Topic outline

  • Introduction

    Photographic work is ideally suited as an introduction to media education in ECEC as children from the age of three can already handle this medium. It offers a variety of methods to experience the representation of reality and to explore one's environment. The spread of digital photography with tablet and smartphone makes this work particularly easy:

    • It offers children easy access to creative and active media work
    • and has the advantage that results are immediately visible

    Although tablets and smartphones are commonplace today, analogue photography and the later independent development of images is a great experience for children. It's almost like a miracle when the final image becomes visible on the white photo paper.
  • About this Module

    When studying this course you will…

    • Gain knowledge about the basic rules of photography
    • Get an overview of the topic
    • Get information about working with photos in ECEC – where does it make sense and what is possible
    • Get basic information about working creatively with the PicCollage app

    In this module…

    • Basic rules of photography are explained and visualised
    • Practical advice on creative work with children in ECEC is given
    • Activities support you to better understand the content and to prepare for the assessment
    • Further links guide you to more information
  • Photo Projects in ECEC

    Images properly used in ECEC, not only can they say more than a thousand words, but they can also help teach children thousands of words and many skills. Photographs (i.e. from books) enable children to discover things they may not be able to experience in real life. With the help of pictures, children can see flowers that may not grow in their own garden or animals that only exist in far away countries. Normally, photos are used in ECEC to record special events or to identify the children's cloakrooms. Photography is rarely used as an everyday teaching tool. However, due to the high availability of digital cameras, such as those available in tablets and smartphones, photography can easily be used in ECEC to complement or facilitate learning.

    When children have the opportunity to use the camera themselves and take their own pictures of things that interest them, their motivation to learn words related to the content of their pictures and expand their vocabulary increases. Children also learn important skills such as patience, confidence and turn-taking. Giving children the opportunity to take pictures offers an insight into how children see the world and what they focus on.

    When children actively and directly explore the world, they learn more things than when they passively experience the world. Johanna Einarsdottir (2005)  conducted a study comparing two groups of children using cameras. One group was accompanied by adults taking photos. The other group took photos of their school themselves. The results showed that when adults were with the children the photos mainly showed the playground or other people from their surroundings. The study suggests that children's photos were influenced by the adults who were with them. The children who went off alone took photos with unique content. The pictures often showed other children taking part in entertaining activities or making stupid faces. Most of the pictures also showed content that Johanna Einarsdottir describes as private places, such as bathrooms, corridors and people. These images captured the children's view of the world, a view that was not filtered through an adult's perspective.

    In order to optimise the learning experience with photos and cameras, it is important that children get actively involved in the image capture process.

    When children can make decisions about what pictures to take and actively use the camera, learning opportunities increase and these opportunities become more important to children. This is especially evident when it comes to expanding children's vocabulary and strengthening their language development. There are many ways to help children take the initiative to take photographs.

    Photo projects in ECEC

    If you give children the opportunity to choose the content of the picture themselves and to talk about what can be seen in the picture, this strengthens the learning of meaningful language.

    A few suggestions can help ECEC professionals and children to use photography effectively.

    ECEC professionals should first be open to children using cameras on their own. This can be particularly difficult with expensive digital cameras because adults might be afraid that children will break them. It is therefore better to buy cheap cameras or cheap tablets and teach children how to be careful with the equipment.

    Camera specifically designed for children

    An ECEC professional should be open to children taking pictures in an unconventional way. Children tend to see the world in a unique way and the camera allows them to capture these different perspectives. Children don't always want to photograph a complete object or person; they find sections of an ear or of a table much more interesting.

    Let children be taken photographs and enjoy this process, because it opens a window into the world. The most important thing is that you and the children have fun and you are open to learning new things about children. Listen to them and learn from them. Talk to children about their photos and let them know what you are learning. Help them to learn from each other. This will increase children's motivation to share their ideas in this new way.

    It would be ideal for children to have sufficient access to cameras or tablets. At least three tablets in a group would be great, with which children can take photos and print them immediately. Being able to take photos and print them within minutes is very helpful as it allows children to immediately integrate pictures into their activities. Children can use images immediately to tell a story, create an art project, or simply document what has just happened. This can be a rewarding learning experience.

    Comprehension Questions

    1. What skills do children develop when using a camera at ECEC?

    2. Do children take photos of similar objects/scenes with adults?

    3. What are the benefits of photo projects for the children?

  • Photo Practice

    It is important to show to the children how to use the camera and tablet to increase learning. Cameras or tablets should be presented as devices that must be handled with care. Children often know this from home.

    Consider informing children about the guidelines for handling digital devices during morning circles. You should then repeat them later in small groups to ensure that each child has understood the basic procedures. Also set a fixed location in the room where cameras or tablets are stored when not in use.

