They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes this is just what a teenager can use to express herself. Teens are at an age in which they're ruled by emotions and going through major transitions. Visual arts provide a powerful medium for self-expression. Give teens photography project ideas to provide a springboard for inspiration.
Play with Light
By paying attention to the angle of light, shadow and the contrast between them, kids learn to develop an eye for the art. Have kids take photos of the same subject in the same place every two hours throughout the day to see how the difference in natural light can affect the look and mood of the photo. Let them experiment with lighting subjects at different angles: front lighting, overhead lighting, side lighting, lighting from below or back lighting.
Teach kids the basics of composition by introducing them to the rule of thirds, which involves thinking of an imaginary tic-tac-toe board in any scene. Shifting the main subject so it falls on the right or left line vertical, or adjusting so the horizon falls on the lower or upper horizontal line will create a more visually appealing photo in most cases. Another lesson in composition is to teach them how cropping affects a photo. Have them take a number of photos, then play around with the crop tool on photo editing software. In a full body shot, try cropping the subject from the waist up, then try again from the shoulders up, then zoom in and crop closely around the face. Have the kids evaluate the differences at various levels of cropping.
Abstract photography teaches kids to study the details of form, shape, color and contrast, as opposed to looking at an object for what it literally is. Provide them with a bag full of random items, such as a tuna can, marbles, a wire basket, silverware or fruit slices. Let them arrange their own abstract photos. Another approach is to send kids to run out and take photos of parts of things rather than the whole. Encourage them to seek out interesting angels and perspectives on ordinary objects.
Most kids have grown up with their parents telling them to "say cheese" for the camera -- an exercise in portraiture can help them break this habit. A great portrait takes more than just a big smile or pretty pose; it should capture something about a person's mood or personality. Portrait photography works well as a group project because kids can be split into teams to photograph each other. Teach them to pay attention to body language and facial expressions. Have them play with different backgrounds and props to see if it can help bring out something personable in the subject. Alternatively, have kids do a self-portrait.
One of the best ways to learn any art is to imitate the masters, and photography is no exception. Have teens look at the work of some famous photographers such as Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz or Alan Babbitt. Challenge them to choose a photo and replicate it. This forces them to evaluate details of lighting and composition that make the difference in a bad, mediocre or brilliant shot. More importantly, it teaches them how to adjust and control those factors by trial and error so they can begin to learn how to achieve their own vision when they get inspired.