An easier, and fully integrated way to create hi-quality photo collages


Key Goal

Design a professional photo collage maker desktop app for professional photographers that is fully integrated into their current workflow and ecosystem.

My Role

Research, information architecture, interface design.


Ana Borden and Julieta Arias Photography

The design process of a Photo Collage Application to help, especially professional, (mostly self-employed) photographers who frequently struggle with technical issues when trying to make digital or printed collages to present their work (to clients or for self-promotion); to create simple, quick, and intuitive high quality collages and other products that use multiple images in a single file for different formats and outputs. A solution to help them create boards that tell a better story of their work.

This project was born out of the frustration of many of my friend photographers, and because I have identified myself with this problem, I decided to work in the creation of a solution.


- Technical issues related to print or digital formats and outputs, image quality and the use of many different tools to achieve the task.

- Time-consuming. There’s a real need for quick and easier tools.

- The lack of a trusted service (trusted services like Adobe don’t offer the option, specific for photographers and collages).


- Explore the possibility of designing a stand-alone Web App, or to integrate it into Adobe Lightroom, the most recognized photo editor for professional photographers.

Tools & Methods

• Surveys
• User interviews
• Contextual inquiry
• Competitive analysis
• Personas
• User flow
• Feature Prioritization
• Sketching and wireframing
• Usability testing

User Research

Identifying the user

  1. Sent out a survey through email and social media to 64 photographers.

  2. 26 people answered interested in participating in the process.

  3. A second survey, more detailed was sent to the 26 photographers.

  4. Four were selected to participate deeper in the research process. For instance, user interviews and usability testing.

what we found after user research

- 68% of professional photographers who make collages as part of their job are self-employed.
- Self-employed photographers (freelancers and business owners) work mostly in:
• Wedding and portrait photography
• Commercial
• Editorial or media related
- The main platform for professional photo edition is Desktop.
- The photo editing tool most used by professional photographers is Adobe Lightroom.
- Although Lightroom is the #1 photo editor, professional photographers use other application to create collages.

Outputs are a very important part of the flow, therefore, the way users will export or save their collages is an area that has to be analyzed carefully.


- Main/primary user: Self-employed professional photographer working for private - commercial and editorial customers/clients.
- Secondary user: Photography enthusiast who appreciate high-quality products and results
- Tertiary user: Professional Photo-editor companies like Adobe, or printing service companies pulling the files to their own site/app, or social media mobile and web-based sites where the file will be hosted/downloaded

Main User fears and worries

- Learning curve; time.
- Misunderstanding of terms or lack of technical knowledge to be able to choose the best option for what they want to get
- Storage limits
- File Storage destination
- Integration with current workflow and file format

User Goals

- Technicalities-free
- Spend the least time worrying about technical issues to have more time to create
- Have a professional alternative
- High-quality results
- Fast, simple and easy to use tool
- One tool for all / one tool that focuses on creating simply collages

After the analysis and synthesis of the data obtained from product and user research, I was able to identify the users, classify their pain points, and take their goals into consideration for the next steps of the process as well as to create personas who will give a narrative of the qualitative and quantitative data mentioned above; it was a way to bring the user’s needs to life.



a nightmare for photographers - making collages for their clients

The storyboard shows a day in the life of a family portrait photographer who struggles when it is time to make collages.

The storyboard shows a day in the life of a family portrait photographer who struggles when it is time to make collages.

user flow

The flow to create a regular collage


Competitive Analysis

What’s out there, what works and what doesn’t

We played and studied many of the collages makers out there. We discarded those that don’t offer at least one solution for the users. In the end, I analyzed the three most advanced in terms of quality and functionality. Here is the comparative table:

Screen Shot Compartive_CollageMaker.png

Initially the idea was to create a stand-alone product but the results indicated that the model wouldn’t give a better solution, we needed to think in a design that could be implemented into, ideally, the number one photo-editing product: Adobe Lightroom.

Findings after product research

- Other products lack quality, options, customization
- Confusing interfaces
- The vast majority targets mobile camera users
- The vast majority have non-professional features
- Most of them don’t allow Raw or Tiff format
- Limited sizes/ratios and formats
- Integration is a big concern when photographers make collages

A proposed solution

- A fully integrated desktop app that let users easily and quickly create collages* in one place, and for every need
- Highly customizable features, from framing and number of images; to output, resolution, color space, image format and size.
- Templates, layouts and presets with the most used formats, for both printed and digital files.
- Easy to save and share online, or send to print or to a printing service.

* Create collages, diptychs/triptychs, storyboards and mood-boards

Feature prioritization

Features & interactions to add to make it professional, yet, easy to use

Prioritized features out of an extensive list of features that could be included (defined during product research: competitive analysis and contextual inquiry).

• Drag and drop photos
• Custom canvas size
• Layouts / Templates (for print and web)
• Autofill
• Customize grids
• Crop, rotate, flip image
• Undo / Redo buttons
• Add text
• Color background
• Adjust corners
• File format import

Design Exploration

Starting with paper sketches was essential, I wanted to create an interface that could integrate into Lightroom’s workspace but always considering the user’s needs.

Testing fast and often was going to be the only way to guarantee the success of the design.

Changes made after the first usability test.

Iteration on digital wireframes

After usability testing of the paper sketches, and a few of modifications on the original design, the last iteration of the wireframe looks like this in the current stage on the design process:

The working Space

The working space contains the collage canvas in the middle-left, the collapsible panel on the right, and the filmstrip at the bottom.

• The selected canvas has a regular white border and it can be completely adjustable. There’s where the photos will be dropped from the film strip.

• The Filmstrip scrolls horizontally, and now gives the option to “Add” and “Clear” the images.

• Notice the output icons at the bottom of the collapsible panel.

The collapsible panel

Next Steps

• Create a flow of the design integrated into Lightroom.

• Create a clickable prototype.

• Analyze in details the Lightroom printing module; some photographers still use to make collages.

• Integrate the visual design of Lightroom.

Closing notes

This is the progress of the design. It’s not a finished product yet but I will continue developing this design as a challenge to improve my skills in the whole process of UX/UI design.