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Creating mosaic photos

Creating mosaic photos - Peter Bargh looks at a fun way to turn your archive of thousands of photographs into a mosaic using a free download program called Andrea Mosaic.

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I've been a fan of mosaic photography since reviewing Rob Silvers book back in 1997. It showed some amazing images that made up photographs of Marilyn Monroe and various other famous people. Since that day I've seen them used in ad campaigns and projects around the world.

A photo mosaic is a large image made out of a grid of hundreds of small images that are automatically arranged in such a way that they make the big picture look good when viewed from a distance. The program splits the picture up into a pre determined grid size and then searches for photos that have similar colour values to drop into each tile of the grid.

Step 1 Download Andrea Mosaic from here and install on your computer.

Step 2 Create a collection of images that you want to use to build a mosaic. If you don't have enough of your own images you can find thousands of free images on royalty free CDs and on the Internet. Place these images in the same folder and have sub-folders if you want to organise the images in specific groups. AndreaMosaic can be set to pull images from sub-folders. The more images you collect, the more interesting your mosaic, but after you build one you can always add or remove images to get better results.

Step 3 Start the program Start>All programs >AndreaMosaic and this window appears:

Creating mosaic photos

Step 4 From here you select the folder where all your images are stored by clicking on Find Tiles. Click Create Collection and browse to your folder with the images. My folder contained 1790 ePHOTOzine member images submitted for the Guide to Great Photography book. Save the collection giving it a name, mine was called mosaic tutorial and it's appended with AndreaMosaic Image Collection .amc file name.

Step 5 Click Load Collection and choose the .amc collection you just created. Once the pictures are ready you will see a dialog showing the number of images.

Three other options include a collection update, a black & white mode and a movie frame extractor. But we're finished so click close to go back to the mosaic creation palette.

Creating mosaic photos

There are seven controls to set to vary the way the mosaic is created. These include:

Final size lets you set between 2000 and 5000 to determine the size of the mosaic.
Number of tiles is how many tiles are added to make up the photo.
Distance between duplicates can be set between 1 and 15. If 15 is set the same picture won't appear any closer than 15 pixels apart.
Modifications adjusts the individual images so the tiles match better. The developer suggests this is set to a value of at least 5%.
Algorithm Select how the images are displayed to create the grid. You can, for example, set the program to rotate or flip images to make a better match of tiles.
Movie parameters, allows you to set a minimum distance between movie frames if you are extracting still images from a movie.
Lines around each image puts a black line between each tile.

Play around with these settings until you get a satisfactory result. I'd suggest using default on your first go. On my second attempt I decided to set the final size to 5000 thinking the bigger the better, but in the end I found 2000 pixel image with 2000 tiles gave the best definition

Step 6 Click add image and locate the image you want to turn into a mosaic. I chose a canoeist in action (right)

Step 7 Click on Create the Mosaic and watch the status of image processing at the base of the palette. The image you are creating pops up on screen and converts to the mosaic as a preview once the tiles are added.

Step 8 The image file is stored on the desktop and can then be opened in your usual image editing program.

You will find with practice that some images work better than others and need different treatment in the contol/set-up stage. You sometimes also have to squint to see the image clearly. What's also fascinating is the way the smaller individual images are selected to create the larger mosaic.

The shot on the left was the reason I discovered AndreaMosaic program. It's a shot of dog, Max, by Martin Wait used for the cover of the Guide to Great Photography. I wanted to have an interesting image on the intro page and thought a mosaic would be a fun thing to have. I added the logo and a couple of graphics at the base to ensure more colour and better use of tiles. The rest is history.

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