by Sean Setters
I'm sure you've seen them before, but in short, a photomosaic is a photo that is made up of lots of individual photos. If arranged and edited properly – and viewed from a distance – the individual tiles transform into one beautiful overall image.
My first experience with photomosaics came in high school. A favorite history teacher of mine had a photomosaic of Abraham Lincoln adorning his door which utilized pictures of the Civil War as the tiles. It was captivating.
After college I came across a very cool free program – AndreaMosaic – that allowed users to create photomosaics simply and easily by adjusting a few variables and letting the computer do all the hard work. I created several photomosaics at the time but I hadn't created one in several years before last week.
The good news is that AndreaMosaic is still in development and works better than ever. The desktop application is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 2000, 2003, Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10, OS X 10.7 - 10.11, and can even be installed and run from a flash drive (Windows only). And the best news – it's still free. There are a few very advanced features that are unlocked by purchasing the software, but... my guess is that very few people will feel limited by the features included in the free version.
The ease and simplicity of creating photomosaics – along with the large batch of images necessary to create a good one – make it a perfect add-on for your wedding photography services. Wedding clients typically love them.
For the example photomosaic seen above, I used a little more than 450 images from a wedding I shot in late 2014 as the individual tiles. The overall image was my favorite shot of the couple, Kim and Brian, on their wedding day.
Below is an enlargement of the happy couple from the photomosaic above:
For starters, the more tile images you have to start with, the better off your final photomosaic will look (with fewer duplicates). My suggestion is to create a resized batch of tile images to reduce the algorithmic processing load. I personally used COOLTWEAK to create a set reduced resolution images that were 800 pixels on the longest side (although I could have resized to an even smaller resolution). If using Lightroom or DPP, simply set the Resize option accordingly in the program's export/batch dialogue.
The main reason for using reduced resolution tile images is that your photomosaics will be calculated and compiled much more quickly, meaning that you can easily modify the various parameters and create several different versions of your photomosaic in a very short amount of time. And since your tiles will likely end up relatively small (depending on your chosen settings), you won't likely miss the incremental resolution you gave up to gain faster processing time (each tile in the photomosaic seen above is only 120 x 80 pixels at full-resolution).
Once your tiles are ready, the next step is to open AndreaMosaic. You'll be greeted with the following screen:
Next, click the stacked images below the number "2" to select your tile images. The program will bring up another window. Click the Add Images or Add Folder buttons to specify your tile images.
The Size Parameters will vary widely based on need, but I chose to create a [roughly] 20 MP image at 300 PPI. Because details in my overall image are quite small, I chose a relatively large number of tiles per row (30) because smaller tiles will help define smaller details. If your overall mosaic image has larger (and fewer critical) details, you can easily choose a lower number of tiles per row. However, if your photomosaic features a relatively small number of tiles per row, your individual tiles will have to be large enough in resolution to fill the row accordingly.
The Tile Parameters, just like size parameters, will vary significantly from user to user and from job to job. For my image, I set the Pattern option to "Mixed (2.0L 1P)" because I had roughly a 2-to-1 ratio of landscape to portrait images in my tile set, meaning that the program should utilize my tile set more effectively (with less need for duplication) using that option. I also could have chosen "Parquet (2L 1P)" or "Mixed2 (2.0L 1P)" for similarly tile-efficient results but with a different looking pattern. If you resized your tile images as advised, you can easily try several different tile variations in a short amount of time to see which one best suits your overall image and intended use.
Note that some of the features, like certain patterns and select 1/2 and 1/4 tile options, are only available to those who donate at least $2.00 to the developers.
Let's take a look at the next set of options – Use same tile up to, Duplicate spacing & Color Change.
By default, AndreaMosaic will analyze your tiles and attempt to use the place them in the overall image where it calculates they look best. This means some of your image tiles may get used significantly more than others. To minimize duplication, you can limit how many times the program utilizes any one tile with the Use same tile up to option.
One way AndreaMosaic helps you improve the look of your photomosaic is to allow you to space out duplicate tiles with the Duplicate Spacing option. I chose the "5 tiles minimum" spacing option, but if you're starting with a large number of tiles (with less need for duplication), you might want to set this value even higher for optimal results.
The next option, Color Change can have a huge impact on how your final photomosaic will look. If you set this value to a low percentage, your final photomosaic may not be recognizable as far as the overall image is concerned. Setting this value to a higher number will ensure that the overall photomosaic is a good representation of your featured image, with the downside that each individual tile will be automatically adjusted to a higher degree. For my purposes, I chose "65%."
The next set of options is the Tile Variants. These parameters are here to help bolster your number of tiles available (reducing duplicates) by allowing rotated, mirrored and flipped images. Note that the "Integral Tiles" option is new (it isn't even shown in the User Manual that's installed with the program) and, from my understanding, is supposed to keep your final row intact (uncropped) by adjusting the overall dimensions of the image slightly to accommodate for any discrepancies in sizing. Unfortunately, my final row was cropped even though I left a checkmark beside the option.
You can save your parameters in the Load/Save Settings section for future use and/or specify file type, mosaic filename/save location using the More Options icon located at the top/right of the window. When ready, simply click the Mosaic icon at the top of the window (it has a "3" beside it) to compile your photomosaic.
And voilà! Your photomosaic will be created after processing.
Keep in mind, the photomosaic market isn't limited to wedding couples. Hospitals, large businesses and any medium-to-large sized organization will likely enjoy seeing their logos comprised of hundreds of images of their employees or group members. And creating a photomosaic is an excellent way to generate income through large print sales and billable hours of photography services necessary capturing the tile images.
As I noted earlier, a donation of at least $2.00 will unlock a few additional features of the program. If you need even more flexibility in creating photomosaics, you can unlock Professional options with a $35.00 donation.
What do you get with the Professional version of the software? Take a look at the following screen shot from their User Manual.