What is it called when you see a picture within a picture?
The answer is the Droste Effect, and it’s an exciting and creative way to show a scene photographically. Also known as a mise en abyme, this technique involves placing a copy of an image inside the same image. The result creates an illusion of a photo repeating infinitely.
So what does Droste mean? This photography technique got its name from a Dutch cocoa company that used the technique for its branding. Their packaging tin depicted an image designed by Jan Misset in 1904. The design displayed a nurse carrying a serving tray with a cup of hot chocolate and a box with the same picture. A variety of products still use this effect to this day.
To do the Droste effect you only need one image to edit in Photoshop or Photo Spiralysis. Keep reading to see how to create your very own picture-in-a-picture creation!
Droste Effect Method One – Photoshop
Let’s go through all the steps you need to spiral an image in Photoshop below.
Step One – Open your image in Photoshop.
Step Two – Duplicate and paste the image.
Step Three – Use Free Transform to scale the image down to size.
Step Four – Place it over the area you are going to edit.
Step Five – Drag the smaller picture to the bottom of the layer stack.
Step Six – Select the Quick Selection Tool.
Step Seven – Select the area the picture will go in.
Step Eight – Select the Eraser Tool.
Step Nine – Erase the areas to show the layer underneath.
Step Ten – Repeat Steps 2 to 10 as many times as you need.
And here you have the final result.
Droste Effect Method Two – Photo Spiralysis
The other method is to open your file in Photo Spiralysis. Below is the image we’ll be using as an example.
Step One – Open the webpage of Photo Spiralysis. Click on the folder icon in the top left-hand corner to import your file.
Step Two – Familiarise yourself with the settings. Magnification makes the picture larger or smaller. Spirals make more or less spirals in the image, and Stretch allows you to stretch the picture further.
Step Three – The red dot in the middle is the centre-point. This is the area you need to click and drag to adjust the pictures.
Step Four – First – We change the spirals to 2. This is when we start to see a change in our file.
Step Five – The aim is to ensure the picture inside the frame we are using is not visible in our final image.
Step Six – Change the magnification to 2 to get more images repeated, hiding the areas we do not want.
Step Seven – By changing the Stretch from 1 to 1.1 gives us a very drastic change. Now, we start to see our picture take shape.
Step Eight – Play around with the placement of the image by moving the red dot (centre-point).
Step Nine – Change the magnification and stretch to find the perfect combination. We found that 2.8 magnification showed us we were on the right track.
Step Ten – Our final numbers were Magnification = 2.836, Spirals = 2 and Stretch = 1.103.
Step Eleven – Click on the create the final image icon, then render and save.
And there we have it—an image with a spiral that repeats itself indefinitely.
It can be a little finicky to get right, but with patience and time, you can get exciting results.
Examples of Droste Effect Photography
Droste Effect photography is one of the topics we cover in our creative photography course, Wow Factor Photography. Below are some of the photos taken by our students. If you’d like to learn more, check out the course here.