Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So, you've got a camera...

Perhaps you received a camera recently as a gift and its a fun toy but you're wondering what you can really do with it besides taking the obvious snapshots of friends, family, and your pets for posting online. Or maybe you've had your camera for a while and have sort of run out of ideas for what to do with those pictures. While there are plenty of books and websites that will tell you how to manipulate your digital photos with various software programs, or how to improve your picture taking with new angles and special gear, all you really need is a fresh, playful approach to rethinking what you can do with what you already have.

What you want is photojojo!: insanely great proto projects and DIY ideas by Amit Gupta and Kelly Jensen.

This is exactly the kind of book I wish I had back in the day, and one that should be considered as part of a package when giving a camera to a teen. The book has dozens of quick, cheap, and easy ideas for how to take unique pictures with any kind of camera, including film cameras, and unique ways to display them. Most of the craftier project require simple tools and materials – a cutting blade, tape, markers, paint, materials generally recycled – while a good deal of the tools and projects for taking pictures can be assembled on the fly or made with things lying around the house.

For less that a couple bucks worth of materials from a hardware store you can make a string monopod to help keep your camera steady and a portable tripod that screws onto the top of a soda or water bottle, both of which will fit in your pocket and easily replace a bag full of expensive equipment. And if you can gather a couple dozen clear empty CD cases you can make a photo mural display that actually makes for a pretty cool way to show off your photos.

There are some way-out-there projects as well that require additional skills and materials – like making a photo messenger bag with photo-printed cloth and a bit of sewing, or the photo lamp project that requires some simple wiring – but it's totally accessible and the final projects look awesome.

The book is divided in to two parts, the first half is projects for displaying photos and the second half focuses on taking pictures. One of my favorites is the idea of taking pictures of strangers in exchange for lollipops. The idea is to create a series of portraits (which you can later arrange in an awesome CD mosaic frame, of course) that forces the photographer to try and capture something more than a simple "say cheese" moment.

I think with teens a lot of time they would take more interesting pictures if they had some guidance, but most books on photography tend to either be dry and technical, or don't manage to convey the idea that photography can be fun. This isn't a technical manual, not by a long shot, but it does have enough to give a budding (or bored) photographer something to jump-start their creative juices.

If you know (or are) a teen with a camera who doesn't really know what to do with it, photojojo might just be the next book to read.

photojojo!: insanely great proto projects and DIY ideas
by Amit Gupta and Kelly Jensen
Potter Craft / Random House 2009

They also have a website with cool tips and idea and a store that sells nifty photo-related stuff as well (including the book):


Helen's Book Blog said...

Thank you for posting about this book. I had heard about it, tried to find it and couldn't, then forgot about it. Now I can order it!

Tana said...

My husband would LOVE that book! Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Liviania said...

This one sounds really cool. Of course, I can't help recommending the classic HALSMAN ON THE CREATION OF PHOTOGRAPHIC IDEAS by Philippe Halsman. It's not easy to find, but all of the rules are online. It's a great text for thinking about how you're composing a photo, and what you can do to make your photo more mentally and visually appealing.

david elzey said...

Just to be clear,it's less of an actual "how to take better photos" manual and more of "creative ways to think about making photography a practical part of your life" kind of thing.

It's still fun, though!

Bibliovore said...

This sounds awesome. I'm going off to bug central collection about it so I can do a teen program!