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.


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.

Time Lapse Art (Prep)

The objective for this project was quite simple. Draw a picture and film it. More specifically, it was for the students to draw a picture of their favourite season and have a partner film it using the Time Lapse feature from the iPad camera app. This tied in perfectly with their unit on seasons.

The skills, in terms of video, that the students were learned were based on constantly checking and critiquing the film as it was being shot. That’s a complicated way of saying that the students doing the filming are watching and adjusting as needed.

So, the way I had it set up was that the students who were drawing were sitting at a single desk. Next to them was an iPad attached to a tripod. The tripod was angled down to the desk so that the whole (A3) paper was in the frame. Students who were drawing had a bunch of coloured pencils each, had to decide what season to draw, and then got to it. Students doing the filming would watch the drawing on the iPad and carefully adjust the sheet if the illustrator accidentally moved it out of frame. They also kept an eye out for heads being in shot and gently indicating to the illustrator to move back.

When the picture was finished, the two students swapped roles, and we began again.

The results were actually extremely good for something that conceptually was extremely simple. The students, when sharing their videos, were amazed at how their drawings came to life so quickly.

Here are a couple of my favourites as examples:

This was the last of the projects I did with the Preps. I will reflect on the Prep curriculum during the summer break.

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.

Week 2: PuppetPals & Rule Of Thirds

This week, the Prep – Grade 2s looked at using PuppetPals. The Grade 3-6s started their unit on Photography, looking at the Rule of Thirds. I’ll start with PuppetPals and go through the Rule of Thirds at the end of the post.


Given that the curriculum for Media Arts specifies developing stories using characters and settings with images, sounds and texts – it made sense to use a digital tool that younger students can cope with easily and intuitively.

To this end, I introduced the Prep-Grade 2 classes to PuppetPals, an app on the iPad that allows students to create their own puppet shows. There are a few different versions of PuppetPals out there. They are free initially, but you can pay for add-ins as well. I used PuppetPals HD. I have seen my 3 year old daughter play with it, and she can figure it out pretty well, so I knew that these kids would have no problem.

PuppetPals essentially gets kids to choose characters, choose backgrounds (sort of like a stage play) and then make up stories just by moving the characters about on the screen. Kids can move them around, rotate and resize them to their hearts content. There is also the facility to record it and then export the play as a movie.

The free version of PuppetPals comes with a small selection of characters and settings, but you can pay $AU1.49  for character packs that come with a few themed characters and backgrounds (eg: Wild West) or you can pay $AU7.99 for the entire catalog – 18 of them at the time of writing. Obviously features and prices change, so don’t hold me to that. I just paid the $AU7.99. Since all the iPads in my room are connected to the same account, they all loaded up with them. They are not all installed, you still have to go and install them yourself. I allowed the students to pick and choose which packs they wanted to play with. As a result, all my iPads have different packs loaded, but that’s fine.

Character Packs
Character Packs

This week was really about the students learning how to use the app and having fun with it. I watched them create zombie stories, fairytales, wild west adventures. It was great fun to see. I picked out a couple and mirrored the iPad on the TV to share with the class. At this stage, I didn’t want them to record anything. Just to “rehearse” as it were.

The Grade 2s I gave them an extra job to do. As part of the paid “Director’s Pass” that gives you the whole catalog, you can also take a photo of someone – cut them out (so you mask out the background) and then have them in the app as a character themselves. You can also take a photo of a background and use that as well.

Real actors as Characters
Real actors as Characters

Here is a video that goes through the features:

Next week, I intend with these kids to tie in their term 1 inquiry topics to Media Arts by giving them a set topic to do their story on. We’ll see how that goes. But the kids certainly had fun.


I did a photography course several years ago when I bought my first DSLR camera. When it came to composition, the teacher told us that the first rule of photography is the Rule Of Thirds. The second rule is, to go ahead and break the rules as you see fit. I also told my students this, and they had great delight when I told them that this would be the only time a teacher would say they were allowed to break the rules!

What I haven’t been able to obtain as yet is a collection of still and video cameras. I’m hoping a fundraiser later in the year can help pay for them down the road. So for now, we’re using iPads.

Ahead of time, I got all the iPads out and turned on the Grid function on the camera app. This overlays a Rule of Thirds grid on the camera which makes it easier for the kids to use.

With the grade 3-6s, we went through what the Rule of Thirds was, and some examples using both my own photos and ones I found on the net. I then took them out for a “field trip” into the playground and asked them to use the Rule of Thirds to line up their object of interest in the photo. We got some interesting results, and I’ve put some of the highlights down here below.

Before we went out, we talked about framing the image, looking at something from different angles, and trying to create interesting shots. I’m quite pleased with how they came out.

Next week, we’re going to look at portraiture – and just for fun, we’ll be doing them in black and white.