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Interest in photography has skyrocketed since the introduction of low-cost digital cameras and inexpensive storage devices. After investing a few hundred dollars in hardware, it's possible to shot, download, and store thousands of photographs at no cost.

Digital photography uses an electronic device to record images and store them on storage cards. These images can then be transferred to a computer and edited, downloaded to a CD or DVD, or uploaded directly to the Web.

checkdo itWatch Photo Sharing in Plain English from CommonCraft

checkRead 17+ Things To Do With Your Online Photos from iLibrarian.

Besides basic photographs, consider getting involved with making panaramos and 360 views.

do itExplore Google Panaramo360cities or Gigapan

Hardware and Software Tools

Digital photography requires both hardware and software. You'll need a digital equipment as well as software to edit the photos.

Digital Cameras

cameraMany companies produce digital cameras, but like many products it's a good idea to stick with the well-known manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon. We currently own all three for different purposes. A tiny Sony for snapshots, a Canon PowerShot (photo on right) for every day, and a Nikon SLR for professional work.

Although there are many features to consider, there are a few basic considerations when choosing a cameras:

Before you start using digital photography with learners, it's important that you feel comfortable with the technology yourself. Find a digital camera and try the following activity.

try itDownload the Digital Photography Basics (PDF) handout by Annette Lamb. Follow the directions. When you've taken your photos, attach your camera to your computer. In most cases, your digital camera came with a cable that plugs into your USB or firewire port on your computer. In some cases you need to install software when you purchase your computer. However most new cameras can be plugged directly into the computer. After hooking up the cable, it may take a few seconds, but a window will open asking if you'd like to import your photos. Just following the directions on the screen.

Digital Peripherals

scannerBesides cameras, there are other peripherals that can be used for producing images. For example, it's possible to snap still shots from web cameras and videos. Also remember that the image scanner is a great tool for creating images from historical documents, photographs, or artifacts. Both desktop scanners and hand-held scanners can be portable. It's possible to buy a flat bed scanner that's thin enough to carry along with your laptop for genealogy projects or other library work. These portable scanners run off the battery in the laptop so they require no additional energy.

In addition to your camera, you may want a computer printer for publishing your photos. There are basically two choices: inkjet or laser printer.

digital photo frameThe inkjet printer uses cartridges of liquid ink to create high quality photographs. It's a good idea to purchase photo paper for professional quality images. You may also choose a color laser printer designed to print both text and graphics. These printers use a toner cartridge.

Finally an increasing number of people are skipping the printer and using digital photo frames for displaying photos. These digital picture frames or albums contain space to store images so they can show still images, slide shows, or randomly displayed photos.

Image Manipulation Software

Although some digital cameras come with software, you may wish to use additional software to get the visual effect you seek. Image manipulation software is used to enhance existing images. Most packages provide tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, and color. You can also crop and resize your photos. However higher end software is needed to create visual effects and filter images.

Image manipulation software is design for manipulating photos including both high and low end editing.

Stand-Alone Software

Before investing in costly software, try one of the free, open source image manipulation programs.

try itDownload the GIMP for Photo Editing (PDF) handout by Annette Lamb. Follow the directions to crop, resize, and adjust brightness/contrast/color.

Photo Editing and Slide Show Creators

AlexThis software is designed for simple photo editing such as cropping. It's also great for making photo albums of simple stories.

Tools like the ALA Read Poster page let's you add your own photo and create a poster. Check out the example on the right. It uses the BigHugeLabs tools.

Stand-Alone Software

Web-based Software

try itDownload Photo Story 3 for Windows from Microsoft (Doesn't work on Windows 7). Create a simple story using 3-5 photos with narration and background music. If you need ideas or help using the software, use the Directions for Photostory for Windows (PDF) handout by Annette Lamb. You can also use iPhoto for Mac.

Features of High Tech Digital Photography

As you explore the potential of digital photography, consider the opportunities that cutting-edge tools provide today's learners.

Expandability. Most photo-editing software allow additional filters to be added. For example, you can search the web for filters that can be added to Adobe Photoshop that will make your photo look like crumpled paper, a quilt pattern, or a watercolor painting.

Extreme Distances. Stopping the action of a hummingbird, focusing on microscopic images of bacteria, and manipulating satellite photos are all options with digital photography. Whether taking photos yourself with a macro zoom or using online sources for aerial photos like Google Earth, today's learner can have unique views of the world. It's even possible to participate in global events were people shot and share photographs at the same instance around the world.

