Photography projects produce more than a picture

You see a picture, I know it was an experience to remember between a volunteer and youth.

The brightly matted lake scene hangs among the dozens of photos that capture every day scenes and moments. The 4-H photo gallery highlights beautiful landscapes, some that make you smile, while others warm your heart. This picture simply makes you feel blessed.

You know it is more than just a photograph; it was the collective experience of helping a child with their 4-H photography project. You already have great satisfaction in your heart and you know it represents a job well done and a mission completed for that young person. You watched them stand in front of the judge and beam with pride as they presented their project.

You realize the best part of the project is not the photo that hangs proudly on display at the fair. The best part of the project is the experience you were able to provide youth and their friends who thought they would give photography a try. The hours you spent together driving around the county looking for the perfect shots, the best landscapes and the historical landmarks were filled with laughter and spontaneous conversations. There were early mornings when they tried to capture the sunrise and times when they tried to capture the best moments at club gatherings and realized everyone either wants to be in the picture or photobomb your perfect shot. Hundreds of photos were taken by the members that year, but each member could only select a few for entry at the fair; members learned to be selective and pick their very best for display. They learned what makes a photo display material and how to pick mat and frame and photo for display.

As you taught the members about shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, lens and focus, something magical happened; they discovered photography and they became photographers. With the camera as your prop, you found a way to connect with those young people and shared your knowledge with them, you utilized resources like the photography curriculum from 4-H Mall. They learned fundamental art and design concepts too, which will assist them with school projects. From behind a camera, these members experienced something new, they developed life skills, interacted with new people, developed their self-confidence and saw everything through a different lens.

So while you may see some photos on display at the fair, I encourage you to remember that the volunteers and parents who know those members may see an experience when they see that same picture. A picture really can be worth a thousand words.

Being a 4-H volunteer can be a great experience and you have the opportunity to share a variety of skills with young people in your community. If you are interested in being a 4-H volunteer, contact your local Michigan State University Extension county office.

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