There are a dizzying amount of collage-making apps for the iPhone and iPad, but the Juxtaposer for $2.99 caught my eye. It's been around since 2008. Am I slow to discover this little marvel? Why yes, I am! But perhaps you're like me and you don't think you could make good use of such an app. When you hear the word "collage," does your brain go, "Oh you mean teen girls' spirit boards with photos of friends cut out and smooshed together?" and then your brain loses all interest. Hey, me too! Look, I just want a great app to improve my dog and cat photos and to my surprise Juxtaposer does that and a lot more. Plus, with some thought on light, shadow, and some creative fakery, I can create something impressive. You can too.
First things first. I recommend tapping on Juxtaposer's help button. Unlike most help sections on apps, this is an animated slideshow that clearly and effectively demonstrates the app in action. A minute of your time and you'll be set to use the app. Seriously. And seriously, so many other apps need to improve their help sections. Get on that, please.
Anyway. Here you see two photos I took; sweet Johnny on the patio and some Milk Bones.
And here's my Juxtaposer composite:
Juxtaposer allows me to load a photo into a top (foreground) or bottom (background) layer. In this instance, I used the bottom layer for the Milk Bones and top layer for Johnny. The Juxtaposer tools are simple. I select the Erase button to remove the brick patio I don't want in Johnny's picture. Then I pinch, move, and resize Johnny to where I want him on the screen and I zoom in to get a nice clean edge around Johnny, especially around his ear and his shadow. It also helps to adjust the size of the eraser. I use a large brush to quickly remove big unwanted areas and then choose a tiny brush for those little areas around Johnny's ears. And mistakes? Yup, I make 'em. But I just tap on unerase tool and I draw back in whatever I erased. Nice. Simple. Quick. Just like every app should be.
Juxtaposer has a wonderful stamp tool. That nice image of Johnny can be turned into a stamp that I can stamp it on any area of the image. I can also rotate and resize the stamp and --
Okay, okay, I over did it a bit on these two. I now know the meaning of "Less is more."
I love that Juxtaposer lets me save my stamps and even my sessions for future use. Nothing is completely fixed and and Juxtapose has unlimited undos. This makes adding old stamps to new images a snap and you could even build your own collection of stamps for fun effects. Honestly it's so easy to go overboard with these tools, so rein things in a bit and really think about the effect you want to accomplish and what Juxtaposer can really do.
Juxtaposer looks best when compositing an ordinary image in an unusual spot, like a construction worker drilling away at a chocolate bar -- reversing big and small. And of course da internetz jez love ta put a funny face on the wrong body. Yep, you'll be doing it too in no time, but when you think about combining images, also think about lighting and shadows to create a convincing look. Make sure that the light or the shadows in one image falls on the same side as the other image. In my image above with Johnny and the Milk Bones, I flipped Johnny so that his shadow was on the same side as the Milk Bones because if Johnny were truly that size, he would fall in the Milk Bone's shadow.
And look below, the construction worker really looks like he's hammering away at that chocolate. Notice how the back foot appears to behind the chocolate and the drill's tip is deep in the chocolate. How is that accomplished? By erasing part of the construction worker's image; in this case, just part of his heel and the tip of the drill are erased, just enough to add that touch of realism. But suppose you find that the sunlight's color is different in your top and bottom layers because the photos were taken at different times of the day or on different days? You should try the adjustment tools like Color Temp or Brightness until the photos match as closely as possible to create an illusion of reality.
There are other tricks I haven't tried yet, but I know there are ways of layering images to create the illusion that someone is inside or in between things. Juxtaposer allows multiple layers as well as transparent layers. Just imagine that Johnny in the image above were a tiny little bug in tall grass. It would be okay if Johnny were in front of the grass, but it would be more convincing if it Johnny appears to be in the grass, behind the the grass, in the shadow of the grass. And Juxtaposer will allow me to do that.
I know my image with Johnny and the Milk Bones isn't perfect. Ideally the right side of Johnny should share in some of the Milk Bone's shadow. I may add a partially transparent layer of Johnny, and darken it to better match the Milk Bones' shadow and then I would erase all of the areas that wouldn't be in the Milk Bone's shadow. The result would be a tiny shadow on Johnny's right side on the top most layer, the Johnny you see now, and the Milk Bones in the background layer, which together should produce a more realistic composite.
Well I'm excited to play around with Juxtaposer now. Hope you are too. I would love to see what other people come up with.