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Some things are just too colossal to fit in one photo: Easter Island heads. An extended family reunion. Conan’s pompadour.
Don’t give in to the tyranny of the frame! Bust your subjects out of their borders with a technique we call “photospanning.”
Photospans cross multiple frames: the Easter Island chin in one shot, the face in another, and a third shot of the brow sitting on top.
With just a little planning-ahead, they’re easy to make (and: easy to simulate).
After all, your photos have always been big! It’s just the picture frames that got small.
Ready to make your photos leap through frames? We’ll walk you through two different techniques: making real photospans with brand new photos, or fabicating them out of photos you’ve already taken. The process is basically just like taking multiple shots for a panorama, only instead of stitching them together, you’ll be keeping them split apart.
We’ll start with instructions for creating the effect from scratch; and then we’ll switch gears and walk you through the process of turning your old images into photospans.
How to Make Real Photospans
(We’ll show you how to do simulated photospans, too.)
Step 1: Plan AheadOh, sure, you could just wander out and snap a bunch of random shots of whatever tickles your fancy. (Actually, yes, do that whenever possible, it’s fun.)
But this project calls for a little critical thinking. Remember, whether you’re photographing people or animals or scenery or robots, you’ll need to take multiple photos that sit next to each other. So ask yourself beforehand: What exactly are you photographing? How many frames do you want to fill? Will the frames be aligned horizontally or vertically (or a combination of the two)?
And when planning your shots, remember The Rule of Thirds: avoid placing the main area of interest in the center of the image. Instead, you’ll get a more pleasing composition if the subject is one-third of the way into frame.
Scenes that work well:
Bonus points: draw diagrams of what you want to photograph. Chances are, you’ll change your mind once you’re out shooting; but pre-drawn storyboards give you an excellent foundation from which to start. And they’ll help clear up the confusion when you explain what you’re doing and everyone else says, “huhwhat?”
Step 2: Master Shot
When shooting for TV and movies, Hollywood-types usually start with a “Master Shot” — that’s a big huge wide version that gets as much of the scene as possible. Start your shoot the same way: back up and get as much of your scene in the shot as possible. You use it or you might not, but either way it’ll serve as handy reference later on when you’re trying to remember where everything in your scene was in relation to each other.
Step 3: Move in Close
Now it’s time to start snapping each individual frame. Get close to your subject and take the first snapshot; now move over a bit and take the second; now the third. Keep moving along, capturing the scene from left to right (or top to bottom, or in a spiral, or whatever) until you’ve covered your entire scene.
Step 4: Hang it Up
When gathering the photos together to display, you’ll have a bunch of aesthetic choices to make:
Step 5: Show the World
Want to show off your work online? (Of course you do! Where else do people show off?) You’ll need an image-editing app for this — no need to get all fancy and Photoshoppy, the most basic of image editors will do. In a pinch, we’re fans of free open-source photo editors like Gimp, which is more than up to the challenge of pasting photos next to each other.
Start by creating a new blank document. If you’re just posting online, it doesn’t have to be huge — in the neighborhood of 1000 pixels along its longest edge should do. But if you’re planning on printing, it should be at least twice that size for a 4×6 print; or 3000 pixels long for 8×10.
Next, open up your best work from the photo shoot. Nudge them into position so that each image flows into the next. Those aesthetic choices that we mentioned in the previous step still hold true, so give some thought to how your positioning of the images affects their tone. If you’re going to whimsy, give ‘em a tilt and a wobble. For something more refined, keep those angles straight.
How to Make Simulated Photospans
Step 1: Pick a Photo
Okay, so you don’t feel like going out and shooting new material. That’s fine! You can make photospans with the images you already have lying around. Just pick something wide or tall, or just plain big — we’ll chop it up and re-frame it so that it looks like you always meant for it to be that way.
Step 2: Get to Chopping
You can pull off this look with all but the most rudimentary of image-editing apps. We’re going to be using Photoshop so we can take advantage of its fancier features, but you could do it just as easily with Gimp or even good old MS-Paint.
Quick and dirty method: in the image editor of your choice, select chunks of your photo, and then one by one paste them into a new blank document, leaving a bit of a gap between them.
Step 3: Hey, You’re Done!
Check out your awesome simulated photospan: nobody would ever know it’s really just one picture chopped up a couple times. Nobody, that is, except the Mythbusters team. They can always sniff out one of your hoaxes.
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