Tilt Shift Photography (Grade 5)

Tilt Shift photography is a cool effect where you blur the top and bottom of an photo that is taken from a fair distance away. As your brain is used to seeing backgrounds blurred when looking at a close up macro photo, it tricks your brain into thinking that what you are seeing is a scale model. Here are some cool examples of the technique.

There are attachments you can buy for an SLR camera that makes your lens a little flexible and lets you physically tilt the lens to create the effect in camera. Otherwise, you can just fake it using Photoshop.

So, I started by showing my students some examples and how the technique works. I then took them step by (small) step to achieve the same result in Photoshop by first converting to a smart object, and then applying the Tilt Shift Blur filter in the Blur Gallery.

From there, the students learned how to paint in the layer mask to reveal or conceal the tilt shift blur as they needed. Please watch my video tutorial below.

Here are some of the better examples my students came up with.


Textured Word Art (Grade 5)

This is a simple little project students can do to start learning how layer masks in Photoshop work.

Essentially, the project asks them to take a photo of textured material and to create a new file in Photoshop, type in the name of that texture “ie: Bricks” and have the photo of the bricks come through the text.

This is made possible by putting a layer mask on the type layer that has “BRICKS” written on it, and pasting the photo of the bricks on to the layer mask itself.

This is not typically the way we use layer masks. Usually, as you will see later in the post on the Tilt Shift effect in Photoshop, a layer mask is used to paint in (or paint away) an adjustment, effect or filter. Layer masking allows you to hide or use as much of any one layer as you like. It is a black and white image that cuts out a layer, allowing it to show though wherever the pixels are white, and holds out or hides a layer wherever the mask is black. The common adage to layer masking is that “white reveals, black conceals”. This will be more evident when watching my video tutorial below:

So – quite a simple little project. I started off by sending them out of the classroom for 5-10 minutes to photograph on the iPads a texture they want to use. They then uploaded the photo to the class’ Google Drive folder. Once the project was completed in Photoshop, I asked them to substitute the black background for another image that another group used that was in start contrast to the texture they had used for their type. I also showed the students how to use layer styles to highlight the type more.

Here are some examples:

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Cloning Photos with Clone Camera (Grade 4)

Here’s an example of a project I wanted to do with the kids where I have an idea and think to myself – I wonder if there’s an app for that. And of course, nine times out of ten, there absolutely is.

Clone Camera does exactly what it says. It allows you to take multiple photos of a person (or persons) in different spaces and stitches it all up together in one photo. Here is the first test shot I did when I was learning how to use the app.

So you get the idea. The neat thing about it – just like stop motion apps – is that it shows you an onion skin of the previous frame. In other words, when you are ready to shoot photo #2, it shows you the ghost of photo #1 so you can make sure you’re in a good spot as well as being able to match eyelines, as you can see in the above example with this student in the fourth and fifth pictures.

This app is pretty intuative to use. You take your photos, and then with each picture (not the master shot though) you paint in the areas you want to keep in the final photo. You have to be careful though. The onion skin feature only works for the last photo taken. So you have to make sure the subject (or subjects) are in seperate enough spots so that there is no overlap. Here’s an example of one group of students that obviously went a bit wrong in that area.

You can see here that one boy’s leg has overlapped another boy’s head. The photo below shows another thing that can go wrong if you don’t paint everything in you want to keep.

In case you can’t see it, the girl on the far left of the frame didn’t paint her arm and leg properly, hence the unintentional amputation!

This requires a camera that is locked off at a certain spot. That means it needs to be fixed to a tripod so that it doesn’t move when you take the three or four shots you want to take. After that the process is fairly simple.

See the video below to see how the app works.

The project is a lot of fun, and the students came up with some pretty impressive shots. Below is a couple of examples that worked well.

Shooting Panoramas with an iPad

So where as I had the grade 1’s reinforce their basic iPad camera skills doing Macro Photography, the grade 2’s did something similar, but exploring the Panorama feature in the iOS camera app.

I started by showing some examples of what panorama photography entails. Giving a stock standard definition of a panorama (that is “an unobstructed and wide view of an extensive area in all directions”) really means virtually nothing to Grade 2’s from the outset. However, unpacking each element (obstruction/unobstruction, wide view, extensive area, all directions) started painting a picture in their minds before I showed them an example of one I had shot at our school.

From there I gave them strategies on how to keep the camera steady when shooting a panorama; how to keep the arrow on the line steady, and how to crop the photo afterwards if they have any black spots which indicate missing pixels.

It’s pretty simple technique just using the built in iOS camera and having a go. The students really enjoyed taking this new type of photo and came up with some pretty great shots. Here are just a few examples.

Turning Photos into Sketches with Sketch (Grade 2)

Sketch is a pretty basic app, I’ll admit. There are a number of good filters here to change a photo into a sketch, but unlike Brushstroke, you only have two possible adjustments you can make – brightness and contrast.

Having said that, there is something to be said for an app that’s simple and intuative for younger students to use. Aside from the filters, a really good teaching point would be choosing an appropriate filter for the photo they have taken. Not all filters look good on every photo, so you need to be picky about which one complements the photo you are trying to “sketch”.

The video of how to use the app is below.

Here are some of the better examples from the Grade 2 students.

