"Dad, can we talk?"
Any parent knows hearing that question from your teen arouses your curiosity. The conversation can go so many different ways.
My teenager asked to talk about how he could improve his photography and eventually begin to create videos. He had a new DSLR, flash, and other toys that he was now ready to put to work.
My advice to him is a simple approach that can work for your teenager as well. Follow the three Ps - passion, produce and principles.
Find a Passion
First, find a topic that you are passionate about — Using your photography around something else where you have passion helps keep your motivation high.
Because you likely know that topic better than most people, you will likely see it in a more sophisticated way. That gives you an opportunity to photograph it with your own unique and creative approach.
This was the case for Abe Kislevitz, a USC engineering student who enjoyed extreme sports. Abe and his friends started making videos of the ski team and posting them to their YouTube channel.
"We just had those original GoPros, and I was putting videos up online on my YouTube channel and the GoPro CEO ended up emailing me and saying, 'Hey, we love what you're doing and we'd love for you to come work for us,'" Kislevitz said.
Because Abe understood extreme sports so well, he was able to photograph in a way that felt authentic to other in the sport. That helped set him apart.
Next create a long term project that you can work on daily, weekly, or as time permits. Producing something bigger over the long term can help you also create a sense of accomplishment.
That's what German film student Eugen Merher did when he created his own Adidas commercial. Merher created the ad himself hoping Adidas would hire him. Something else interesting happened, 11 million people viewed his video. Now he is creating his own opportunities without Adidas.
That idea appealed to my son, and he is planning on creating a high-end car commercial. It gives us something to think about when the auto show returns at the end of the month.
Challenge your teen to think about a larger project that they can pour themselves into creatively.
Learn the Principles
This is where teens can add some structure to their learning process. At this point, you might find them wanting to get better, to take their craft to the next level. Mastering the principles of the craft and using deliberate practice can help.
That was the idea behind my photography camp. Every summer, I invite teenagers to spend a week learning the principles of photography as we sightsee around DC.
Learning the principles helps teenagers develop not only their creative instincts but mature their talents in a way that can be impactful.