Manipulation. For a decade, learners have had tools to make simply modifications to photographs, however today's tools allow designer to overlap before and after hurricane photos, predict the shorelines resulting from global warming, and create exciting panoramic views.

When modifying photos keep the following tips in mind:

Photo Sharing. Many websites cater specifically to those interested in sharing photos. The ability to post photos directly to email, websites, and remote storage has changed the way people share photos. For example, we rarely print photographs, however we regularly email photos and post them on our website.

High Tech Digital Photography Tools in Learning

From simply snapshots to artistic photo colections, learners can use sound in many different ways. To learn about creating effective photograph, check out the videos from DSLR Photography School and Photography Tutorials.

Explore ways that photos can be used to create graphic novels and comics. Go to ScrapComics from Escrapbooking to learn more.

Learners can use digital photography for many exciting activities. Let's explore some possibilities:

Detail. Because most cameras have a macro feature, you can zoom in very close to objects. For example, look for the detail in a tree including the leaf, acorn, branch, bark, and trunk. You can even create I SPY games.

Series of Photographs. Since you don't have to pay for each photograph, take lots of pictures. Consider projects that involve a series of photos.

Understand Abstract Concepts. Students have a difficult time with maps. However by overlapping maps with photos, students can start seeing the relationship. For example, in the Make Way for Real Ducklings aerial photos from Google Earth were used.

try itGo to Google Earth. Download the free version of the software. Explore the world. Brainstorm ways that aerial photographs can be used in understanding abstract concepts.

Digital Photography in Learning

There are lots of ways to connect digital photography to content areas. For example, there are lots of math connections. When students rotate photos, they're using angles. When they crop photos, they're working with rectangles. Students can use copy and paste to estimate the size of a tree by copying another element in the photo such as a human to judge scale.

read these pagesRead a digital comic titled Photo Safari for Kids by Annette Lamb. It was designed as part of a program for children and their parents to learn more about ways to use digital cameras for family-based activities as well as in educational situations. Comic Life by plasq was used to create the digital comic.

read these pagesRead Digital Photo Safaris: Authentic Learning Across the Curriculum (PDF) by Annette Lamb. These pages provide LOTS of ideas for using digital photography in learning. Go to Digital Photo Safaris for Teachers for additional ideas and links.

try itCreate simple, interactive activities and starters in PowerPoint. To save the starter project, right click on the words Who Lives Here (PPT), then choose Save Target As. Notice where the file is being saved. Use the slide show mode to run the presentation. Follow the directions in the SpeakerNotes in the presentation to create your own project. Try combining images together. For example, go outside and take a picture of a bush, then add a bunny to this photo to place the bunny in a context. Need animals? Use the backyard.ppt.

Consider other ideas for interactive projects using photographs: People Made or Nature Made?

try itCreate photo math mysteries. Set up a situation in a photograph, then ask students to solve the math problem. You may wish to use audio to explain the problem. You could also ask students to draw lines or make circles on the photo. Create a place for the answer. Hide the answer behind an answer button or create an audio button for the answer. Save the PowerPoint starter called math mystery (PPT). For older students, you can call these "CSI Crime Scene" photos.

try itYou can also create Postcards in PowerPoint. Right click on postcard.ppt, then choose Save Target As. Open the file. Put a photo on the first slide. Then, complete the back side on the second slide. Print two slides per page and fold to make your post card. Takes some photos and make some postcards! For more ideas, go to Powerful Literacies, Inquiry, and Technology-Enhanced Learning.

Learners, Multiple Intelligences, and Digital Photography

Like illustrations, photographs match well with Howard Gardner's visual/spatial intelligence. However because of the chance to get outside and observe the world in detail, these "nature" people learn best through the interactions with the environment including outdoor activities, field trips, and involvement with plants and animals. They see the subtle meanings and patterns in nature and the world around them. They are able to adapt.

Those with a strength in the nature intelligence could enjoy field trips that involve observation and recording the world around them. Check out the photographs from National Geographic for Kids and Adults.

Students who are kinesthetic can use digital cameras as a way to record their hands-on work. See examples of dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History.

Learn More

12 Beginning Tutorials for Getting Started with Photoshop

25 Free Stock Photo Sites

42explore: Photography

Abrams, Arnie. Digital Photography Handouts

Teacher to Teacher - educators share their ideas

Tips from the Top Floor - blog and podcast of digital photography

Using a Digital Camera in the Classroom

Using Digital Cameras in the Classroom from Wacona Elementary School

Using Digital Camera in the Primary Classroom


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