Photomontage is the process and finished result of making a mixed photograph through a cutting and pasting process with multiple photographs. Some people opt to photograph the mixed picture so that they can alter the final product into a seamless image. A similar technique that does not require film is used today with image-editing software programs. This method is known as "compositing" and is often referred to as "photoshopping."
The initial and most prominent example of photomontage is a mixed image from the mid-Victorian era by Oscar Rejlander called "The Two Ways of Life." A year later, a photographer named Henry Peach Robinson started creating photomontage images, including the famous "Fading Away." Both of these artists strove to challenge the dominant art forms of the day: painting and theatrical tableau vivants.
Throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras, photomontaged postcards depicting fantasy images were popular. The prominent producer of these cards was the Bamforh Company housed in West Yorkshire, Holmfirth and New York. A number of the earliest photomontage samples have photographed components superimposed on watercolor images. This technique gained popularity during the mid-1910s. The Dada movement in Berlin played a critical role in turning montage techniques into a modern art form. They were the first people to coin the term "photomontage" in 1918 or 1919.
Another notable example of early photomontage was during World War I when a number of photographers based in France, Hungary, Great Britain, Austria and Germany began to create postcards depicting soldiers on a plane with their families and friends on another plane.
There are additional techniques for mixing images that are referred to as photomontage. For example, the Victorian "combination printing" method involved printing multiple negatives onto one sheet of printing paper. Additional photomontage methods include computer montage and front-projection. Many artists also opt to use multiple montage methods within a single piece. One prominent example of this is Romare Bearden's black and white "photomontage projects" series. He started his works with photographs, paper and paint. He fixed his imagery using an emulsion substance that he added to the pieces with a hand roller. Then he increased the size of the collages through photography.
In the 19th century, there was a tradition of literally joining a series of images into a mixed final product and then photographing the finished item. This technique was seen in offset lithography and press photography until digital image editing became widely used. Today magazine photo editors complete this technique through digital means. Computer software programs such as Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Paint Shop Pro, Pixelmator, Corel Photopaint and Paint.NET has made this photomontage process significantly easier for artists.
These software programs allow artists to make alterations digitally. This results in more accurate finished products and a quicker work flow. The programs also eliminate a certain number of mistakes by giving artists the option to "undo" their errors. There are a number of artists who are challenging the art of digital image creation by putting together labor intensive projects that rival the demands of traditional art techniques. Today the most prominent photomontage trend is to create a seamless photographic image that includes painting, illustration, theater and graphics.