Using Contrast in Photo Collages

I like to think of myself as Liz's biggest fan. Her templates just click for me, and I use them for at least 90% of the pages I make. Now that my son is older, I don't scrap those little moments quite so much anymore. I scrap about our outings and adventures, school activities, and the times we get to be with our extended family. In short, I scrap multi-photo layouts.

Some of my favorite templates are the ones with LOTS of photos, and the photo spots are right up against each other. Multi-Mini Templates is an example of this style.

There are no shadows between the photos, almost as if they are a single layer. These designs are modern and photo-centric, and they are ...  maybe a bit intimidating. I'd like to share some tips I've collected through trial and error.

The first tip that came to mind was that a collection of photos that are too similar to each other will not shine in this style of presentation. I had some photos from a trip to the snow, and I thought to myself: I could use these to show off a BAD example of using these templates. There will be white snow in all the backgrounds, they will all just blend together into a big blob. So I quickly threw my snow photos into one of the Multi-Mini Templates. And my result is the following, which I don't think looks all that bad. If fact, I think it looks great:

Were my instincts wrong when I supposed that photos with similar backgrounds would look bad together? I look another look at the template. Yes, they almost all had snowy white backgrounds, but I had done something without even thinking about it: many of the photos were cropped!

Here is the same template with the same photos, but every photo has been sized so that as much of the original photo as possible is visible:

I think it is safe to say that this second layout is not as good as the first. With all of the photos zoomed out, they do tend to get lost next to each other, with less contrast from one to the next. Contrast! That is the design principle that helps photos look great when placed next to each other.

When placing photos in close proximity to each other, try to optimize contrast between adjacent photos. This will help visually isolate each photo and make it stand out next to its neighbor. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Crop: If one photo shows a wide angle view, try placing a cropped or macro photo next to it. As an added bonus, cropping in to people's faces can bring out the emotion or energy of the photo.
  • Brightness: If one photo has a dark background, try placing a photo with a light background next to it.
  • Color: Look for color contrast between your photos and place different colors next to each other. You can also process your photos to help with this: try a black and white filter, or an action that adds a haze or vignette to the photo.
  • Subject: A photo collage is a great opportunity to show details as well as the big picture. When you take pictures of an event, try to remember to take some detail or close-up shots.

Here are three more examples I made recently. Look carefully at adjacent photos and see where I've used cropping, brightness, and color to accentuate contrast between adjacent photos.

Bold Double Templates 1 by Scrapping with Liz; Kits by Valorie Wibbens and Karla Dudley, Allison Pennington, One Little Bird, and Etc. by Danyale

Bold Double Templates 3 by Scrapping with Liz; Kits by Pink Reptile Designs, Valorie Wibbens, Laurie Ann, and Julie Bullock

Bold Double Templates 3 by Scrapping with Liz; Kits by Allison Pennington and Etc. by Danyale

I hope these simple tips will give you a little more confidence the next time you are picking out templates and photos. Even if you aren't using a flat collage presentation like I've used above, contrast among your photos will help to build an interesting and eye catching photo cluster.


Jenny said...

Great tips, Tiff! Another idea to try would be to add a small stroke to the photo layers to create a more discernible grid ("discernible" looks wrong to me, but spell check says it's right, so I guess...). :) I think it's funny that your "bad example" photos turned out pretty great. :) Thanks for highlighting this template set. I've had it for a while now, but haven't used it yet (maybe it was intimidating me, and I didn't realize it!). I'm a big fan of Liz's templates, too. I always think about just popping the photos in and leaving the rest of the template as-is. Her colors and shadows are terrific. :)

Tiffany said...

That is a great idea, Jenny. I originally tried to use one of the Bold Double templates to scrap my son's square dance presentation at school. But it was a bunch of people with jeans and white shirts and a concrete background. Way too busy for all those photos to go next to each other. I found that the Pajama Party Templates (with strips of paper between the photos) worked much better for those photos. Papers, strokes, and elements can help to provide that visual demarcation between the photos when they do not have a lot of contrast themselves.

Unknown said...

The contrast is not only important in landscape and portrait photography, but also in the subject. I usually do some editing with my special editing tool, it is perfect for Mac.

jerff said...

sometimes easiest photo enhancing tools can do all that work easier and faster. anyway, tnx for tutorial

фотограф said...

I always think about just popping the photos in and leaving the rest of the template as-is. Her colors and shadows are terrific
фотограф недорого в Киеве

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Maira Gall