Turn Your Digital Pictures Into a Photo Strip

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A long time ago, there were these things called photo booths. Here's how it worked: You'd go to the mall and sit in a small booth obscured by a curtain, where you would get your picture taken a half dozen times by a built-in camera. Then results would emerge moments later as a series of snapshots on a long strip. Of course, I'm exaggerating--photo booths are alive and well in places like arcades, carnivals, and shopping malls. And even if (like me) you've never stepped foot inside one, you certainly know what I'm talking about--the concept is deeply embedded in our culture. Some time ago, I described how to make something called a Life Strip, which looked sort of like the photo strip that comes out of a photo booth, but this week, let's do the real deal. It is crazy simple to make an authentic-looking photo booth strip, and the effect is instantly recognizable.

Make a Blank Photo Strip

As you know, the photo strip that emerges from a photo booth is long and narrow, with a series of pictures printed on it, like the example linked on the left.

If you want your photo strip to look more authentic, you can pose your subject (or subjects) in front of a plain background. For our project, we'll make a strip based on photos that use a 4 by 5 aspect ratio. For the sake of simplicity, let's work in inches, so that's 4 by 5 inches. And since our strip will feature four photos, the overall strip will need to be 4 by 20 inches in size. You could easily make a six-photo variation; if you do that, make it 30 inches long.

You can create this project in most any image editing program, but I'll use Adobe Photoshop Elements. To get started, let's make the strip itself. In Photoshop Elements, choose File, New, Blank File. Change the units from pixels to inches, and set the width to 4 and the height to 20. The resolution box determines how large the image will be in pixels. If you plan to keep the finished project on the PC, 72 (the default) is probably fine. If you want to print the film strip, set it to 300. Click OK.

Insert the First Photo

Now it's time to populate the blank film strip with some photos. If you want to make the project look authentic, you'll want a series of related photos, such as four shots of someone in slightly different poses and expressions, against the same background. The photos should also be head-and-shoulder shots, since photo booths are typically sitting-room-only affairs. But that said, it's your film strip. Choose any photos you like.

Open the first photo in Photoshop Elements. Before we go any further, be sure that you can see both the photo and the film strip, side by side. If necessary, click the Restore Window button in the upper right corner of the photo's window to take it out of full screen mode, which should allow you to see all the open images in Photoshop Elements at the same time.

The next order of business is to crop the photo to the correct aspect ratio. Click the Crop tool (tenth tool from the top of the toolbar) and configure it in the Tool Options palette at the top of the screen. Set the aspect ratio to custom, set the width and height to 4 and 5 respectively, and set the resolution to whatever you chose for the film strip (72 or 300, probably).

Now drag a crop box in the photo. It should automatically form a 4 by 5 box, perfect for the film strip. Size and compose it in the photo to suit your taste, and accept the edit by clicking the checkbox.

Click the Move tool (the very first item in the toolbar) and then drag and drop the cropped photo into the film strip. After it appears in the film strip (probably somewhere in the middle), reposition it at the top. It should tend to magnetically "snap" into place up there, making it easier to position.

Add the Other Photos

From here, it's "lather, rinse, and repeat." Open the next photo and repeat the crop and drag process. Photoshop remembers your crop settings, so you shouldn't have to change anything in the Tool Options palette. When you add the second photo to the strip, use the Move tool to position it directly under the first photo. Then add the third and fourth photos in the same way. When you're done, you should have a strip filled with photos, like the one linked to the left.

Add a Border

We're almost done. Because old-time snapshots always had those quaint white borders around the edges, our final step is to add a similar border to each of our photos. To do that, choose Edit, Stroke (Outline) Selection from the menu. In the Stroke dialog box, click the color box and choose white from the color picker. Set the location to Inside, and you can leave the blending mode set to normal and the opacity at 100%. We do need to choose the width, however, and that will vary depending upon the resolution of the photos and film strip. If you used 72, try a width of about 10. For 300, try 25. Then click OK. You should see an outline appear around the currently selected photo--probably the very bottom one.

The last step: Repeat the process for each of the remaining photos. Click another photo, choose Edit, Stroke (Outline) Selection, and click OK. Do that two more times and you have a complete photo booth strip. And you never had to visit the mall to do it.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Fly Eyes" by Deborah Russenberger, Thousand Oaks, California

Deborah shot this close-up of a common house fly with her Panasonic DMC-ZS10.

This week's runner-up: "Ducklings" by Stephen Henry Puttock, Thailand

Stephen says: "I was playing around with my new Nikon Coolpix S9100 when I spotted some ducklings huddled together. I captured this scene using the camera's Auto mode."

To see last month's winners, visit our October Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

This story, "Turn Your Digital Pictures Into a Photo Strip" was originally published by PCWorld.

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