ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Creating a Photo Collage

Updated on December 10, 2014

One From Many

Have you ever combined multiple photographs to make a collage, poster or composite image? Combining images can be challenging but it's also fun and a great way to get your creative juices flowing. In this article I will be giving you some tips on how to create a photo collage and encouraging you to play and experiment with your photos to see what you can create. This could open a whole new area of photography for you.

You can combine photos to make posters, family mementos, digital scrapbook pages or a work of fine art. If you develop a little skill with image processing software, you will find the artistic possibilities are almost endless. Combining photos into collages or composites is just one of the amazing things you can do with digital image processing these days. Of course you can always switch heads in a photograph for a laugh but I'm encouraging you to look at your images in a new way, to think as an artist.

The harpist image above was created by combining two photographs. All photographs in this article are my own.

When is a Collage a Composite? - Put Another Way, When is a Composite a Collage?

Mistique
Mistique

A COLLAGE has traditionally been something created by cutting out pictures, fabrics, paper or various objects and pasting them onto a surface in order to create a work of art. This is still a valid art-form but today it's possible to create a DIGITAL COLLAGE by combining images of various types into a single composite image. This is essentially a glueless collage. A single digital image created by combining one or more images is often called a COMPOSITE.

I will be using the terms COLLAGE and COMPOSITE almost interchangeably here but I think a COLLAGE better describes an end result with MANY diverse parts while a COMPOSITE image is one with fewer and more compatible "parts" combined more subtly or imperceptibly into a single image.

I think of images where I combine a main subject, perhaps a person, animal or object with a different background as a composite. A high dynamic range image is created by combining three separate exposures of a scene into a single image and it could be considered a composite but the term collage doesn't fit. On the other hand, I think of the image above as a COLLAGE because the image components are several and diverse.

Check Out These Great Buys on Amazon

I use Photoshop and Corel's PaintShop Pro and can recommend both. PaintShop Pro is a powerful image processing program and much less expensive than Photoshop. Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) is a subscription service to their high end software but I confess I prefer to own rather than "rent" my software. I can highly recommend Adobe Photoshop Lightroom whether you go with PaintShop or Photoshop.

Taking Pictures With Composites and Collages in Mind

Gospel Sing Poster
Gospel Sing Poster

Your collage or composite will consist of multiple image elements so when you are out and about with your camera, keep your eyes open for anything you might be able to use. I will often shoot dirty cement, a brick wall, rustic wood, bark on a tree, dried mud, clouds, a pile of rocks, a pattern of water on a lake, anything that might be useful as texture or background in a future composite image.

This means you might shoot a scene, not because it is in itself beautiful but because it might make a background for something that is more interesting or it might contain an interesting element. You might see a scene with a flag blowing in the wind. The total scene is nothing to write home about but perhaps you can use that flag somewhere. You see an interesting old car or fireplug or stump or park bench or mug or coffee pot or cat, or road sign or tree, or..well you get the idea. You are looking for interesting or useful elements that you can add to your image inventory. These are the things you will use to create a collage or composite on another day.

If you have a scanner, you can scan things like coins, leaves, worn cloth, anything with interest or texture that you might be able to use in a collage. Use your imagination and add images to your inventory as new ideas and opportunities arise.

Extractions Without Novocain

Bluegrass Poster
Bluegrass Poster

Extraction is the process of isolating an image element from the background. Say you have a cool picture of an elephant but you want to use that elephant in another image as a composite or part of a collage. In order to do this you are going to have to extract the elephant from the current background so you can place it in another image.

This is not intended to be a tutorial on extractions but there are a number of ways it can be done. You can use selections and/or masking techniques in Corel's PAINT SHOP PRO or PHOTOSHOP to extract an image element. I have used both of these great software applications to do extractions and I'm sure there are other image processing applications that can do it as well. My favorite way to do extractions is using Topaz ReMASK. Topaz has a number of great applications that plug into Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop.

The process of extracting an image element from its original background can be very time consuming depending on the complexity of the element and other factors such as the contrast between the image element you want to extract and the background setting its in. Keep this in mind when shooting something you may want to extract and try to take the photograph with a simple and contrasting background. It's fairly easy to extract a flag against a clear blue sky but difficult to extract a speckled bird from pile of leaves of similar color to the bird.

