Week 5: Prep Photography, PhotoshopMix and Selections in Photoshop

This week, the Prep class began experimenting with the camera on the iPads, the Grade 1-2s used the iPad app PhotoshopMix to create simple composites, and the Grade 3-6s continued with Photoshop, learning how to select a background to cut out. I’ll start with the Preps, then on to PhotoshopMix and finally Photoshop proper at the end of the post.


This week we started a two lesson unit on using the camera on the iPad app. The students all come with various experience levels of using a camera on a device. Most have done it in some way before, and those who hadn’t, picked it up quite quickly.

We discussed looking for the perfect shot, tapping the shutter button (rather than holding it down in burst mode), checking your photo and coming back into the camera.

I let them around the studio, as well as the library next door, and let them take whatever photos they wanted. An issue I had, was that often the cameras were set to Video or Slow Mo or one of the other settings, and because a lot of them are pre-readers, they couldn’t tell the difference. Although, most of them COULD tell that they were taking video rather than photos, and asked me to fix it for them. But definitely something I had to keep in mind.

From there, I got the kids to come back on the floor. I told them I wanted them to choose, out of all the photos they took, one favourite they wanted to share with the class. I went through how to get on the Photos app, swipe through their photos and add a heart (favourite) to their chosen pic.

I learnt from the first class I needed to be a wee more explicit in my instruction. many students chose their favourite photo, regardless of who took it. I explained that if you took the photo, the photo is yours. I wanted their favourite photo that THEY took.

Once they both had their favourite, they came up to me at my desk. I had the Prep folder open on my desktop, which was mirrored on the TV nice and big for them to see. As each pair handed me their iPad, I quickly selected the photos from the favourite album, uploaded them to Google Drive, in the Prep folder. Within moments they saw their photo up their on the TV. Once I got through everyone’s, I did a little slideshow with some positive commentry about each image.

Next week, we will take a field trip to the junior school play area and look at taking photos of surroundings, rather than people.


Last year, I started Genius Hour in my class. Genuis Hour is a classroom version of the time Google gives their employees to work on their own passion projects within the working week. Search for Genius Hour on the net, and you’ll get lots of articles from educators who allow their students an hour a day to learn about what they want to learn about. In my class, there were only two conditions. Whatever it was they did, they had to be learning something they didn’t know before, and they had to be “creating” something – not just playing.

Some kids discovered PhotoshopMix which I had put on the iPads. PhotoshopMix is the Adobe mobile app that lets you create composites on the iPad. The idea is very simple. Import photos, select away the background, bring other pictures in on seperate layers, and then blend them together. Here’s a video Adobe put out.

It’s a free app. I didn’t do much in the way of explaining how to use the app, the students discovered this on their own. Below are three of my favourite composites the students came up with.

So, since I’ve been working on Photoshop CC with the Grades 3-6s, I wanted the Grade 1-2s to be able to do the same sort of thing but on the desktop. PhotoshopMix was the obvious choice.

I gave them the example of taking a photo of a computer screen desktop and then taking a photo of a student. I then composited them together. First, you use the “smart brush” to paint in the area you want to keep – ie: the student, then you switch to the “basic brush” and choose to subtract from the selection. Then I modelled how to zoom in and check all the edges. Paint out what you don’t want, switch to the addition selection, paint back in what you do.


You might notice, this is quite similar to what they did last week with the ColorSplash app. The skills they practised doing that served them very well doing this.

Today was really about playing with the app. I have plans for next week where they will start on a composite project that will tie into their Inquiry topics.


This week starts a three week unit on Composites. Composites are basically images blended with other images. Tying in with last week’s lesson on layers in Photoshop, I wanted the grade 3-6s to start getting used to selecting a background, and deleting it in a layer so that the subject is on a transparent background. From there, next week, we will get into students coming up with their own creative ideas and utilising the skills they learn in making their composites.

So, in order to engage them, I presented them with a series of superhero pictures I found. Starting with the Superman one (below), showing the students how to use the Quick Selection brush to paint the background selection, then unlocking the layer, and deleting the background.


I chose this one to start with on purpose because it’s so easy. A flat, white, simple background, contrasting heavily with the subject, means that Photoshop can almost automatically find the background on it’s own.

After I modelled how to use the tool (adding and subtracting a selection, changing the brush size, using Quick Mask) I got them to have a go using it for Superman and once they showed me they could do the simple one, I had a series of other superhero ones for them to work on that were significantly harder (see below).


An image like this one of Spiderman, has it’s own complications. It’s not a flat simple background colour. It’s “busy”. It needs a lot of attention to zoom in and make sure that the edges are well selected. This was a struggle for most students, but that’s ok. It’s a struggle for adults to do it properly.

Next week the students will come up with their own composite ideas, take the photos, and blend image on top of image.


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