Monday, February 22, 2016

Creating Photo Faces for Personalizing Your ASbyS

As indicated in previous posts, you can, with a little bit of effort, personalize some of the ASbyS poems/songs/stories for your students by substituting their ‘photo faces’ for the illustrated faces in the purchased document.

When working as an AAC consultant, I have frequently started the school year creating ‘photo faces’ for each child in the early grades (PreK through 4). These digital ‘photo faces’ with their transparent backgrounds were primarily used to create the class page needed for various personal communication devices, but they also served ‘double duty’ in writing projects, crafts activities and yes … personalizing Animated Step-by-Steps™.

An ideal ‘photo face’ has a transparent background allowing it to be fully integrated with other graphics on a page. In a previous post you received information on how to use the change picture feature of PowerPoint to substitute photos of your students. This post will discuss the basic photo editing tools needed to create ‘photo faces’.

Take the pictures

First take a close up picture (head and shoulders) of every child in your class. Use your Smart Phone camera as you can easily email the photo(s) to your computer to more easily edit your images. Be sure to take the picture in front of a white/light wall. The solid white/light background makes it much easier to edit out the background of your photo. If you don’t have a white/light wall, tape a piece of white poster board on the wall behind the child’s head. If the child is in a wheelchair ask a colleague to hold the white poster board behind the child’s head while you take the picture.

Import the picture into a photo-editing program

On your computer, import the photo into a photo-editing program, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements (I’m sure there are other software programs that will work just as well).  Most common photo editing programs have the tools you need:  crop tool, magic wand and polygonal/lasso tool.

Crop the image

I like to crop the image first. This eliminates excess background information that needlessly increases your file size.

Select the background

Use the ‘magic wand’ tool to select the white background you wish to remove (a dashed line will appear around the selected area). If a click in the background only selects a portion of the area due to shadows, hold down the shift key and keep clicking additional areas until the entire background has been selected, then select delete to drop out the background. A gray-checkered pattern will appear; your background 
is now transparent. 

Remove the area under the chin

Use the polygonal lasso tool (circled in blue on toolbar) or the eraser tool to remove the area under the chin. When using the polygonal lasso tool you will be making a series of close clicks along the path you wish to select. 

Save your final image as a .png, as this format maintains the transparent background.
I usually save the image at 150 dpi with a vertical size of 3”. Depending upon the project, this size gives me the flexibility of being able to enlarge the images considerably without too much degradation (pixelating) or reduce the image size in keeping with the size needed for my ASbyS personalization project.  

Using PowerPoint

You can also use PowerPoint to drop out the background. Drag the cropped image on to a blank PowerPoint page. Select the Format Picture tab then choose the Remove Background option. A selection box will appear that should be adjusted to delineate the area that you wish to keep. The pink area denotes the area that will be deleted; the ‘non-pink’ area is the area that will be maintained. When you click back on the Remove background icon, it will remove the pink area. 

These instructions might not be a perfect match for the photo-editing program or PowerPoint version that you will be using, but hopefully they can at least ‘point you in the right direction’, giving you a better idea of the types of tools to look for in your photo-editing program. 

…’til the next post …  (new posts every Monday)

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©2016 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator