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3 – Ideas & Strategies

There are some photomontage ideas below.

A second source of ideas is the previous discussion of the differences between conventional photography and photomontage photography.

A third source of ideas are the examples in the history section.

If you're taking the photomontage class, discussions will produce more ideas.

1 – In Camera

Photograph store windows, combining the items on display with the reflection on the window.

Eugène Atget photographed in Paris at the turn of the last century.

From MoMA:

This picture of the front of a men's clothing store belongs to a series of photographs of store windows that Atget made in the highly creative last years of his life. He easily could have minimized the reflection in the window, in which we see part of the Gobelins complex, where tapestries had been made for nearly three centuries. Instead, he welcomed it. Indelibly melding two images into one, the photograph simultaneously evokes France's modern fashions and one of her most noble artistic traditions.


Barbara Morgan photographed Macy's.

She titled the photograph with its location, but also sometimes, as Natural Photomontage.


Andrea Hillebrand is a Sarasota resident.


Click here for more of her reflections

You can also look for reflections elsewhere, such as wet streets

2 – Ideas with GIMP or Photoshop Elements

• Have two layers of the same photograph, then do something to one of the two layers, such as:

– Reverse it

– Invert it

– Color it

– Convert it to black-and-white

– Or ?

• Combine a silhouette with a scene

• Zoom in while taking several photographs, then combine the photographs

• Combine an in-focus photograph with an out-of-focus photograph

• Subject changes position for each photograph

• Photograph text and combine it with a scene

• Combine two photographs that have different perspectives

• Combine different views of the same subject using cubism

• Passage of time

• Combine reality with imagination

• Dream

• Before/after

• Portrait, visual/text profile of someone

• Self-portrait

• Book cover for a romance novel, science fiction, or mystery

• Collection of similar objects, concepts, thoughts

• Interior of someone's head

• Place human face on an animal

• Photographs of text only

• Product that doesn't or shouldn't exist

• Advertisement that isn't quite right

• "Draw" on a photograph as if you were a child doing so

• Mix color photographs with black-and-white

• Photographs from your travels

• Photographs of a family event

• Your childhood

• Pay homage to—work in the style of—of another artist

• Start with:

– An unusual location, such as space, underwater, moon

– Text, such as a poem, opening/ending passage of a novel

– Theme

• Conflict between x and y

• Change an advertisement to subvert its message


Use the following tips for your first photomontages.

• Decide to start with a solid-color background or a photograph as the background.

• Use photographs that are the same size.

• Select objects that are easily selected.

• If your photomontage is to appear to be realistic, use photographs with similar:

– Shadows from a certain direction of the light.

– Lack of shadows.

– Color of the light used to illuminate the scene.

All of the photographs were taken on a sunny day, or in the shade, or on an overcast day.

3 – Strategies

At first, you may want to simply experiment without a preconceived idea for the result.

Use chance.

As you become more familiar with the possibilities, you may want to work from an idea, theme, mood, and so forth.

Have a plan.

Origin of Chance in the Arts

Chance entered the visual arts, in force, with the Dada movement.

From the Museum of Modern Art:

Many Dada artists were critical of the dominant social structures and political strategies that led to World War I. To them, the carnage of war was proof enough that the rationalism and order of civilization was an illusion. Rather than preventing mass destruction, many believed that the acceptance of reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct had, in fact, enabled and justified the slaughter of millions.

To critique the systems that shaped society, they turned to new art-making strategies. In their attack on rationality, Dada artists embraced chance, accident, and improvisation. Such forces figured prominently in their creation of collages, assemblages, and photomontages—and subverted elements that had long defined artistic practice, like craft, control, and intentionality. It was a form of personal protest and a tool for critiquing the increasingly mechanized, violent world in which they lived. Drawing on such methods and using imagery from magazines, newspapers, and other printed mass media, Dada artists "could attack the bourgeoisie with distortions of its own communications imagery. The man on the street could be shocked to see the components of a familiar letter of his newspapers and posters running amuck."

Chance Today

In Photography and the Art of Chance, Robin Kelsey writes about the history of chance in photography.

He was interviewed by Samuel Ewing for Aperture:

SE: What do you think are some of the contemporary meanings we ascribe to chance and photography?

RK: We are in a different era now. In some ways, the computational power of the digital age has fostered a return to determinism and a retreat of chance. Chaos theory, which is oddly named, posits that many things that seem random are actually determined by causal chains that are sensitive to initial conditions. In photography, we now have such a profusion of images that chance no longer seems to offer much of a pathway to the new. We have so many easy ways to digitally alter our images that chance seems to have given way almost wholly to the “chance effect.” But I wouldn’t dig the grave of chance and photography just yet. As I note in the conclusion, there are today still practitioners, such as Nicholas Hughes, doing interesting work that combines them.


Your plan for a photomontage is formed from an idea, a theme, a mood, and so forth.


Chance and having a plan are opposite ways-of-working.

You'll probably be moving between them as you work.

Accidents & Mistakes

Accidents and mistakes can be beneficial.

Their solutions may be better than what was expected to happen.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced as Me high? Cheeks send me high!) first identified flow.

From Wikipaedia:

In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one's sense of and time.

Creating a photomontage often creates flow, unlike what you may experience when photographing.


8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow, the secret to happiness, TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi