Week 6: Prep Photography #2, PhotoshopMix #2 and Composites in Photoshop

This week, the Prep class continued using their camera on the iPads by going out on a field trip, the Grade 1-2s PhotoshopMix to begin a “Think Board” that tied in with their inquiry topics, and the Grade 3-6s began work on their composite project. As usual, I’ll start with the Preps, then on to PhotoshopMix and finally the Photoshop composite project at the end of the post.


This week continued our look at using the iPad cameras and looking critically at what makes a good photograph.

The lesson was virtually the same as last week – which I have learned is important when you are dealing with very young children. Keep it the same, go over the instruction, and get it stuck in their heads. So, I modelled how to use the camera again, and how to use the Photos app to tag which one was their favourite. In this process, we discussed about choosing one, and only one photo. We discussed what a successful photo looks like.

And then, for a change, I took them out to our Fairy Garden and Junior Playground. I told them they could take any photos they liked, with just one condition: I didn’t want any people in the photo. For this shoot, I only wanted environmental surroundings.

So with that caveat, I let them go. As you would expect, some photos were better than others. I was, though, struck by the kids’ “point of view”. Some asked to climb on the equipment so they could shoot from a high angle. I had no problem with that, but I did insist on looking after their device before they climbed the equipment.


Now the grade 1-2s have practised taking out backgrounds of an image in the PhotoshopMix app, it was time this week to put that skill to some use.

I wanted to tie in what the kids were doing in Inquiry to a project they do in Media Arts. Which is very much a PYP* style of doing things. The grade 1s were looking at healthy bodies/healthy minds, and the grade 1s were looking at communities.

So the idea I had was to create a cloud landscape with a thought bubble at the top. Then the kids would put in a photo of themselves on the poster, and get rid of the background. Finally (and this will come next week) the kids will add pictures in the thought bubble relating to their central question of their Inquiry.

So, I already had a template prepared, and I made sure that the image was on the camera roll of every iPad. The kids then needed to import that poster into a new project, bring their project to me, so I could take a photo of them (with “thinking” faces) and then they needed to composite themselves into the poster.



Here’s a valuable lesson I got from doing this, and it had nothing to do with the kids being able to do the project (which they could, fairly easily).

All the iPads (12 of them) I have, have the same Apple ID, and therefore can have all the apps synced up together. That works well – it means I only need to get an app once, and it downloads on all the devices. When I set up the PhotoshopMix app on the iPads, I gave them all the same Adobe ID when I signed them all in – which was a BIG mistake. What it means is – and this SHOULD be a good thing – is that a student can save their project on one device, it should sync it across Creative Cloud – and it wouldn’t matter which device they use next week, it would be there, same as on all the other devices.

Sounds great? I mean, I have each student assigned to the same iPad every week any way, but hey – good to know! Except – no. See when the students came up to me with their finished projects and I saved them, it would try and save ON ALL THE DEVICES. So then I would save the next project, often when the other was still going. In other words, it seemed like I was overloading my Creative Cloud account, and it wasn’t handling it properly.

How do I know? Because, if there was a bunch saving at once, and I went and saved a project, it wouldn’t save all the changes when I saw it in the project list. So the students had to go and do all the background erasing again!

I did come up – eventually – with a quick fix to this. When they brought me their project, and it was ready to save, I did a few things to it and then took it back. That meant that the background erasing was not the last thing the project did, and should save that part of it.

What do I mean? Well, ok, a student comes up with their project ready to save. I check it out, see if there are any glaring problems that they need to fix. Let’s say there isn’t. Now, before I press the “back” arrow (which takes me out of the project and into the Project list view – thereby saving it, I duplicate a layer, reorder it and then clear the layer. Then I give it about 8 seconds and then save the project. Almost always, this worked. See, the problem wasn’t that before the project wouldn’t save, it just wouldn’t save the last step of the project, which was the background erasing. For some students, this was fairly easy, for some not so much.

Oh, and an extra point – while I’m waiting to get a green screen set up in the corner of my studio, I had the students pose for their photos by a blank white wall. This made it fairly easy to mask out the background. Although, as you’ll see with the older kids, I probably should have done that with them too.


Now the older kids had some practise erasing the background of their images using Photoshop CC, we could start thinking about their own imaginative projects.

I told them that this is where their creativity could really shine. I’ll showed them an example with what I did, but I didn’t want them to copy me. I want them to come up with their own ideas. I didn’t want them to take a camera and go straight out. I wanted them to work with their partner and discuss what their ideas were and work out what photos they would need to take (ie: their background image and their foreground images). Here is the example I gave them of me:


Basic, as you can see, but effective. I modelled how I did this on Photoshop, but I quickly realised two things. It was too much for one class. I needed to get them to plan their idea, take their photos, come back and upload them to the PC through Google Drive, and start working on erasing the background. There was no point going into the copying and pasting from one image to another – not for this week.

The other is, I tried introducing Quick Mask as an alternative way of refining masks. This confused (especially the younger kids) quite a bit. I stopped talking about it with the rest of my classes, but plan to bring it back next week with the older kids as a way to check their work, rather than painting in and out a selection.

The kids did find that it was harder selecting the backgrounds of a photo than of an illustration, as they did last week. I deliberately did NOT tell them to use a plain background, because I wanted them to face the challenge of getting a good selection with busy backgrounds. This proved a little too hard for a lot of them, and I had to help some quite a bit. I don’t mind this, though. Masking and selecting is difficult enough for adults. I wanted them to get the core idea, though. The younger kids at least will have more practise when we revisit it next year.

I look forward to sharing with you what the kids come up with next week. From what I hear, some will be very, very clever.


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