In a cosy little corner sits a journaling enthusiast surrounded by Post-its, wax stamps and washi tapes as they carefully circle-punch the corners of a freshly Instax-printed butterfly stencil. They then whip out their prized blue tape runner before ASMR-ing adhesive onto their Moleskine notebook. All of this is done under the lull of a mushroom table lamp with Lofi Girl playing in the distance. The creator is at peace with their thoughts and so are the viewers, who mentally flush their stress away for ten seconds before resuming their routine TikTok doom scrolling.
Fast forward to September 2022, everyone’s FYPs across social media platforms are now swamped with photo dumps. But this time around, the images are not manifested as haphazardly-static Instagram carousels made out of camera rolls tied together with a single caption. Meet cutout collages, the visual trend all about living your dynamic life and scrapbooking the heck out of it in the process.
In order to understand cutout collages theoretically, I’ll first give you a refresher about the two basic concepts of photography: foreground and background. While foreground is the element of an image that lies closest to the camera, background is the part that lies further away. Let’s say you have a teenage dirtbag picture of yourself sprawled with no care in the world on a rent-free couch. In this instance, you and the couch are the foreground while all the other elements in the photo are just background noise.
Now that those concepts are out of the way, cutout collages are essentially a trend playing with the background and foregrounds of multiple images. Here, photo dumps are edited in a way that isolates the two elements in question from the second picture in the sequence and overlays them as stickers over the first before panning to feature the actual image.
Think of the background and foreground as separate teaser elements that you place over the previous image before telling the full story with the actual unedited photo that will follow. The result is a perfect loop that resembles a green screen-based journal of all your memories—where the possibilities are endless and the creativity is immaculate.
If you still need a visual explainer, this Instagram Reel does a pretty swell job at summing up the trend:
I know what you’re thinking at this point: cutout collages are just the repackaged, gen Z take on a concept that has gripped photo editing apps for over a decade. Well, yes. At the end of the day, the trend is hinged on the image erase tool to nail its scrapbooking aesthetics.
But that’s exactly what makes it so appealing. With BeReal, meta and 0.5 selfies pushing the boundaries of candid, low-effort distortions, cutout collages are a breath of fresh air for photo dumps in a video format. Gone is the age where you create slideshows in the name of memory albums. Cutout collages are instead a 3D render helping you romanticise your life in the most dynamic way possible.
In fact, its rise can be credited to a relatively-hidden feature that was introduced by Apple as part of its recent iOS 16 update. Popularly titled ‘photo cutout’ by netizens, the new feature lets iPhone users lift the foreground of an image by simply long-pressing on the subject (be it a person, animal or an object), copying and pasting it somewhere else. You can also keep holding onto the cropped image and drag it directly onto another app—such as your Notes app—or simply click on the ‘Share’ option to automate the entire process.
I can’t begin to imagine all the effortless possibilities this tool has just introduced into our lazy Picsart-wannabe lives.
Cutout collages in 2022 can’t be mentioned without addressing the new invite-only app from Pinterest called Shuffles. First released in August, the app has already hit mass popularity with its gen Z audience—who now hail it as a platform that inspires ‘creativity over competition’ by being more about community than creator-focused.
Shuffles essentially connects to your Pinterest account and allows you to create moodboards using the pins on your board. “Cutout, collage, animate,” the app’s description rightfully goes on to read. Here, users can also take their own pictures, choose them from their personal gallery or search for images in the built-in library. They can then add animations to their cutout collages before sharing them for others to like, comment, share and even remix. Just like TikTok, Shuffles also has an FYP that refines to suit your tastes the more you interact with your timeline—complete with dedicated hashtags and fandom content to follow.
So, will Shuffles ultimately make Pinterest cool again? Only time will tell if the platform will end up being a cult favourite for gen Zers. But with more people fishing for an invite across the internet, it seems like the image-sharing giant might have hit the jackpot with the parallel rise of cutout collages as a trend in itself.
Everyone you love is doing it and everyone who’s doing it, loves it. As of today, cutout collages seem to have established a collective chokehold on Instagram and TikTok—with the latter featuring over 5.8 million views on #collagetrend. On both platforms, users are seen jumping on the trend with their own ‘POV’ takes as others share tutorials and recommend apps to achieve the perfect cutouts.
The best part? There’s no particular audio used for these creations. While ‘POP DANCE’ by Bensound seems to be a relatively-popular choice, the trend is edited to upbeat music in general—be it nightcore remixes of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)’ or ‘Move Your Feet’ by Austin Millz.
Now, if you’re someone with an unstable hand or merely have zero patience to sit and edit numerous photos into a cutout collage, don’t fret just yet. I’d like to take this golden opportunity to mention that there’s a filter on TikTok that does the job for you, hassle-free. Yes, you read that right, and maybe I should’ve led this article by stating that beforehand but, oh well.
The ‘collage’ filter on TikTok first lets you choose between two to five images from your gallery, upload them onto the app and automatically create a cutout collage that experiments with the foreground of all your images. It’s that simple. Now, everyone rise and say: ‘Thank you AI!’
