I still remember the first time one of the girls reached for my expensive camera. I felt like I was going to throw up. As the permanent keeper of the camera, I was startled she'd even think shed' be allowed to grab the complex piece of equipment I was now holding in a death grip. She was probably 6 or 7.
It was my own fault. I was enjoying the whole photo-taking process a little too much in the studio and she wanted to see what the excitement was about. The minute I gave her the "I don't think so" look, I could see her disappointment and I quickly changed my tune. There had to be a way she could enjoy photography without causing Mom equipment anxiety. As I tightly held onto the strap, I handed her the camera body so she could capture a few frames.
Today, all three of our children have somewhat of an interest in photography. My equipment grabber, now 11, is now allowed complete control of our older DSLR and enjoys learning about the settings, what they do, and how to process photos on the computer. We've been known to chase sunsets together. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes nature fails us. We always have fun.
Her twin enjoys taking candids with her friends with her retro Instax mini. It's fun to instantly grab the photos out of the camera, give them a few shakes and have that trademark photo with the white frame instantly at her fingertips.
Our youngest has been into photography since age 5. The minute she could figure out the camera button on the smartphone, I was inundated with selfies and images of her stuffed animal collection.
So when is the best time to introduce your child to photography? The best time to introduce them is when they first express an interest.
I'm not saying hand over your expensive camera body to a 5 year old. A smartphone is a wonderful start.
Once you open their world to photography, you'll be surprised how interesting it is to see the world through their eyes. A photographer friend once told me he gave his young son a cheap point-and-shoot camera to use while they were on vacation at Disney World. He said he was shocked to see his son's final images when they returned - all the photos were taken in ride lines and all included the queue railing. Poor kid couldn't see anything above the railing.
Photography is about perspective, and children have a wonderful and unique sense of it. This fact becomes obvious when you allow them to capture images.
As the child - and potentially his or her interest - in photography grows, you can consider moving them from a smartphone to a point-and-shoot camera, and so on. Someday, you will be happy to relinquish control of your camera and you may even find yourself in front of the camera rather than behind it.