How to Alter Photographs to use in your Altered Books


Its fun to alter photographs for use in your altered books. Photographs are always a good element to add to a layout, and there's no need to them the way they came out of the camera. You can alter your photographs in multiple ways.

altered photo used in altered book
An altered photo is used in both sides of the layout.

If you can't force yourself to alter photographs, the secret is to use copies, or else use digital images that can be printed and reprinted as many times as necessary.

The following suggestions are worth a try, or maybe you can come up with yet another way to alter photographs. If you do, let me know. I love new ideas.

Ways to Alter Photographs

  1. Cut your photos into shapes (ie circles, squares, hearts, stars, flowers, etc.), using templates or freehand if you dare. Use shapes as they are, or block on complementary colored paper.

  2. Punch shapes out of photographs using paper punches.

  3. Cut a rectangle or square from the inside of a picture. Trim 1/4" off each side of the cut rectangle. Position the cut rectangle back inside the photograph. You now have a picture framed by itself. See image above for an example of this technique.

  4. Cut a rectangular or square picture into three equal sizes -- or one larger piece and two smaller, equal pieces. Position the three, lined up properly, over paper of a complementary color, but place them a short distance apart so the background paper is visible between the sections. This is a particularly attractive way to alter photographs.

  5. Cut a large figure (ie person, flower, etc.) out of the snapshot; position the cutout against a different background.

  6. On back of photograph, draw numerous, interconnecting shapes vaguely resembling a jigsaw puzzle. Number each one consecutively to keep them straight. Cut out the jigsaw-like pieces. Reassemble over blocking material, allowing small part of colored background to show beside each cut piece. This is very attractive.

  7. Scan or upload the photo into your computer, then edit it in a good photo editing program. This gives you unlimited ways to alter photographs.

    Many people swear by the excellent Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 for Windows or its counterpart, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (Mac) for altering photographs digitally. If you have a big budget, the powerful Adobe Photoshop CS4 is industry standard among professional digital artists. However, its way more program than most home users need. Go for Elements instead.

  8. Alter photographs by tinting black and white photographs with colored dyes, chalks, pens, etc.

  9. Use a rubber stamp to stamp a frame around a face within a picture. Use an ink like Stazon to be sure it will dry on the glossy photo paper.

  10. Stick doubled sided tape to parts of the photograph. Remove top covering from tape, sprinkle with glitter, fine beads, sand, etc.

  11. Alter photographs by using a pencil on the back of a rectangular photo. Make pencil marks to indicate three equal parts. Fold the two outer parts inward, forming flaps, so they join in the middle and can be opened up to reveal the photograph. Alter the back of the two "outer flaps" since that is what will be displayed.

  12. Tear around the edges of a photograph. Color torn edges with decorator chalks, inks, etc.

  13. Use a corner punch to fancy up the corners.

  14. Make laser photocopies of your photographs. Use photocopies for transfers, etc.

  15. Enlarge a laser photocopy of a photograph until it is large enough to cover your entire page. Use as background in your layout. Or, enlarge the original photograph and use it instead. This is particularly effective if you attach complimentary smaller photographs on top of the large one. For example, you might enlarge a photo of Mount Big Rock for your background, then arrage smaller pictures of your camping trip on top.

  16. Punch a hole in a photograph, setting an eyelet if desired. Attach string, ribbon, cord, etc. to the hole.

  17. Cut two photographs (of equal size) in half. Reassemble them so half of one photograph fits against half of the other photograph.

  18. Glue paper, pictures, seals, feathers, mica chips, etc. to front of photograph.

  19. With a punch pin, make tiny, equally spaced holes along one length of a photograph. Do the same with a second photograph, putting the holes on the opposite length. Using needle and thread, sew the two pieces together, using the holes to insert your needle. Sew the two photographs so they touch, or leave thread-covered space in between.

  20. Get a package of small, white, sticky-on-one-side, square labels. I forget what they are called, but they are sold in places like Dollar Stores or Staples. Stick the white labels at random over your photograph, or align them to form a checkerboard pattern with the rest of photograph. Brayer paint or stamping ink across entire photograph. When dry, remove labels. They should pull off readily if you don't wait too long. You now have an interesting effect with squares of the photo and squares of colored paint or dye.

  21. Cut painters tape into random sizes and shapes. Stick over photograph. Brayer on color as above, then remove painters tape. It's a similar effect to the suggestion above, but irregular sizes of color will show. Painters tape is the tape you use to protect flooring or door frames when painting walls.

  22. Alter photographs by sandpapering them, all or selected parts, to get an interesting aged effect.

  23. Place your photos in little mini books or accordion books. Attach the mini book to your AB or put it in a niche.

  24. Attach your photos with little metal corners, available at scrapbook stores, or cut out a small element of the snapshot and place it inside small metal or leather frames, also found at scrapbook stores.

  25. Poke a hole in your photo, then use a string, ribbon, wire, thread, or yard and dangle it from something. Conversely, dangle something from it.

  26. Use your photos in a kind of shaker box. Have the photo on the bottom of the box, cover with acetate, and put tiny marbles, beads or sequins in the box. Glitter doesn't work too well for this.

  27. Cover selected elements of your photo with Crystal Lacquer, Dimensional Magic or similar product.

  28. Tear the photo into irregular shapes. Age the torn edges with chalk, dye ink, or bleach.

  29. Bleach your photograph. Wet it first in clear water, then dip into a solution of bleach and water. Remove after a few seconds and dip in clear water again. The length of time you leave the photo in the bleach determines the amount of discoloration that will occur.

  30. Cut a round shape out of the photograph, and glue it to the bottom of a flat, clear marble. I have bought these flat marbles at Michaels and other places, but do not remember what they are called.

  31. Cover elements of the photograph with plastic "bubbles" available at scrapbook stores or Michaels.

  32. Cut a shape out of the photograph and glue it inside a bottle cap, or on the top of a bottle cap. Use as an embellishment.

  33. Cut a photo into a tag shape. Embellish, or use as is.

Don't forget to drop me an email if you come up with different ways to alter photographs.

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Return to Altered Book Home Page when you know how to alter photographs.