written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 3/31/2011
Here is a look at how to make a photo collage in the modern context.
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The New Collage
Most people spent parts of their childhood making easy collages as art projects. This often took the form of going through your parents magazines, cutting out pretty pictures, and smashing them up against a poster board with a glue stick. Today, digital photographic technology allows for the photo collage to be a much more involved process where you can integrate high quality images in a very creative way. This can often go beyond simple representational imagery and be a legitimate form of digital art, possibly even forgoing the physical cutting and pasting altogether. Here are some tips on how to make a photo collage using digital photographic technology.
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On the Computer
One of the obvious benefits of learning how to make a photo collage today with the digital photographic technology is that you are now able to do this entirely through creative software, which makes it much more versatile and practical for mass media. It is common to put your photos through a photo editing process anyway, but now you can actually streamline this process by editing the photos in one program and then shifting them over to a design software for the arrangement of the photo collage. Here you can start out by manipulating the photos you take yourself or take from existing locations and then edit them in Adobe Photoshop. From here you can put them through Adobe Illustrator and InDesign to arrange them into their final position as a photo collage.
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Theme and Context
When considering how to make a photo collage you will notice that most collages maintain both a central theme and aesthetic style. This does not mean that the photos need to be in the exact same construct, imagery, or even topic, but that you should try to manifest a clear and concise idea when going in.
This is going to extend into the photographs you actually take for the photo collage yourself. This is going to work similar to a photo series, except they will all be seen together as if they were presented as one single work in an installation piece. These different photos should then be considered as separate individual parts of a larger whole, and they cannot be judged outside of the larger context.
When brining in outside images you are often re-contextualizing them, so you can try to look for items that can be re-interpreted by the audience easily when put into another context. For example, if you have older images of patriotism mashed against images of war casualties people tend to see that this is a critique of nationalism and war. To present those images together you have to have an especially clear theme that can then be maneuvered as you get the images onto their final canvas in relationship to each other.
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With new digital photographic technology, the question of how to make a photo collage is almost secondary to what the photo collage will be used for. Now that you can have a purely digital workflow this photo collage is not restricted to being presented in a given location. Instead, you can utilize new media to have permanent showcasing online or integration with other forms. This can be an element in advertising, as part of a website design, integrated with video or installation work, or a number of other things. Keep your theme central when working on the photo collage, but begin to think about the ways in which it will be viewed and showcased. This is going to dramatically change the materials and processes by which you construct and image, even if it does not radically change your overall concept.