This entry was inspired by Mike Matas' life poster idea (that I learned of through Bill). Mike's idea is pure genius, but he uses a mac and iPhoto, so his options are very different from those available to us PC users. I became very frustrated after trying to duplicate his results on my PC and finally went about it in a different way. The above image is the poster I made from photos taken by me over the past year at the Yamada Language Center here at the U of O. The jpeg looks like crap, because I had to make it small and blurry to protect the identities of some of the people featured, a few of whom have made it clear they don't want their faces appearing on the internet. But the physical version is actually quite spectacular, and I'll be presenting it to Yamada when school starts up again.
If you're on a PC and want to make your own version of a life poster, just follow these instructions. You will need the following:
- A PC with internet access
- Picasa2, which you can download for free here.
- A Shutterfly account -- free to set up
- Image editing software (I use and recommend Adobe Photoshop Elements.)
Select exactly 64 of your best pictures. Try to include images taken in a variety of settings in various kinds of light. The more eye-catching and colorful the better.
Once you have your images, you will need to crop each one so that it is perfectly square. (To do this in Photoshop Elements, select the Rectangular Marquee Tool, set the style to "Fixed Aspect Ratio", and set both width and height to 1. Frame the area you wish to use. Then click on the "Image" drop-down menu, and select "Crop".)
After an image has been cropped, you may want to tweak it a little. Since there are 64 separate images, it is important that each one can stand on its own and not become overshadowed by the others. One way of accomplishing this is to increase the contrast and color saturation slightly more than you normally would for a full-sized image.
In Picasa go to the folder where the images are located, highlight them, and click the Collage button at the bottom of the screen. In the popup window, for "type" select "Picture Grid", choose a location to save to, and click the "Create" button. (If you don't like the layout of your images, just click on the preview pane for another randomly generated layout.)
Open the file created by Picasa in your image-editing program. You must now add space at the top for a header (which is necessary to conform to Shutterfly's available printing dimensions). The number of pixels depends on the physical dimensions you choose for the final product:
- For an 8 by 10 poster, add 640 pixels.
- For an 11 by 14 poster, add 699 pixels.
- For a 16 by 20 poster, add 640 pixels.
(To add space to the top of an image in Photoshop Elements, click on "Image", go to "Resize", and click on "Canvas Size". In the popup window, set the "Height" units as "pixels", and replace the current number of pixels (2560) with the desired number (3200 or 3259). Set the Anchor point in the bottom middle square (one down from the center). Click OK.)
You can put whatever you like in the header. I chose text for mine. The easiest way to add text is to open your word processor, choose an appropriate font, and type it in as large a font size as possible. Then you just take a screenshot, paste it into your image-editing program, crop it, copy it, paste it into the header space, and resize it to fit. A more impressive option would be to add a panoramic image to the top. And, of course, if you don't mind wasting the extra space, you could simply add nothing and very carefully trim the whitespace off the poster when you receive it.
Once you've gotten everything laid out the way you want it, simply upload the image to your Shutterfly account and order a print at the desired dimensions. If you like, Shutterfly gives you the option to add a border to your image.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have additional tips or comments.