Photography and Art

Monday, December 22, 2008

Online Editing

I've committed to teaching a photography class to about a dozen ten year-old kids next month at Art City, an organization that teaches underprivileged kids how to draw and paint. In preparing for this class, I've been wrestling with several issues:
  • How can I equip them all with cameras so they can have a meaningful hands-on learning experience?
  • How can I teach them to develop their digital photos after their shoot without all the complexity of Photoshop and/or Lightroom?
  • What will the enjoy as their first photo assignment?
I haven't thought too much about the third point yet, but I have made meaningful progress on the first two questions. After contacting local camera stores and camera vendors to see if they have any old cameras around that haven't sold, I pretty much gave up on that angle. The Christmas spirit doesn't seem plentiful in the camera retail space. Instead, I sent an e-mail to as many friends as I could think of asking them to dig out all the old 2-3 megapixel cameras that had been abandoned in drawers and the response was very heartening. I think I may be able to scrape up enough cameras for the course.

As far as the second point goes, there is good news there too. Adobe has a very good online editing system at You have to have an Adobe ID to use the site, but I don't think that will be an issue. There are two things that make the Photoshop Express site really terrific for young photographers:
  • To use it, you only need a decent Internet connection. Art City has an arrangement with a nearby cooperative housing development who have a nice facility with a small network of computers hooked up to a high-speed line, so this will work nicely. The rest of the time, the kids can book a computer at the local library.
  • The user interface on Photoshop Express is BRILLIANT for non-expert users. Kudos to the gang at Adobe for totally re-thinking the problem and breaking the mold completely. If you haven't tried this yourself, check it out. Here's an example: suppose you want to change the exposure on your photograph. Using a tool like photoshop or lightroom, you'd change exposure using a slider and see the impact on your photo by looking at both the image itself and the histogram. This is wonderful if you know what a histogram is used for. With Photoshop Express, you get a series of thumbnails all representing a different exposure of the image. As you click on each one, you see the results in the image itself. You can very quickly try them all out and pick the one that looks the most pleasing. This technique is used for all the major image adjustments. Very clever!
I'm looking forward to the photo class very much. The kids will each be given an old digital camera and enough instruction to make them dangerous, then they'll all head out to shoot their project. After the shoot, we'll upload their photos to Photoshop Express and they can learn the rudiments of digital photo enhancement. After that, we'll pick a few photos and make some prints.

It should be a fun day!

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