How to Make a Pop-Up Photo Diorama!

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

We’ve come a long way since 2nd grade with our Instapaper iPhone iPad apps and our acquired appreciation for oil barons who drink other people’s milkshakes.

But just because we’re “grown-ups” doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy an occasional crustless PB&J or even a serious diorama-making session!

Dioramas are an original way to show off your photos when you don’t have a frame handy (or even if you do).

All it takes is a pair of scissors and a few drops of glue to get your photos from flat to pop.

How to Make a Pop-Up Photo Diorama!

The Lowdown

You might be familiar with dioramas from your days of 2nd grade Lincoln log cabin recreations.

For those of you who aren’t, dioramas are free standing pop-ups that feature miniature scenes of people and objects that stand apart from the background.

We thought we’d leave the construction paper behind and kick things up a notch with a more personalized pop-up photo diorama.

What You’ll Need

  • Two 8×10 photos
  • Scissors
  • Elmer’s Glue or glue stick
  • Photo paper

Step 1: Print Two Photos

Print one photo as your background and one photo from which you will cut out your pop-up subject. These photos will be two separate images.

The background image will ideally not have a main subject in it and will be mainly scenery (think theater backdrop).  The subject image can be any image in which your subject is whole.  For example, the subject will be seen from head to foot, not from the waist up, etc.

Before printing your subject photo, resize your subject to be 1″ shorter than the background length. Our background length is 10″ long, so our subject will be 9″ tall.

Resizing your subject will make sure that it fits in your diorama without looking too small or too large.

Step 2: Fold the Background Photo

Lay your photo image-side up.  Fold your background photo 2″ in from the bottom.

The bottom of the image will fold inwards towards the top with your image on the inside.

Unfold the photo. It will now have a 90 degree angle and will be able to stand upright.

The horizontal plane will be the floor for your subject to stand on, and the vertical plane will be the background image of your diorama.

Step 3: Cut out the Pop-up Subject

Onto your second photo, which has your subject!

The possibilities here are endless. You can cut out any object to be a pop-up from trees to buildings to people!  We chose a person.

Cut out your subject. Cut closely along the edge of your subject’s shape until it is completely separated from its original image.

Step 4: Cut and fold Stability Strip

Cut a strip of photo paper about 1/2″ wide and 8″ long. This will be what props up your subject.

Fold the strip into three sections. The first section should be 3″ long, the second section 2″ long, and the third section 3″ long.

When unfolded, the strip will be U-shaped with two 90 degree angles.

Step 5: Glue the Strip

Glue one 3″ section of the strip to the subject. Allow the glue to dry.

Glue the other 3″ section of the strip to the background. The 2″ inch section will run between your subject and the background.

Adjust your subject so that it appears to be standing.

Step 6: Admire Your Work!

You’ve successfully created a pop-up photo diorama!

If your diorama leans to one side or the other, secure the base to your desk surface with a little tape.

Now to find the perfect spot in your office/bedroom/living room!

Take it Further

  • Go crazy!  You can match any  background with any subject.  Impress friends with a photo of you and Justin Bieber in front of Niagara Falls!
  • Mount your diorama onto colorful card-stock, poster-board, or create a wooden frame to better prop up your finished product.

Photo Credit: Alexandra Titanic for West Side of Manhattan background image, Ian Ruhter for Kandee Johnson balloons image