On the other hand, if you’re looking for some inspiration to get the ball rolling, we’ve got you covered on that front too. Here are some of the best cutout collages on TikTok to date. And might I say, photo dumps have never looked better:
Every day is a new aesthetic and every picture in a photo dump carousel is a new memory on Instagram. While 2022 has officially taken the rose-tinted glasses off the social media experience, with crying selfies, BeReal, finstas, shitposting and spitballing in the forefront, a peculiar style of visual documentation is increasingly gripping gen Zers online.
Introducing the wildly distorted world of 0.5 selfies, a social media trend all about living your best candid life and trusting the process while you’re at it.
Pronounced as a “point five” selfie, the picture in question is essentially taken with the ultra-wide angle lens of one’s smartphone camera. The 0.5x mode of a camera, to be exact. Unlike a traditional selfie, for which we flaunt the flattering side of our faces and prep endlessly, a 0.5 selfie is less curated and encapsulates a spur-of-the-moment aesthetic.
The result? Noodly legs, buggy eyes, arms which stretch on for days while your forehead is plastered across the frame for the world to witness and get an authentic glimpse into your life. In a way, 0.5 selfies are the anti-trend of poised—or sometimes Photoshopped—mirror selfies that have become a mainstay on Instagram. It ultimately conveys the fact that the user takes themselves, and social media in general, more casually than conforming to the ideals we’ve all been brought up with about our ‘public image’.
I mean, who wants to look perfect online anymore? We’re all just here for the laughs in 2022 and what better way to document this desirable absence of self-awareness than with 0.5 selfies? Plus, you get to capture your entire head-to-toe fit in just one picture. No need to pose Leandra Medine-style anymore. Win-win, if you ask me.
Now, 0.5 selfies are not to be confused with ‘half’ selfies, which are basically just pictures of your face—cropped tightly to feature your best side in the frame. Though half selfies have been around for decades, 0.5 selfies were birthed in 2019 on the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy S10. However, the trend has only started taking off in 2022, alongside the general appeal for geometric distortions—all thanks to TikTok’s favourite “Train Guy,” Francis Bourgeois.
Equipped with a GoPro, Bourgeois is well-known for his enthusiastic trainspotting videos captured in ultra-wide angles. Every video which features clips recorded with the fisheye-like lens that’s angled down towards his face adds to Bourgeois’ awkward and gawky charm—earning him 2.6 and 1.7 million followers on TikTok and Instagram respectively.
The broad appeal for 0.5 selfies can also be traced back to the time everyone was placing Insta360 cameras in their mouth and walking around to show the point of view (POVs) of dogs and dinosaurs. What a time to be alive, indeed.
Though the trend at hand doesn’t really need an explainer, here are some tips and tricks on how to truly nail your 0.5 selfie game.
This one’s a no-brainer. The 0.5x camera mode is key to a 0.5 selfie. So start by getting your hands on an iPhone or Android smartphone with an ultra-wide camera lens to chronicle your life away with candid distortions. Once you’ve secured the bag, open the camera app and toggle the lens to the 0.5x mode. You can alternatively pinch your fingers on the screen in the same way you’d zoom out of a photo to access the ultra-wide setting.
Yes, you read that right. For decades, we’ve all been accustomed to our front cameras for snapping self-portraits and typically reserve the ones in the back to capture other people and places from our POV. But 0.5 selfies are essentially the selfie’s great renaissance.
Given how the ultra-wide angle lens is built into the back cameras of phones, you can’t actually watch yourself take a 0.5 selfie. Instead, the uncertainty is hinged on blind angling and physical manoeuvring. And that’s exactly where things get interesting. If you’re planning to take a group 0.5 selfie, you have to stretch your arms as far out and up as possible in order to fit everyone in the frame. Now, if you want to maximise how much your face distorts, you have to place your phone perpendicular to your forehead—right at your hairline.
The proportions rendered by wide-angle lenses are also worth noting in this case. For instance, subjects closer to a lens are bound to appear larger, while those farther away seem smaller. It’s good to keep these factors in mind while experimenting with the style. Don’t be afraid to use the volume buttons on your phone to snap the picture either. You should be fine as long as you don’t mistake it for the power button.
You can also play around with self-timers while taking a group 0.5 selfie. Because at the end of the day, nothing is certain until the selfie is clicked. And that’s what’s charming about the entire ordeal in the first place.
Lastly, share your whimsical creations for the rest of the world to witness. On TikTok, 0.5 selfies have made a name for themselves with the ‘use this sound if your cute’ audio by @qlzt. “What’s 1 divided by 2?” the TikToks read, before they snap into a montage of 0.5 selfies clicked in every single style imaginable.
So what are you waiting for? March ahead and redefine the style of self-portrait Paris Hilton once proudly claimed to invent. Maybe mash it up with meta selfies to launch a parallel trend for others to jump on in the future too. In the end, just remember that the more ominous your creations are, the better.