    Rules when using a camera:

    • The camera likes clean hands
    • Hold the camera steady
    • Hold the camera carefully
    • Share the camera with your friends
    • Wait for your turn

    There are children who quickly learn how to hold the camera steady and take a targeted photo. Other children will be less precise when taking pictures. In any case, it is advisable to have the children take and be taken photos and to look at the pictures, as this gives them a feeling of ability and achievement. In addition, it is easy to see which topic a child has chosen and what they are interested in.

    Firstly, it would be a good idea to talk to the children about the basic functions of the camera or tablet:

    • How can I switch on the device?
    • How do I take a photo?
    • How do I hold the camera steady?
    • Where can I view the photos in my device?
    • How can I delete a photo that hasn't turned out so good?
    • How do I take close-ups?

    Let the camera move from one child to another so that each child has taken a photo once. Show the children how to look through the camera's viewfinder and focus on the subject they want to take a photo of.

    There are different photo perspectives, which have different effects. Some of the most important perspectives:

    Basic Shot Types

    With extreme close-up photos that the children take themselves, they can create exciting photo puzzles.


    Let the children try out the different shot types and perspectives and then talk about the different effects of the pictures.

    Comprehension Questions

    1. What rules are meaningful for preschool children when using a camera at ECEC?

    2. What are the basic shot types?

    3. What is the difference between a big close-up and an extreme close-up?

    4. What are the basic perspectives of photos and how can you achieve them?

  • Integrating photography in ECEC

    Photography as an opportunity to expand vocabulary

    It has been shown that children who have already had many experiences in life have developed a better vocabulary. They are better prepared to learn, read and understand what they are reading. Photos can help bring words and concepts into the daily work with children. When children take their own photos, they decide what is important and construct their own meaning of their experience. They learn to find words that help them describe their experiences. So children can benefit from collecting pictures in a variety of ways and places.

    Photography as an Educational Tool

    Photo albums to remember the year

    Pictures taken by both children and ECEC professionals throughout the year capturing important moments in children's lives can be sorted out in different photo albums. A class photo album that documents the events of the year is a special memory for a child. This album could focus on a single child and contain pictures of him or her and pictures he or she has taken. A class album could also contain photos of all the children and highlight the events throughout the year. A PowerPoint (PPT) presentation with selected images could be used at the closing ceremony. The album can also be used as a picture book, offering even more opportunities to build up vocabulary. The children could "read" the pictures as a story using the events during the year. Each child's reading would be unique and would give an insight into the child's perception of what happened during the activity or event.

    Concept of self

    Images can not only improve language skills but also support the development of children's concept of self.

    Let the children photograph each other on different days if they wear different clothes or dress up (i.e. as their favourite media figure). Ask them to identify who is in the picture. Talk about what different children and other people look like, depending on what they wear. Let the children identify pictures of them and discuss where there are differences and similarities. If children cannot recognise them in a picture, use this as a teaching moment to talk about how people can differ in appearance but are internally the same.

    Development of creative skills

    A creative activity is to ask the children to take some photos of their own interest. After printing the photos, the ECEC teacher can help them create a collage of these photos on card paper and write small captions for the photos. Look at this example:

    Emotional and social development

    Preschool children develop basic and important ideas about emotions. Photographs can help them develop speaking skills about their feelings. This plays a crucial role in their emotional and social development. Finding words for facial expressions helps children talk about their feelings. It is good for young children to have up-to-date pictures of themselves showing different emotions based on facial expressions and feelings. This way they can talk about feelings related to their own experiences. Pictures of smiling children can be used to talk about what makes children happy. In contrast, pictures of crying people can help to recognise feelings of sadness.

    Let one child demonstrate different emotions while another child takes photographs. If it is difficult for a child to express an emotion, it can help to talk about what makes the child sad, angry or happy in everyday life.

    Comprehension Questions

    1. Can you name some of the benefits of the use of photography for the preschool children?

    2. In which way can photos and photo albums contribute to language development?

    3. How can photos contribute to emotional and social development of young children?

  • Basics of App PicCollage

    PicCollage is an app for the creative design of photos. Pictures from your own photo gallery can be used, downloaded directly from the app via the Internet or photographed from the app. Afterwards the pictures can be reworked with various tools and creatively designed. This way you can create collages or design photomontages. Finally, there is the possibility to share with others or print them. The finished collage can also be used as a .jpg file in other programmes.

    The app is attractive and simple. Even younger children can design their own collages after a brief introduction and under supervision. Collages are good for recording and presenting excursions, projects, and activities.

    Due to the many possibilities for image processing and its intuitive usability, PicCollage can be used very well in educational practice. Collages can be posted or created for portfolios, postcards or invitation cards can be designed or albums can be created to remember projects and excursions. Children can record the results of their photo projects with PicCollage and easily print them out. Some suggestions can be found in the practice examples of this modular training programme.

