Creating a Photo Montage

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Recently I was invited to join the F.O.A.M. group on Flickr. F.O.A.M. stands for:

Food
Outside
Abstract
Myself

Participants in the group take daily photos of food, outside, an abstract shot, and a shot of themselves, then arrange the shots into a montage (a term often used interchangeably with “collage” and “mosaic”, but they’re really all quite different) and post to the Flickr group. Something like this:

Now, this montage was created very easily, using the free Mosaic Maker tool provided by Big Huge Labs. It’s a very fun site and gives you the opportunity to get creative with your photos. However, the resulting file quality is sometimes lower than what you would like if you were doing something special with your images.

It’s almost as simple, thought somewhat more time consuming, to create this type of a montage in Photoshop CS3. The hardest part is getting the alignment right, whereby the images used in the montage are all sized identically, and the spacing between and around all of the images is identical.

Start with four photos that are identically sized (you can resize a photo by cropping, or by going to the Image menu and choosing Image Size). Open a new canvas in Photoshop, and make sure it’s large enough to fit all of your montage photos (you can adjust the canvas size by going to the Image menu and choosing Canvas Size). Set the background color of the new canvas, which will become the background color of the montage.

Next, copy each photo (Select/All/Ctrl-C or right click-copy) and paste it into the montage canvas (Ctrl-V or right click-paste). As you paste each new photo, a new layer is created. As you move each photo into its grid arrangement, lines will appear in the screen to help “snap” each photo horizontally and vertically into alignment.

Another way to align the photos in the montage is to select all of the layers (except the background layer) by holding down the shift key and clicking on each layer in the Layer Palette. Then go to the Layer menu and select Align. You can then align the photos according to their edges or their centers, horizontally or vertically.

When you have the photos arranged to your liking, flatten the image, then crop any excess background color that may exist around the edges.

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