It’s estimated that we will take more than 10 trillion photos in 2015. They seem to fill a need in everyone for telling a story. But just taking photos doesn’t foster communication or allow us to express our deepest thoughts and feelings. For that, we need a way to edit the photos into something amazing.
Autodesk offers an excellent solution for photo editing with its Pixlr suite of tools. Available as a free Android or iOS app, on the web (for Chrome), or as a free download for Mac or Windows computers, Pixlr is simple and elegant. Like more expensive programs such as Photoshop, it includes the ability to use layers, transform objects, add creative effects and borders, and change colors.
Besides standard photo editing tools, Pixlr also has some extra features that could be very useful in the classroom. The History Brush, for example, allows you to start with a photograph of a friend or loved one and, by using various overlays, end up with a portrait that places your subject in the foreground with an illustrative background — almost like a comic book. You’re basically creating a very rich, textured background while leaving your subject in real-world focus. This would work well with a photo and essay writing assignment where students are illustrating an emotion, like joy, or a concept, like diversity.
Pixlr Express (for both the web and mobile devices) also has the ability to create a collage of up to 25 images. This could be used for a group project with a team of students taking photos, editing them appropriately for the theme, and then merging them into one collage for publication. The Pixelate Brush can take existing works of art and pixelate them into new masterpieces reflecting a more modern feel.
In addition, if you use Gmail or Google Drive, you can set your email photo attachments to open automatically in Pixlr. Tutorials, tips, and templates are also provided, as is a blog with regular #pixelate challenges and ideas for photos. And this school district site has a nice introductory PDF on using Pixlr for students.
Students of any age will love the opportunity to showcase something they are passionate about through photography. But take the lesson to the next level by having them communicate an important lesson, a deep concept, or a difficult topic using appropriate photo editing and enhancement. Photos aren’t going away, so we must be sure our photo editing skills are up to our needs!