If you use Photoshop to do your extractions you will likely find some helpful tutorials on the KelbyOne website. If you are seriously into Photoshop I strongly recommend you join KelbyOne (used to be called National Association of Photoshop Professionals or NAPP) as it has been an immense help to me.

The poster above was created by extracting a musician who was performing with his band on stage so I could use him to create a poster to promote the next event. I created this poster in black and white and sized at 8.5 X 11 so it could be downloaded and printed by anyone with a standard printer using standard sized paper.

Masking Made Easy With Topaz ReMask

This is a Topaz tutorial to give you an idea of how Topaz ReMask works.

Selecting Photos to Use in Your Composite or Collage - Putting it All Together

Eagle, Flag and Clouds
Eagle, Flag and Clouds

As with any significant venture, it's good to have a destination in mind before you start out. If you are going to create a collage you will likely have an idea or theme in mind and you will be selecting images that fit into that theme. The theme could be a family vacation, a new baby or a fishing trip or poverty or music, anything that you want to visibly depict. A theme may be a feeling or emotion that you want to graphically express by juxtaposition of contrasting images. Wow! I just read that last sentence and hope someone can explain it to me. What I'm trying to say is that a theme can be an intangible artistic expression or statement but the images you select must support that emotion, statement or theme.

In order to create a collage, your image processing software must be able to work in layers because a collage has multiple layers. I almost always start by creating a new file as the background layer. This is the layer on which all other layers will rest so I create it at the size and pixel resolution appropriate for the end product I want. If I will want to be able to print the end product as an 8x10, I create the background layer as 8x10 inches at 300 pixels per inch. The 300 pixels per inch is sort of the optimal resolution for a print but most print labs will do a fairly decent print with an image as low as 100 pixels per inch. Think quality and go for 300 pixels per inch is a good rule of thumb.

Your background layer can be filled with a color, a gradient, a texture or a combination of any of these to create the effect you want. If your background layer will be covered completely with subsequent images then just a plain white background layer is fine because it will never be seen. If you have an 8x10 photo with sufficient resolution that makes a good background for your collage you can use it as your background layer without creating a new image file. The idea is that you want a background layer at the right size on resolution on which to deposit your subsequent image elements.

The process of creating your collage will involved selecting the image elements from your inventory and then dragging or pasting them onto the background layer. You will adjust the size and placement of each element and determine their order. By order I mean you will decide which image elements are in front of or behind others. Keep the direction of light in mind and select and arrange your elements in a way that is consistent with the prevailing or dominant direction of light. The process of creating a collage or composite can be time consuming but it's the fun, artsy kind of time that you will enjoy.

You will likely want to play with the opacity, blending modes and perhaps dodge and burn individual elements to get them to blend and fit just the way you want. The end product will be your work of art from start to finish.

Above is a composite image made from three different photos taken on different days. I shot the clouds because they looked interesting, I shot the flag because it looked beautiful and I shot the eagle because I wanted a photo of an eagle. As I was looking through my images I realized I could combine these three into a composite image with a patriotic feel. Your imagination is your only limit.

SOME OF MY ZAZZLE PRODUCTS CREATED BY COMPOSITING

Visit My Fine Art Photography Website

I have a fine art photography website where you can view my diverse photographic interests. I have a gallery dedicated to vintage vehicles and buildings, galleries for landscapes, waterfalls, birds, wildlife, painterly photography and a variety of other specialized subjects. Mount Shasta and various northern California scenes are prominent in many of my galleries. Most of the galleries have background music if you play them as a slideshow. This allows you to kick back and listen to the music as the images flow by. Whether you are looking for some interesting images or looking to purchase some photographic art, I think you will enjoy your visit to Chuck Nelson Photography.

.

I have applied many of my photographs and digital art to a wide variety of products such as mugs, mouse pads, T-shirts, cards, etc. If you are looking for a one-stop location for unique gifts, be sure to visit my Zazzle website.

I'd Love to Hear From You

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 3 years ago from California

      @aminebombom: Thank you ABB....our Photoshop (and PaintShop Pro and Lightroom and Topaz and many others) darkroom has opened a new world of photography and design.

