With the advancement of digital photography, nearly anyone can learn to take better pictures and have more fun doing it, as many teens have discovered. Social media gives them a forum to visually share events in their lives with frequency and immediacy such as they’ve never been able to do before.

But what if your student wants to pursue photography with a more passionate purpose? The digital photography craze means that more young people than ever are interested in photography as a potential future career. So how do you, without a professional photographer in the family, guide them along in this elective pursuit, whether for fun or for laying groundwork toward a possible career or cottage industry? That’s what my husband and I have had to figure out as our now-graduating senior, standing on the threshold of possibility, steps into her post-high school future with her eye on turning her passion for photography into a business.

Notice Niche

When our daughter Jessamyn got her first inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, she became the family picture-taker. Rarely was she without a camera in her hand, her purse, or sitting nearby. She developed her eye with lots of practice and pretty soon discovered she was especially gifted at portraiture and promotional photography.

While some photographers specialize in capturing scenery, animals, still life, or sporting events, others lean toward time-motion, portraiture, journalism, or promotional photography. Only time and experimentation will reveal a photographer’s niche, so allow room for discovery.

Explore Resources

My husband’s and my own expertise was vastly limited, but we found that outside sources which aid study are available to the passionate photographer. During our search, we discovered local camera clubs and photography workshops ranging from beginner level to professional. In these venues, other photographers provide mentorship and instruction. Most often, costs are minimal. Sometimes they require a slight membership fee or workshop enrollment fee.

Check with your local technical and community colleges, 4-H groups, and even in your own homeschool group. Look for volunteer opportunities where photography might be needed.

Reinforce Related Skills

In order to start a photography business some day, to start selling a few stock photos online, or to merely showcase progress, your student’s education needs to be well rounded. He should polish basic consumer and business math skills. He should learn something about understanding and creating contracts (photos of people always require a signed release form before selling or posting to websites), website creation, and marketing and promotion, and he should also become familiar with photo-fixing software, slide shows, framing, and so on. Your student should polish his communication and writing abilities no matter what, but especially if he is interested in photojournalism.

Encourage Exhibition

As in all the arts, exhibition is centrally important to students’ work. From the time you hang his or her first finger paintings on the refrigerator, until she shares her first poem or he performs his first guitar solo, art by its very nature is meant for sharing.

We were grateful to belong to a 4-H club that supplied Jessamyn ample opportunity for displaying her photos in public venues as well as offering professional feedback for improvement. Even if you don’t have such a venue, you can create one. Help your budding photographer start her own photo club or join one. Look for contests and publications open to youth submissions. A surprising number of small magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs will publish a good photo no matter the age of the photographer.

Eventually, you may feel that it’s time for your young photographer to create his or her own site, blog, or Facebook page. A word of caution—first, of course, bear in mind the security, or rather, insecurity of the Internet and social media. Close direction is required if your child is going to post photos on his own site. Photos can be stolen also. For special work it’s good to use some kind of photo software to add a watermark that will deter thievery. Second, when the photographer is ready for such a step, especially if he hopes to step into photography as a business after graduation, then he should post only his best work. It’s tempting to post any photo he or she is fond of, but best work yields best results.