down and ends up with a picture of the ground. She is not deterred though.

We keep up the verbal encouragement, reminding her to be sure her target can be seen in the LCD. "Where is kitty? Can you see kitty on the screen? Lift the camera up until you see kitty."

In her last session she took 12 images and only three were a total loss. None of them are art, but you know, if there’s a kitty anywhere in the photo, that’s all that matters to Little Miss.

Profile photo of a brown cat sitting on colored playmats with a green plaid couch cover in the background.

Subject Selection

The first subjects Little Miss shoots when picking up a camera are people, then toys and our cats. She will take one or two photos of a subject and then move onto another target. The photo of the Strawberry Shortcake doll on a rocking chair represents one of Miss’ first posed shots. She announces what she wants to photograph, then moves the applicable object to where she wants it in the shot.

Now the camera specifications…

Camera #1 Canon PowerShot A75 (4 x 2.5 x 1.3 inches)

Reason for donation: The camera had been dropped. The flash is broken, out of kilter in its socket. The body has some good scrapes. Outdoor photos look fine. I’m going to take a crack at fixing it for my 5-year-old photo-crazy nephew.

Good: The shutter sound is configurable. Every time Little Miss takes a picture she hears a dog bark. That helps her understand when she has been successful.

The LCD is quite large which aids the overall excitement of using the camera.

Bad: The power toggle is a standalone button. Little Miss often mistakes the power button for the shutter button. She sits there turning the camera on and off. That fault alone makes this our back-up camera until she gets older.

Camera #2 Nikon Coolpix 775 (3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 inches)

Reason for donation:  We were told the lens was stuck closed. We found the lens working, except it frequently makes a quiet grinding noise. Whatever. It works for now.

Good: The power toggle is a lever built into the side of the shutter button. Accidental powering down of the camera is unlikely.

The body is half an inch shorter than the other camera, making it a bit easier to hold.

Bad: The LCD is small and there is no shutter sound.

Update: Also see a review of the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera.

Photo of a wooden toy car half obscured by a toddler hand in front of the camera lens which shows up as a swath of black.


4 Responses to “Digital Photography for a Two-Year-Old”

  1. kaptaink says:

    My daughter has been taking pictures since she was about 2. Now that she is closing in on 5 her digital photography has improved significantly. She has taken some of the best photos of me and my husband. And the floor.

    I have a Canon Rebel XT that I will occassionally let her use and the sight of a small child cradling such a camera, especially when she rotates it for a potrait shot, is definitely on the far side of cute.

    I often wonder what is going through her head has she is taking shots. Likely though, it is along the lines of “There is the dog! He is still there! Now he is walking away “.

    BTW, nice site… now I’m hooked. :-)

    June 20th, 2006 at 7:54 am

  2. Julie C says:

    Our 2 year old daughter is in love with our digital cameras too. I’d been considering this new Fisher-Price digital camera for her for Christmas

    It’s for ages 3+ and it has two handles and two eye holes to help them steady the camera. But the Freecycle idea is brilliant and much cheaper!

    June 20th, 2006 at 10:03 am

  3. hibiscusroto (Christopher Vigliotti) says:

    great great great idea! i just sent a message to my local freecycle group.

    September 14th, 2007 at 6:14 pm

  4. Bridgette says:

    Thanks for writing about this. My son will be three this summer about a month after our second child is born. We thought a digital camera would be a perfect gift for the new big brother. I think I’ll be passing up the child options (since they all under-rate what we are looking for) and buy a cheap “adult” camera. Thanks for the review!

    April 16th, 2010 at 8:09 am

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