Digital Focus: Deal With Harsh Lighting

Dave's Favorites: Let PhotoMontage Turn Your Pictures Into Pixels

A few weeks ago, a reader asked if there were any programs available that could create a montage from many smaller pictures. That question reignited my interest in these kinds of pictures, and I hunted for affordable, friendly programs that fit the bill. The first program I found was PhotoMontage, from ArcSoft.

So what is a montage, exactly? No doubt, you've seen them; they became popular in advertising and photo art a few years ago. Imagine that each pixel in a picture is not a single blob of color, but a tiny photograph. A montage can be made from hundreds or even thousands of individual pictures, each one precisely tinted so that when you step back, you see the big picture. Step in for a close look, though, and you see all the individual images.

ArcSoft's PhotoMontage works exactly as advertised. You can specify the picture that will serve as the basis of the big image and then tell PhotoMontage where to find all of the individual "micro" pictures. You can control the approximate number of images in your photo--anywhere from a few hundred to about 2000. You can also tweak details like whether the pictures will align in a precise grid or if they'll be offset, for a more organic look. You can embed a special "treasure" picture in the image--turning your creation into a sophisticated "Where's Waldo" experience--and include a caption or special signature photo tile. Here's a montage made from my own photo collection: http://ftp.pcworld.com/pub/screencams/montage1.jpg

While the program is specialized--it creates montages, and that's all--it is easy to learn and works stunningly fast. The first time I tried to bake a montage, I naively expected it to take several minutes to resize, modify, and position a thousand pictures. It took a few seconds. PhotoMontage costs $39, and unfortunately there's no free trial to download.

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