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How to Animate Still Photos

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After looking at 100s of GIFs made by other people I decided to learn how to make them. I started turning pictures into animations.

Animated photo of my dog. I added a rain effect.

Animated photo of my dog. I added a rain effect.

Animating a Still Photo

People like watching very short videos. That is why animated GIFs are popular and iPhones have Live Photos. You could shorten a video, take a series of pictures or add an animation to a single still image. Adding a few seconds of motion to a still photograph can capture the viewer's attention.

I added movement to some of my photos. The first animation I made was a moving Star Wars toy. After taking a series of pictures with the arm moving I turned it into a GIF. One of the reasons I like it is that toys are not supposed to move by themselves. It is unexpected and unrealistic. Like a painting, it can be more appealing than real life.

In the picture above I turned it into a black and white photo because I read that it can add emotion to images. After trying out some rain effects I choose to use raindrops on glass. It is a hybrid of a photo and a video. In the moving image below I copied my dog's nose and moved it to the right. Then I used the 2 pictures to create a wiggle GIF.

Wiggle GIF for a partial 3D effect.

Wiggle GIF for a partial 3D effect.

A Moment in Time

Videos usually capture minutes of time. Pictures capture an instant. A moment is a very brief period of time. If you were capturing the scene with a camera it might be 60 frames. You forget most of the minutes and hours but you remember moments that you replay over and over again in your mind.

While I was fishing a fish pulled me across a dock and almost dragged me into the water. When I was hiking a coyote almost walked into me. It growled and ran away. Those moments lasted for a few seconds. An instant would be one picture frame. When you add seconds to a photo an instant becomes a moment. It captures a person's attention.

You can turn a video into a moment in time by making a really short copy. Keep the most important part. Remove the rest. Set the video to loop when you watch it. GIFs are often made from videos and they can be more popular than the original. Small short videos do better on social media sites like Twitter. When people want long high-quality videos they use sites like YouTube or Vimeo.

Video Animations

When I open images using the Windows 10 Photos app or the VSDC Video Editor I can add an animation. Some of them include bats, rain, smoke, butterflies, snow, and fire. In a few seconds, you could animate the foreground, turning the still photograph into a short video. It is as easy as copying and pasting a foreground image on top of the background.

Choose an animation, place it in the timeline, and set the size. Then increase or decrease the duration. Other options may be available depending on the app and the effect. When I added smoke to a picture I could control how fast the smoke blew across the screen. The first video animation I tried after getting a Windows 10 computer was flying bats.

If you want to turn it back into an image then turn it into a GIF or animated PNG. I used my 3D Animated GIF maker to turn the short videos into GIFs. It increases the file size but it makes it easier to share them. All of the moving pictures on this page are in the graphics interchange format. For a live photo effect, you could set it to play through once.

The best way to see if the programs on your phone or computer can add video animations to a photo is to look through all the options.

Bats coming out of a tunnel animation.

Bats coming out of a tunnel animation.

Moving Transparent Background Images

Images with a transparent background are good for putting on top of another image. I pasted a ghost onto a picture with my dog. Then I pasted it a little to the right so I could make it three-dimensional and view the effect with my 3D glasses. If I gradually increased the left value 30 times then it would move across the screen and become a moving picture.

When the ship you are looking at appears to be getting bigger then it is getting closer. Size is associated with distance. Add the appearance of depth by changing the size of the foreground object. Sometimes the only thing you need to do for a great animation is to gradually go from small to big. That is how I made the moving TIE fighter.

For best results use objects that would not have a lot of visible moving parts. I like to use spaceships, ghosts, and superheroes for this effect. You can make transparent background images by removing the background or you can find them online. Most of them are PNGs because JPGs don't support transparency.

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Filters and Effects

Color filters and photo effects can transform a picture into something else. Create an animation by changing it a little at a time and recording the results. For example, you could turn it into an oil painting and increase the stroke radius by one until it starts to look like an abstract painting. I changed the colors in the deer photo using hue rotation.

The results are interesting and educational. It shows you what is possible. For animations containing more than 2 frames use filters and effects that can give you more than one result. Look for values you can change like light and contrast. If you can not record the changes in the program you are using then you could try recording the screen.

I hit record, selected hue to rotate, and kept pressing the up arrow until the hue rotation went from 0 to 360 degrees. For effects that take longer, I save the individual pictures and turn them into a video or GIF.

Hue rotation animation on deer photo

Hue rotation animation on deer photo

Video or GIF

People expect GIFs to be small and short. They need to be or the file size will be too big and it will take too long to load. Videos offer a smaller file size and better quality. GIFs usually play and loop automatically but they have fewer colors. The video version may look better but it takes a little more effort to watch. You really only have a choice between them when it is tiny and only lasts for a few seconds.

On social media sites like Twitter, a short video may behave like a GIF. People click to play it and they both loop automatically. On other sites, the viewer would need to find and select the loop option before manually starting the video while GIFs play and loop automatically. When deciding consider the audience and the site.

If you still can't decide then try both. Share some of your animations as videos. Then see what ones get the most views and likes. The effect below works best when it is in a continuous loop. I changed the original picture a little with an invisibility filter first. Some effects work better when they are shown once. You could add animated text that disappears or a lightning strike.

The transition is not as smooth as I would like. The video version would be longer.

Added a smoke video effect to a selfie.

Added a smoke video effect to a selfie.

  • How to Make GIFs From Videos and Photos
    I started making animations while I was learning how to make 3D images. Learn how to make animated GIFs from your videos and photos.
  • How to Make and Use a Transparent Image
    Transparent background images focus on the subject and they are easy to edit. You can quickly add them to other pictures or turn them into an animation. See through photos can be merged with other images. Learn how to make and use transparent picture
  • How to Create 3D Images and Videos from 2D
    Learn how to convert 2D to 3D. Making three-dimensional photos can be easy and quick. I can make a good three dimensional image in 30 seconds. Why settle for flat pictures when you can add the illusion of depth. It requires special glasses but they a

Creating Your Own Animations

I started turning some of my photos into 3D images. They are fascinating because they are different. You don't expect a picture you took with your phone or camera to have depth and they are not common. I figured out how to become invisible on camera and turn my photographs into art for the same reason. Different is good.

Adding motion is another way to make a picture more remarkable. Short animations get more attention than regular photos and videos. They are also more memorable. You probably have hundreds of photographs that are not being viewed. Why not turn some of them into animations and share them.

After looking at 100s of GIFs I started to make my own. There are thousands of GIFs and videos that look like GIFs on the internet but you can make ones that stand out. An important reason to make your own is that most of the photos and videos on the internet are copyrighted. Another reason is that you can post unique content instead of duplicating another person's work.

As a really short video, it ought to be small. Large HD videos should be a lot longer than 5 seconds. My first thought was to reduce them to the size of a GIF. As a picture, it should be large. If you think of them as a photo that moves then the animation does not seem too short. You could display them at full size. Before I started making them I had only seen 6 full-size photographs that moved.

The moving images on this page were made using the Windows 10 Photos app, the VSDC Video Editor, and my personal GIF maker program.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Michael H

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