The Era of the Digital Collage

Well, here is the result of the first digital capture and assembly collage done by your’s truly for a client.  I used to do these ALL the time in the film world on editorial shoots just for kicks.  They were a great investment: you got a totally different look, you could shoot with fast color neg, you could shoot wide open, you could have the angle of view of a fisheye without using one, and then you had the extreme pleasure of assembling it.  There was just something about touching the prints (or cut up contact sheets) and moving them around until you were pleased.  after a bit, I learned a few rules that almost guaranteed a reasonable result.  But friends, I am here to report that I have gone over to the digital side.   Almost a year ago, I got an assignment from a client to actually shoot a collage!  My old website had a whole section devoted to them.  Well, I figured that I would try it digitally.  And other than my missing shooting them square with my favorite MF camera, I have seen the light.  I am one of those people who is still pretty sure I could do most of my work on film and be fine.  I know film pretty well, and a bunch of my work does not need much post.  Especially the editorial portraits.  But as far as collages go, I am blown away at the flexibility and quality of digital collages.  Wow.  I will not elaborate here, because most of my massive readership could not care less about why it is better, but it is.  Trust me.  It is not necessarily EASIER, but it is surely more powerful, and if you follow a few rules, I reckon the success rate is significantly higher than in the film days.  Anyone who wants my rules, drop me a line. I will save you a bit of grief.



  1. Hello – I’m interested in shooting photocollages, and would appreciate whatever advice, guidance, and rules you can provide. I’m actually shooting now w. a fujifilm X-10 — I just can’t live w/o a standard viewfinder. Film I can live without, but a viewfinder no.

    1. Hi Richard,

      Sorry for the delay in writing.

      I have lost my list of guidance, but here is my memory on what matters.

      When you start to assemble the images into separate layers, work in full resolution (if at all possible). You never know. You do NOT want to have something that you love that you just threw together only to realize that it is low res. I do use TIFF’s, but only 8 bit (after I have gotten them pretty close to what they should look like).

      Keep the original file numbers, but be VERY explicit if modifying any images. For example: 3456_crop_blur, or 3456_crop_transform_square_bottom.

      Do not hesitate to re-use images etc. When trying an image on top of another, or below, make duplicates so that you can easily turn them off or on to see the effect, rather than re-positioning. Call one top or bottom (or whatever makes sense).

      Have both a white AND a black background set up (for the same flexibility). Work however you want though.

      I really don’t think there are rules except to make it easier to see what you are doing. Once you start getting 20 or more layers it just is easier to mess around with them if you follow good naming conventions so you can see at a glance which layer to touch etc.

      Sometimes I shoot things with different focuses, but sometimes I blur them in post. It is SO powerful to be able to fix these in Photoshop (or Lightroom or whatever) after you shoot them. Sometimes with different colors, saturations, etc. The slight variations in light, color, blur etc can make the collages look much more organic and make one realize that they are COLLAGES!

      I have also cut up single images, but I am not as fond of that. I think there are collaging or mosaicing programs that will do that too, but….

      I THINK that is it for now. Next time I do one (I have been working on other stuff recently), I will keep a good list of what comes to mind and save it somewhere sensible!



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