    Developer: Cardinal Blue Software, Inc.
    Systems: Android, iOS and Windows
    Costs: The basic app is free of charge; the full version can be purchased through In-App purchase.
    Target Groups: Pedagogical professionals; preschool children from 4 years onwards; primary school children; parents
    Topics: Creative design and painting; practical media work
    Advertising: Provider advertises for further in-app purchases; does not contain marked advertising and links to communication services. Therefore, use with children only under supervision.
    Usability: Only limited functionality offline. Internet connection should be available.
    Navigation: Simple and clear.
    Design: Simple, understandable language; clear and high-contrast colours; reader-friendly; clearly designed.

    How does PicCollage work?

    The basic functions of the app are the same on each device, but may differ slightly in design. The following tutorial tries to explain how PicCollage works on the computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone as they are very similar.

    Create collage

    Interface PicCollage

    After opening the app, it is possible to choose between Grids (there is a template for the arrangement of the photos), Cards (there are pre-designed templates selectable) and Freestyle (work freely on a sheet). Projects that have already been edited can also be opened again here.

    This short video shows how to create a collage in PicCollage:

    Add photos

    After selecting a form for a new collage, i.e. Grids, photos can be added to be integrated into the collage. The file browser opens automatically with the template photos. In case of Freestyle, one clicks on any place of the background. A small menu becomes visible and asks for the source from which the photos should be selected. The following options are available:

    Various Options to Edit a Collage

    • Photos: Select one or more photos in the file browser. To select multiple photos at once, hold down the Ctrl key while selecting.
    • Using Camera: Photographs are taken with the internal camera. To do this, go to the selection "Photos".
    • Web Image: Photos can be integrated directly from the Internet into the collage. However, due to copyright law, it should be noted here whether the photos may be used. If the pictures are only used to demonstrate something internally in the group, this should not be a problem.
    • Text: From here it is possible to access the text editor of the app, with which texts can be added to the collage.
    • Stickers: From here a selection of stickers can be added to the collage. These include smilies, hearts, flowers, thought and speech bubbles, and much more.
    • Backgrounds: This opens a menu where different backgrounds can be selected. Backgrounds with a lock should be purchased. Backgrounds without a lock are free of charge.

    Choose a Background

    Arrange photos on the collage

    To resize or rotate an image, use two fingers on the tablet and drag or rotate the image. It is also possible to change the order, i.e. the layer of superimposed photos. To do this, tap or click on the photo below and the photo will move to the foreground. Photos can be deleted using the delete function or by moving the image to the trash in the upper right corner. By touching the trash can, the process can also be undone.

    Edit and Arrange Photos on a Collage

    This short video shows some of the most important features of PicCollage:

    Edit Photos

    The image editing possibilities offered by PicCollage are sufficient for most photos so it is normally not necessary to edit the photos with an extra programme. To edit an image in PicCollage, one taps twice on the corresponding image. A menu opens with the following options: "Effects", "Cutout", "Duplicate" and "Set as Background". If one chooses the function "Effects", an editor opens, with which certain effects (like colour adjustments, blur or focus) can be changed and with which one can straight cut the photo. Using the "Cutout" function, the selected image can be cut out freehand, i.e. not with straight lines as in the "Effects" area. For this purpose, a line is drawn freehand around the cutting area. With the function "Duplicate" an image can be copied within the collage and pasted again. With the function "Set as Background" the selected photo becomes the background image. Other photos and shapes can now be arranged on it.

    Add a Sticker

    There are two ways to add stickers, such as smilies, symbols or speech bubbles. First it is possible to tap on the background or on the plus symbol at the bottom of the display and select “Stickers". The stickers are grouped in specific topics. Some stickers are free, others are not. To select a sticker, simply click on the desired sticker and confirm with a tick in the upper right corner. The stickers can also be changed in size and position, as can photos.

    Add Text

    To add text to the collage, click either once on the background or on the plus symbol at the bottom. When "Text" is selected, an editor opens where the desired text can be entered. Different fonts and colours can be selected. Line breaks can be inserted by pressing the Enter key. Once the text has been designed, the check mark in the upper right corner of the display confirms the selection and inserts it into the collage. Text, like photos and stickers, can be also adjusted in size and position. To edit the text again, simply double-click the text.

    Save Collage

    If you want to save the collage tap "Done" at the bottom right. A new window will open. Select the "Save" function to save the collage on the device. Afterwards an advertisement will often appear which can be clicked away without any problems. Then tap on "Done". The finished collage can also be shared directly in Facebook or printed.

    Save and Share a Collage

    Transfer Collage to Computer

    If you wish, you can transfer the collage to the computer like any other file.

    Start right now and try out your knowledge in practice. Our practical examples may give you some initial ideas.

    Comprehension Questions

    1. Can you explain to another person how to use the PicCollage app?

    2. Why should preschool children be supervised when using PicCollage?

    3. In a few words, what can you create with PicCollage at ECEC?