    • aminebombom profile image

      Amine 3 years ago from Doha, Qatar

      Photoshop is really big help in photos editing it changed the way we look to photos editing and brushing, good lens you have

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 3 years ago from California

      @John Dyhouse: Thank you artyfax.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 3 years ago from UK

      Interesting read. I also spend a lot of time creating digital collages/composites (or even montages?) thanks for thte discussions

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 4 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you Tipi!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      How very cool, I agree...you are a master at creating amazing seamless composite collages with excellent DIY instruction for others to get started with their own creations....beautifully presented!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @ItayaLightbourne: Thank you...always appreciated.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      You are a master at combining different images into one beautiful collage and making it look like it all naturally belongs! Well done. :)

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Auntie-M LM: Thank you

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      Wonderful ideas!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @missyjanette: Thank you

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      As always, both incredible images and great instruction!

    • missyjanette profile image

      missyjanette 5 years ago

      nice ! :D

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @hippiechicjewelz: Thank you....now get out there and be creative!

    • hippiechicjewelz profile image

      hippiechicjewelz 5 years ago

      A very inspiring lens! Just what I needed to get myself out of a creative rut! Your ideas and information are wonderful, thank you for igniting that creative spark by your marvelous words!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you so much...glad you liked it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens. Really enjoyed

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @SophiaStar LM: Good! Go for it

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      I love doing collages however I have yet to do a digital one. After reading your lens it has excited me to give it a try thank you!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @MarcoG: Thank you...once you have the concept down, you can exercise your imaginaton and let the creative juices flow.

    • MarcoG profile image

      Marc 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      I love how simple it looks to make, yet they look so intricate and beautiful.

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 5 years ago

      Congrats on Squidoo front page feature :) your collages are amazing, crisp and clear. I am using an older corel program and it is quite a struggle and my results are not a nice as yours. You make me want to spend money on photoshop now :) Great lens!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @aquarian_insight: You're welcome

    • profile image

      aquarian_insight 5 years ago

      Wow, these photo collages are amazing! Thank you for the info!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Joan Haines: Thank you and "thank you"

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      Beautiful, inspiring stuff! Thank you for how-tos. "Squid Angel blessed."

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @karMALZEKE: Thank you for the kind words.

    • karMALZEKE profile image

      karMALZEKE 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens. Really enjoyed it the merged images, all of them!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @iijuan12: Thank you

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Wedding-Music: Thank you

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @shamakhalid: My pleasure

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      Great lens!

    • profile image

      Jake_2525 5 years ago

      Awesome lens. I have a lens about what digital camera is the best for you. I reviewed the best point and shoot and dSLR cameras. So check it out if you want to. However I thank you for this lens because it is valuable information for me.

    • Wedding-Music profile image

      Matt Warren 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      Great stuff!

    • profile image

      shamakhalid 5 years ago

      thanks, always wanted to know about it.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @seopintar: Thank you

    • profile image

      seopintar 5 years ago

      Liked your lens. I appreciate how you can make something become easier to do.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Board-Game-Brooke: Thanks...it does take time but the Topaz application helps speed things up for me.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @mikelennonphotography: Thank you and you're welcome

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you for the kind words chickandsavvy. I hope you are inspired to do something creative.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 5 years ago from US/TN

      Nice lens! I used to do photo collage and really enjoyed it, although it takes a lot of time.

    • profile image

      mikelennonphotography 5 years ago

      Great info! Really enjoyed reading your lens, thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      First of all, I had no idea how talented you are. I've read a couple other lenses which I liked, but WOW. Your artwork is really forthcoming in mood and emotion. Also, looks quite skillful to me. Secondly, bookmarking this for later. I've been playing with Adobe and have trouble with masking. This lens has much to offer on tutorial. Thank you so much.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @dellgirl: Thank you so much! I'm always glad when I can help or inspire others.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @sockii: Glad you liked it...hope it inspires you to get creative. (I've seen your art so you already are creative)

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: OK by me too...thanks for dropping by.

    • profile image

      dellgirl 5 years ago

      This is really a great lens, lots of helpful information. ThumbsUp! Thank you for sharing, I learned something new.

      Congratulations on making Popular Pages - Featured Lenses.

