Media & Techniques

5 Student-Friendly Photo Apps You Should Try This Year

Did you take a photography class in college? If you are like me, that means you spent a lot of time in a darkroom trying to get a perfect image. Needless to say, photography has changed a lot in the last few years. I would never consider teaching my middle school students how to develop film, but with all the digital photo apps available, I love using photography in my classroom.

Here are 5 student-friendly photo apps you should try this year.

student friendly photo apps


If you want your students to focus on telling a story with their photography then PicTapGo might be the app you are looking for.
This app really is as simple as it sounds. You take a photo or “pic,” you “tap” to add filters and edits, and then you “go” send your image to another social media site or save it to your phone. I love that this app learns your preferences and will save them as your personal “recipes” to use over and over. It doesn’t come in an Android version yet, but according to their Facebook page, it’s coming.

Get it Here: Apple


If you want your students to create a collection of images, then PicCollage is the app for you.
This app allows you to select a group of photos and combine them in many different ways. You can change filters, borders, and more to get the exact look you want. You can even add stickers and text. The app is super easy to use, it is FREE, and it is available for Apple and Android. We used this app last year for our “elements of art photo hunt.” Here is an example of one of my student’s images.
photo hunt
The app is so easy to use that the whole lesson was taught in one 47-minute class period. Check out their website to learn more.

Get it Here: Apple / Android
snap and vsco

Snapseed and VSCOcam

If your students are more advanced and starting to focus on lighting and composition, then I recommend Snapseed or VSCOcam. 
Both apps take a little more time to learn to navigate, but what they offer is worth the extra 20 minutes.

I believe that it comes down to personal choice when choosing between these two, so here is an informative Snapseed tutorial and here is the VSCOcam tutorial.

You can check them both out and make a choice for yourself. Both are available for your Apple and Android devices and both are FREE!

Get Them Here

Snapseed: Apple / Android

VSCOcam: Apple / Android


Finally, Instagram. Most of us have heard of this app and a lot of us probably already use it.
Instagram is an app that lets you quickly take a photo, edit it, and upload it to social media or share in private messages.

Instagram is great for a quick snapshot of what is happening in our classrooms, but we can use it for more. Check out this blog post where Erin Klein’s second graders created imaginary Instagram accounts for their book characters. I see a meaningful art history lesson in the making!

I also saw this Teacher’s Pay Teachers site where you can buy Instagram templates to use for exit tickets.

Why not have your students use Instagram and snap a “what I did in class today” photo? It would make for an effective and easy advocacy piece for your artroom.

Finally, what if we offered our students a hashtag challenge like Jimmy Fallon does every week? Have your students complete the challenge and upload their Instagram images showing how they answered the challenge. If you don’t have it yet, download it now!

Get it Here: Apple / Android
Even with all these lesson ideas, don’t forget the inspiring artists who work with photography. Photographers range from Dorothea Lange and her Migrant Mother to David Hockney and his photo collages to all the modern artists featured on Colossal’s photography section.
The truth is that photography is becoming more and more an everyday part of our students’ lives. As creative art teachers, we can easily incorporate their piqued interest into our lessons. No matter which apps you use or how you incorporate photography in your classroom, give it a try.

If you’re looking for even more information about using apps in the classroom, check out AOE’s classes iPads in the Art Room and Advanced iPads. There’s so much to learn!

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How do you use photography in your classroom? What apps do you recommend?

Do you have a favorite photographer you like to teach your students about?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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