If your friend asks you to do a photo collage, you’ll probably end up doing something like this:

simple-photo-collage

simple-photo-collage-2

If it’s your boss asking, then probably something like this:
[but I’m not sure]

corporate-collage

Laptops, handshakes, and people pointing at empty whiteboards.

Laptops, handshakes, and… People pointing at empty whiteboards.

And If I were to ask you to make a photo collage, this is what you’d send me:

i-dont-do-collages

No matter who is asking, we kinda know what a photo collage is – an artful assembly of photos. If you think about collages this way, there’s only so much you can do: play with different photos, change the arrangement, and rotate. That’s about it.

If you google “photo collage”, the first ten links will lead you to web-services that allow you to do just that. Upload photos, choose rotation, choose the template, and download the result.

photo-collage-maker

But there’s so much more to what a photo collage can be.

Let’s turn to history.

Initially, collages were about assembling elements in one frame. Not photos themselves.

Collage is a technique of an art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.

wiki

Masters of old would assemble elements from different pictures into a single composition:

old-collage

Francis Picabia, ‘Tableau Rastadada’, 1920

Actually, people started to manipulate paper elements ever since the invention of paper in ancient China.

So if we were to manipulate elements, not photos themselves, suddenly the whole range of new techniques becomes available to us.

But wait a minute, weren’t people manipulating photo elements since the early days of Photoshop?

Yes. They were. And they still do, and they still charge a lot of money for that, because it requires expertise. In this article, we’ll talk about techniques and services that allow you to manipulate your collages without having to learn advanced photo editing software.

Composing

Elements over compositions

The first advanced technique in creating photo collages is the ability to freely compose elements within a frame. We’re talking objects, models, background – anything.

This is where Icons8 Photo Creator comes in handy:

Add model & background:

Add a cat:

more-cats-collage

Screw it, add as many cats as you like:

Stories over Memories

When we combine pre-shoot photos, it’s hard to tell a story because those photos are usually connected by a person who combined them with their experiences. The photos are either too simple to mean anything or too complicated to keep track of what’s going on in the whole collage.

memories-collage

This is probably a very intimate story to those who created the collage or those depicted on it. Well, they could be paid models. In any way, it doesn’t have much meaning in it for everyone else.

However, when we combine elements and not photos within one composition, our storytelling capabilities grow exponentially. Photos that tell stories improve user experience. It can be any kind of story.

It’s not just someone else’s story. You can make it yours by uploading your own elements:

your-collage

There’s no limit to what a collage can be when you see it as a collection of elements, not just photos:

Morphing

Suppose there’s already a photo that you like, but something is missing from the picture. You. You can recreate the photo by finding all the missing objects on Craiglist and eBay. Then take a picture and then trying to sell everything back, because you no longer have any space on the attic with that mindset.

Or you can morph. Visual identity debates aside, morphing really blew up in the last few years. It’s no longer something shady marketers use to sell a new diet or gym membership.

What is morphing? Well, it all probably started with this…

Face swapping in Snapchat. While the tech is still developing, the face-swapping services are already being built with outstanding capabilities.

Reflect.tech allows you to upload any photo and then morph any face into any other you’re willing to upload:

  1. Upload photo / scene / composition with actors

  1. Upload your photo or photo with any other model you’d like to use:

The service will grab the face out of the picture automatically.

  1. Establish the level of morphing:

Right now technology is used primarily for fun:


However, the startup has plans to collaborate with movie studios where it might be useful in terms of face adjustments and face transfers with stuntmen. But this is only the beginning. Right now you can use this technology to weave yourself into favorite shows, modify your own emotions (grab an old picture where you are smiling and morph it into the one where you are not), etc.

By the way, we’re working on our own morphing features – check out our demo!

Morphing and face editing is the next natural step in collage creating after the initial composition was found or established. What’s comes after?

Dynamic Collages

It’s not a mystery that video is becoming the king, quickly sending into hibernation any other form of content. I even had troubles to find good statistics to back this statement with – they all are very convincing.

video-marketing-statistics

Complete infographic

Simply put, people are getting used to video. Instagram stories, Facebook streams, Twitter clips… You see it everywhere.

This is especially true for social media formats – if you want your collages to get any kind of attention there’s gotta be a way to somehow video-fy them. Thankfully, there is.

However, there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is, you’d still have to use some video-editing software, like After Effects.

The good news is, everything else is explained and prepared for you.

For example, this is a tutorial of what you can achieve with your photos:

-the result is at 17:58

And this is a quick example of what I did with one of the Moose Photos:

What do collages have to do with any of that? To save you time watching the tutorial above, the reason is quite simple. In order to animate objects on the photo, each one has to be on a separate layer. Usually, people use Photoshop or other photo editing software to separate their objects, however, the tools I’ve been showcasing allow you to do that much more simply.

Icons8 Photo Creator lets you export your compositions with objects on different layers:

export-with-layers

So when you open them in any photo & video editing app that supports layers, you can easily manipulate them independently.

Yes, it’s a bit advanced. But seeing how ubiquitous video content becomes, I bet it’s only a matter of time before you start animating your photos online. There’s already plenty of web services that allow you to make slideshows out of your photos. And slideshows are a simple technology waiting to be made more advanced. Just like photo collage makers are turning from bundling photos to bundling elements of photos.

Afterword

It doesn’t take a lot to just arrange a number of photos in a certain order. But this form of collaging is dying out. Adapt or die. Modern services allow us to perform outstanding manipulations with our photos, we just need to start using them.

When you look at your collages as an arrangement of elements rather than photographs, the number of things you can change grows exponentially. Also, you don’t need to steal photos for photo collages when you can create your own from a scratch.

First, you compose elements into a single, meaningful story. Then you can edit anything – add your own objects, change faces, fine-tune emotions. And then, in order to keep pace with modern trends, you bring your creations to life. Fortunately, layer-oriented editing drastically simplifies the process of animation objects in the composition.

Highly-customizable, universal and ubiquitous photo collages? The sky’s the limit.

About the author: Andrew started at Icons8 as a usability specialist, conducting interviews and usability surveys. He desperately wanted to share his findings with our professional community and started writing insightful and funny (sometimes both) stories for our blog.

Don’t miss free tools by the Icons8 team:
Icons8, a library of about 90K icons
Moose, a big collection of stylish stock photos by pro photographers
Photo Creator, free collage maker to make custom photos for your story
Ouch!, a collection of free vector illustrations
Fugue, royalty free music for videos of any kind
Lunacy Editor (Sketch for Windows), free software to view, create and edit Sketch files for Windows users.

Also, get the lists of free vector software and free photo editing software

Title image created with Icons8 Photo Creator