Turning Photos into Paintings with Brushstroke (Grade 2)

Grade 2 is one of those levels where I have to dream up new projects since they have done everything last year I dreamed up for the Grade 1-2s. The lesson here and the one that follows (Turning Photos into Sketches) is basically how to use a filter app. With older students, I don’t like these kind of apps because it doesn’t give a lot of creative control over what happens.

I don’t mind so much at this level though. At the very least it gives the students an understanding of what filters are, which will benefit them next year when they start on the desktops using Photoshop and other applications.

I’m quite picky then with the apps that I choose for this sort of thing. I don’t want a “one-button-will-do-it” because I want the students to have as many choices and as many options for adjustments as possible.

This app is a good one for the amount of filters it presents you with, and then the ability to fiddle it with a lot of different adjustments like saturation, exposure, brightness, contrast and vibrance.

The video below shows how to use Brushstroke.

Here are some examples from the students.

Twirl Art using Photoshop CC (Grade 6)

Ideas come from many places. Some come directly from your own imagination, some are inspired by what others done, and some come from ripping off paying homage to others who have done exceptional work.

I had never heard of Twirl Art before. Apparently such a thing has existed before. Where I found about it from was from the exceptional Photoshop/Illustrator instructor Deke McClelland over at Lynda.com. I will admit, and give proper credit, to Deke in that this project was virtually followed word for word, step for step the way he did it.

Twirl Art can start from virtually any photograph. Personally, I find a photo that has a nice mixture of bright and vibrant colours work best. Then, following the steps, you go from this:

to this:

Pretty amazing huh? It takes a lot of work, using a combination of various filters and blending modes in Photoshop to create the final result.

This is an advanced class, but I was really impressed how well the students were able to follow the instructions so well.

The video I have below does go through the steps quickly, I’ll admit. You may need to stop and start to take notes. As I said, it takes a lot of work, but I think the end result is something you could proudly print out professionally and have hanging on your wall.

At least I think so.

Here is the video that explains the process. And again, thanks to Deke for his wonderful project. You can find all of Deke’s videos over at Lynda.com at https://www.lynda.com/Illustrator-tutorials/Dekes-Techniques/76067-2.html

Creating a Planet in a Galaxy in Photoshop CC (Grade 5)

Sometimes I feel like teaching Photoshop (or another big program) is like learning how to cook. When it comes to a big project like this, it’s a matter of following the steps one after the other to get the desired result. In the case of primary school students learning Photoshop, I’ve learned the best way is to model a couple of steps at a time, get them to go off and do it, come back to the screen, and going through the next couple.

This project had it’s genesis in the Grade 5 students studying space later in the year. I had this idea to create an engagement for them by getting them to design their own planet in their own galaxy. With that, they could take their finished image to class and then write up a report about their planet. The name, the kind of atmosphere, what kind of ecosystem, habitats and life their planet would have.

This project goes over two lessons. The first one, creating the galaxy, is relatively short. The second one where they create their planet takes a little longer, but is definitely achieveable in two lessons. Most steps must be done as is, but there is a little flexibility with colours and textures to make it their own.

I will credit upfront the video on YouTube I got most of my “recipe” for this was from Blue Lightning Photoshop TV . My steps are mostly the same, but updated for Photoshop 2017 with a few small tweaks.

The videos below are in two parts: the galaxy and then the planet.

Here are a few examples from the students.

Having Fun with Adobe Photoshop Fix (Grade 2)

The mobile app Adobe Photoshop Fix is an incredibly powerful mobile app that lets you do much of the retouching and editing functions that the desktop Photoshop CC does. You can remove things from backgrounds, heal areas and blend layers. All sorts of goodness.

But with great power comes great responsibility. How much is too far? Where is the point where your photo becomes a distortion of what came before? And is this a good or bad thing?

This are interesting questions of ethics that would suit older students. But when introducing this app to younger students (as a sneaky precursor in introducing Photoshop proper next year to these kids) it’s all about the fun. And without doubt, the most fun you can have with this is the face liquify function.

Essentially, the app detects your face (assuming it’s an ubobstructed close up headshot) and the edit points on the face. The nose, eyes, cheeks, jawline, chin, forehead, mouth and lips. And with each edit point there are a number of options you can change. Obviously professional “serious” photographers use this to make slight subtle changes to the models they shoot, but with these kids, it’s all about distorting features.

I also got them to do a little bit of blended painting, so they could colour their hair as well.

The video here better explains the process.

Here are some examples from my Grade 2 students:

Macro or Close Up Photography (Grade 1)

This lesson was a pretty straight forward one. I wasn’t using any special app, just the iPad one.

I wanted to teach the students how to use the camera – in particular paying attention to focusing on the subject – when taking close up photography. I modelled using the iPad and how when you have the camera right up close, the camera can some times have a hard time picking up where the focus needs to be. By tapping on the subject of the photo (whether it’s a flower, a leaf or a figuringe) the iPad (or iPhone) does a pretty good job to compensate.

For the classes I went to our Wetlands area, as well as the Veggie Garden – and encouraged the kids to get right up as close as possible. I told them I didn’t want them to use zoom. When dealing with a camera like on a mobile device, zoom always degrades the quality of the photo since it’s a digital zoom, not an optical one. This means it’s not the camera itself that’s doing the zooming with the hardware, but it’s the software. It never does a stellar job. So – I got the kids to get right up as close as possible.

This lesson was meant as a review of the camera functions within the device whilst looking at a different type of photography.

Here are some examples.