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TAKING THE KIDS

Picture Vacation in Children's Eyes : Photography is a fun and affordable way to let youngsters preserve what they like about travel.

August 29, 1993|EILEEN OGINTZ

Try this on your kids the next time they balk at posing yet again for a vacation picture: Hand them a simple point-and-shoot or a single-use camera and suggest they photograph what makes them happy on the trip.

"Let them capture the trip through their eyes," suggested Linda Solomon, a professional photographer who has taught her art to thousands of children across the country and is now writing a book on the subject. You'll be amazed at the results, she promised. "Kids see things a lot differently than we do."

When given the "What-Makes-You-Happy" assignment, for example, one child presented Solomon with a photograph of his favorite designer sneakers. Another took a picture of a row of peanut butter jars. A third, a preschooler, snapped the family's red sports car.

Photography is a wonderful--and affordable--way for parents to encourage children to take a closer look at their world. Let them photograph what they think is important: The dog? Their best friend? Their mountain bike? On vacation, they'll be sure to snap the silly shots you've overlooked that will remind you of some of the family's best times.

All the while, they'll be learning about art, composition, light and color. Even better, they'll be feeling great about what they've accomplished. Getting them to compose captions to go along with their pictures can even help them explore their writing skills, Solomon said.

With guidance and one of the simple, inexpensive cameras now on the market (many retail for less than $20), even young children can learn to take pictures, Solomon said. Two books address just that issue: "My First Camera Book" (Workman, $9.95) comes complete with a tiny red camera, and, through whimsical teddy bear drawings, offers a solid introduction to picture-taking.

The just-published "The Camera" (Scholastic, $11.95) takes a different tack, using transparent overlays to show children the inside of a camera and how pictures are developed.

Kodak also offers a handy "Hot Shots With Any Camera" booklet crammed with photo tips and easy for an older child to follow. It's available free by calling Kodak's Customer Assistance Center at (800) 242-2424.

At the same time, the photographic equipment industry--with Kodak leading the way, despite company-wide cost-cutting efforts--is courting the youth market with new programs and products designed to encourage kids to get involved in photography. Like other industries, Kodak is trying to think ahead to coming generations and potential customers.

"If we don't introduce them to photography--and our products--early, we risk losing them altogether," explained Dodge McFall, who developed Kodak's new youth program. While 75% of kids age 6 and older have access to a camera, according to Kodak research, less than half actually shot a roll of film during the past year.

There is company precedent for courting kids. In 1930, George Eastman gave away 500,000 Brownie cameras to 12-year-olds across the country to celebrate Kodak's 50th birthday, McFall said. It was a fabulously successful promotion that the company believes won customer loyalty that lasted for decades.

This time, Kodak isn't giving cameras away. Instead, the company will launch its first totally child-oriented product in late September: the Kodak photo fX camera kit. It comes equipped with a basic automatic-focus camera that has been visually jazzed up with a yellow shutter and red lens cover. It is sold with a roll of film, a well-done, heavy-on-the-graphics photo manual and activity books designed to encourage kids' interest in photography, as well as to teach them more about the art. It will retail for $39.95. (The books will be sold separately for $4.95.)

Then, to make sure the kids have a place to put all of the photos they're taking, Kodak is test-marketing a series of $9.95 albums for kids. My daughter, Reggie, loved the '90s-style books that come in hot colors with fun graphics and fill-in-the-blank spaces with sometimes funny questions and plenty of room to jot down memories and opinions to go along with their photographs. For example: How would you (meaning the children) describe your family vacation: hell on wheels, just plain boring, tolerable, real family fun or suffocating?

But Kodak isn't relying just on parents to turn their children on to photography. The company is testing a school program through which teachers are given single-use cameras and a curriculum guide to enable them to use cameras as a teaching tool.

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