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Loved it! I first experimented with collage and photo-montage years ago when I was first exploring surrealism. I really want to get back to the technique at some point as you can come up with such interesting results.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      ok

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @MissionBoundCre: Good! Glad to have been of some help.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: It's always nice to have helped someone.

    • MissionBoundCre profile image

      MissionBoundCre 5 years ago

      Just learned some valuable information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post.

      http://www.aabhatutors.com

      gmat tutor in delhi

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Lindrus: Thank you. The learning and possibilities arte endless

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      Great tips! I love creating something from photos. Photography is an art in itself, but it also fun to be artistic once the shot is taken. Love your lens!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for the tips on making these photo collages.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @jordanmilesbask: Thank you

    • jordanmilesbask profile image

      jordanmilesbask 5 years ago

      Great lens and love those collections..

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Lee Hansen: It still takes some work but the process is greatly speeded up. Glad to help.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Great! Write on

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @hirephp lm: Thank you

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @wheresthekarma: Thank you WTK...I was fortunate to find the car and the people who are keeping it running.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Countryluthier: Thank you CL, you have a great article on building a harp.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      Chuck, thanks so much for making this lens. I admire your photography as well as your artistic talent and skill with digital collages / compositing. I am very interested in the masking tool and watched the entire video. What a time- and labor-saver!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just what I needed for my book covers. Perfect!

    • hirephp lm profile image

      hirephp lm 5 years ago

      nice lens thanks for the sharing on squidoo

    • wheresthekarma profile image

      wheresthekarma 5 years ago

      I am in love with your 1915 DODGE !! I love it!! Great work.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 5 years ago from Virginia

      Awesome work, I felt a blessing coming on when I saw the harp collage at the start of the lens. Nice shooting (with the camera and computer that is!) Blessed by the COUNTRYLUTHIER, harp maker.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @SimplyTonjia: Thank you and thank you. I hope it has your creative juices going.

    • profile image

      SimplyTonjia 5 years ago

      Excellent lens, I am definitely inspired. Thank you,.

      P.S. Your zazzle products look wonderful.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Alex-45: Good...hope it helps.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Shorebirdie: Thank you....I've gotten a lot of mileage out of those birds.

    • profile image

      Alex-45 5 years ago

      Some useful ideas here. Thank you!

    • Shorebirdie profile image

      Shorebirdie 5 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I love that vulture mousepad.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @Frednun1965: Gracias

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @pawpaw911: Thank you

    • Frednun1965 profile image

      Fred Alb 5 years ago from Uruguay

      It is an art very interesante.Me reminded to school work as a child. Thank you, very beautiful!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens. Nice work.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @curious0927: Thank you and thank you. Check out my other articles on photography and perhaps you will take the leap. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you and thank you. Like music, art, including photography, can touch us at a deep level.

    • curious0927 profile image

      curious0927 5 years ago

      I'm so interested in playing with digital photography! Great lens. Blessed by a Squid Angel!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @imlifestyle: Thank you and I agree

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @John Dyhouse: Thank you and thank you

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @intermarks: Thank you

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @tyrosine: It is and thank you

    • imlifestyle profile image

      imlifestyle 5 years ago

      Nice lens , digital photography is a great subject. Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The impact that photos give to others is remarkable. They play a special place in many people's lives including my own. *blessed by a squid angel*

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      A well written and informative lens, I agree with your view of collage v. composite. Although what ever they are called they do add a little pizazz to am image. blessed

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      This is just another awesome lens. Very nice!

    • tyrosine profile image

      tyrosine 5 years ago

      Looks fun and interesting. Nice story!!

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @jlshernandez: Thank you and....yes, it is.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      I need to learn this as it looks fun. Blessed by a Squid Angel.******

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @sondang213: Thank you....get creative and have fun.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @GramaBarb: Wonderful! I hope you are enjoying it as much as I do.

    • profile image

      sondang213 5 years ago

      beautiful...amazing..very creative! i can't wait to try by myself..thanks for making this lense :-)

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 5 years ago from Vancouver

      Great info! I love your layering tips. I am constantly working with those tools too.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @LiteraryMind: Thank you!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Great information and beautiful art work.

    • CNelson01 profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      @BusyMOM LM: Thank you BusyMOM. With the digital age, photography and digital technology has has opened a wide range of possibilities. I will be happy if my technical knowledge catches up with my imagination.