Follow talkclouds on Twitter

Twelve Days of Christmas: Photojojo and more

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

On the fifth day of Christmas we’ll be taking a break from education again, sort of. Photography is a favorite hobby of many EFL teachers and teachers in general, but relatively few of us have huge amounts of money to spend on our equipment or taking classes. So, how to upgrade our photo skills? Keep reading–and if you don’t like to take photos but you do like to use them in your classroom, skip to the end.

rg1024_Camera_Lens

Photojojo is one of several photography how-to sites, but it stands out from the others because of its combined focus on photography techniques and DIY instructions for everything from “tripods” to photo Christmas ornaments. Here are a few stand-out articles:

  • Fun with Food Photography: Food photos are a favorite of EFL teachers, serving to make those of us who are are not overseas hungry and jealous. This article has several quick ideas for upgrading your food photo-taking skills.
  • Camera Dogtag: A great idea for any photographer, and one I plan to implement ASAP!
  • The Amazing $1 Pocket-Ready Tripod Trick: Clever!
  • 11 Tips for Sparkling Fireworks Photos: Fireworks are notoriously tricky to capture, but are a favorite of photographers from San Diego to Hong Kong
  • Erase Tourists from Your Vacation Photos: This probably won’t work in overrun sites like the Forbidden City, but two out of the three websites recommended in the article are still functional for those excursions where there is somehow always, ALWAYS one stray schoolchild or other lingering tourist in your shot

Of course, there’s more where those came from. You can subscribe to their blog or dig through the archives on the site. They do periodically flog items for sale, but it’s not much to put up with in return for the content.

Finally, if you just need photos and clip art to use in class, I’ve previously recommended several resources for free images, but here are two more on Flickr: Creative Commons – Free Pictures and Creative Commons. The photographers have Creative Commons-licensed their photos, usually so that you can use them as long as you follow whatever rules are part of the license. For most of them, the licenses just require attribution (putting their name/username wherever you use the images) and noncommercial usage only (don’t sell it or put it in something you’re going to sell, etc.). So to use the photos for class projects, slide shows, illustrations, and so on, all you need to do is discreetly caption them with the photographer’s username. (Hey, it’s a good opportunity to model attributing sources!) Many of the photos are excellent, and there are a lot to choose from–34,753 as I write this. Just put your keywords into “search this group’s pool.” From photo definition activities to sparking conversation, serving as writing prompts, or playing a part in a game, photos have lots of potential classroom uses–and I feel a lot more comfortable when I’m using images that I’ve acquired completely legitimately.

(EDIT: By coincidence, Lifehacker just posted a link to an article from MakeUseOf.com about an image search engine called Sprixi. Sprixi lets you search images that are free to use under various licenses such as Creative Commons–many from sites I’ve mentioned before. It tries to sort them by relevancy, and it lets you embed credit into the image and download that if you want. You might want to give it a try.)

Free Illustrations

No need to pirate!
No need to pirate!

Illustrations can really liven up activities or serve as the focal point of an entire lesson. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to find sources for these online, particularly for non-commercial usage. A recent Lifehacker post pointed out this About.com article on 30 legitimate free image sources, but I’m going to to just feature a selected handful from there and from my own Delicious bookmarks. I think these will save you time, because the list of 30 sites includes a lot that don’t seem very useful to me.

  • Open Clip Art Library has a wide variety of digital art, from 3-D to black and white. Some is original; others were scanned and cleaned up from Victorian graphics, etc. The quality ranges from incredibly professional to so-so. I got the Korean flag image and several other images used previously from here. Some are high-res enough to be printable. There are no limitations on how you use the images. (If search doesn’t work well, try navigating to the image you need using tags.)
  • Flickr’s Advanced Search feature + Creative Commons box checked lets you look for Creative Commons-licensed photos and videos (which you can read about here). Not all users who have put CC licenses on their work really understand it, so you may wish to comment and ask permission to be nice. Make sure to follow the rules of the license, such as giving attribution (name and a link back) if requested and not modifying unless the license grants that permission.
  • morgueFile is a site where photographers submit images for others to use (the name evokes the “photo morgues” that newspapers keep). You can search and download in the “free photos” section. Nice and easy to use, but be sure to check licenses.
  • Stock.XCHNG is a very popular free “stock photo” site with some great images. Unlike the above sites, you need to join (free) to download images. Be sure to read the license information for the images you want to use.