How to Create Hand-Made Photo Collage Designs

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Recently, I’ve been getting heavily inspired by editorial photographers and graphic designers. Because of this, I’ve been craving to make some work similar to that as well. After sifting through tons and tons of inspiration, I found myself getting jealous of other artists and kept saying, ‘I could have made that (or better).’ Recently I’ve realized how wrong this is, and I’ve made it a habit to not do this; in fact, I’ve tried to do the exact opposite.

Now, when I get inspired, I show my gratitude to that artist and then find out how I can achieve that happiness in creating something similar, rather than eating myself with discouragement because no one is reaching out to shoot.

Rather than getting jealous and discouraged, I go out of my way to set up a shoot now with a final idea, rather than just ‘take some photos for fun today’. Since I’ve changed my mindset, my results also changed, and I’m happy with where my work is headed, and also happy to show you my process today!

Below, I’ll take you through my process for creating handmade photo collage designs which were inspired by some incredible artists. To name a few that play an important role in my own work; Elliot James Kennedy, Estefonia Loret de Mola, Aiden Cullen, and Ethan Porter.


How to Create Handmade Photo Collage Designs

Watch along to see how I create these photo collage designs, and see my step-by-step process below!


1. Find Inspiration

When I first started shooting and making artwork, I always thought everything needed to come from inside of your head. Which in fairness is partially true. However, the older I got, the more I realized that ideas are everywhere, and taking inspiration from things/places/others will actually help you communicate a message.

Before you start shooting for Vogue, you have to prove you’re talented. Anyone can take a photo, but can you make it unique? make it valuable not only to yourself, but also to a client?

Because I’m such a big fan of magazines and fashion in general, I decided to start looking for inspiration in magazines like Vogue, GQ, Dazed, 032C, and more. From there, I paid attention to who the photographers were and found their work on Instagram. After about 20 minutes I knew what I wanted to shoot, but I ended up sifting through magazines for about 2 hours.


2. Set up Photo Shoot

Next, the hard part. One of the hardest parts of being an artist is finding people to help you create your work.

I can’t remember who said it, but I’ll never forget a quote that I heard a creator once say – “You can’t go to the store and buy an old man for your next piece. You can’t just go out and buy a baby.”

Ever since I heard that i realized how true it was. If you have an idea, it’s your job to bring it life. You have to use any resource you have. It’s not always going to be as easy as going to thes store, buying paint, and smearing it on canvas. Art requires people, things, locations, – lots of physical things that you can’t just buy.

After spending some time on Instagram, I found about 20 different models on Instagram that I thought might be interested. Luckily I got a few responses so I was able to create more than I had bargained for, but don’t be surprised if no one gets back to you. It can be hard to set up photoshoots, especially when you’re first starting out. Just keep trying – it’s a numbers game. Eventually someone will want to shoot and work with you.


3. Shoot

Now we’re on to the fun part. It’s shoot day. Time to start bringing all those ideas to life now. Keep some photos on hand (printed) or a folder on your phone with some of the ideas you found so don’t get off track during the shoot.


4. Edit / Scan Photos

Next, depending on the style you’re going for and your personal style, start editing. If I’m shooting film, I usually scan the negatives in and then edit in Lightroom / Photoshop. If I’m shooting digital, I usually stick to Lightroom for color correcting.


5. Print Photos

After you’ve edited your photos to look how you’d like, the next step is to print them out so that you can start playing with the physical copies. I use the Epson XP-15000 printed and usually print on 8.5×11 in. paper in various textures, colors, and weights. This set of collages was created with standard copy paper, but my favorite right now is ‘Granite specialty paper’ from Southworth by Neenah. It’s a 24lb. 90g/m paper with a nice creme color and it’s 25% cotton. (pictured below)


6. THINK + Gather Materials

This step is one that you can NOT skip. You’ve done all the planning, now don’t waste all of your time and assets by rushing through it. Think about it, even if just for two seconds.

Once I’ve printed all the phtoos that I want to use, I gather everything else I think Imight need to create the project. For tthis project I gathered:

  • Gaffers Tape
  • Masking Tape
  • Clear Packing Tape
  • Scissors
  • Foam Cutting Board + Scalpel / Blade
  • Variety of Markers + Pens
  • Crayons
  • Additional Blank Paper

7. Layout / Rip / Test (no tape/glue yet)

Now that you have the materials you need, you’re ready to execute your final project. You’ve taken it further than just a regular photoshoot, so be proud of yourself, and have some fun.

I like to start in two ways usually – one being free-spaced, and two being controlled.

For my free-space pieces, I start by placing layers down and then I continuously rearrange them and add / subtract objects and things that I think might look good in the final piece.

For my controlled pieces, I usually start by drawing a square box (4 in. x 4in.) on a piece of paper and then I do the same process as before, but with a confined space (and usually a much smaller scale).

One thing to note is that i’m not using glue or tape at this point – I usually wait until I have 2-3 variations of one piece then I make a decision.


8. Final Placement

Finally, we’re here at the feel-good stage. Once you’ve layed out your prints and media, begin taping it or glueing down as you see fit. Don’t forget that tape will affect how your final work looks/feels.

Once you’ve placed the taped/glued items all together, you’ve completed your collage :) Give yourself a pat on the back and get ready to bring these to the computer so you can start sharing them!


9. Scan / Digitize

Almost there! Now that you have your final work(s) in physical form, we need to get them onto the computer. My favorite way of digitizing physical graphics is to use the Epson V550 Scanner (see process below for scanning).

If you don’t have a scanner, you can also just take a photo of your work, but a scanner will give you a more controlled, even light, which will depict your artwork for how it is, in a higher quality resolution.


10. Crop / Edit (if needed)

We did it! Now that your final work is on your computer, all you have to do is crop and edit if needed and then you’re all finished!!

I hope you enjoyed this little breakdown of how I make my physical photo collages. If you have any questions be sure to reach out on Instagram (@matt_moloney).


One Reply to “How to Create Hand-Made Photo Collage Designs”

  1. Great idea, I never thought of this perspective :) Thanks!

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