Images in Motion: How to Make a GIF Out of Photos in 5 Steps

GIFs are super cool for creating an animated photograph. If you take a series of photos, you can turn them into what looks like a short video using the Graphics Interchange Format. It’s very easy to do with the right software. I’ll walk you through how to make a GIF out of photos using Photoshop.

Once you understand this photography method, you can let your creativity fly using motion!

Read on to learn how to make a GIF out of photos:

A series of photographs turned into a moving image

1. Take a series of photos

First, you will need a series of photos taken in quick succession. Using a tripod gives you more flexibility but it is not necessary to achieve this type of graphic. You can take the photos as quickly or slowly as you like, just as long as there is some motion to capture. I would take anywhere from five to 12 images. Five images is enough to show that something is happening and that there is movement. Twelve is few enough that your file’s size won’t be huge. GIFs are meant to be shared online, so you don’t want the file size to be too large or the quality too small for someone to enjoy it using an Internet connection.

2. Load the files into a stack

Next, pull all the layers into Photoshop and place them one on top of another in the order that they were shot, in separate layers. There is an automated way of doing this. Go to File -> Scripts -> Load Files Into Stack. Photoshop will automatically stack your files into layers, and even align them if you wish. Resize the photos to something that will be small enough for the Web, maybe 600 pixels across.

An animated GIF

3. Assign a time value to each layer

Once you have your layers in place, open up the animation window by going to Window -> Animation. In the animation (frames) box, create a new frame for each layer of your document. Click on the first frame and then hide all but the bottom layer photo. Click on the second frame and hide all but the next layer up, and so forth, for all of your frames. There is a drop-down menu on each frame that allows you to choose how long the frame will show. If you would like the GIF to cycle through slowly, choose 1 second or more. If you would like it to be quick, choose ½ sec or less. The speed will be dependent on how many frames you have and the desired effect.

4. Save for Web

Lastly, choose File -> Save for Web. From the preset menu, choose GIF and then play with the colors and the dither until you get a image that looks good but reduces file size. GIFs are a compressed format, but not ideal for photographs because of they way they compress. It will take some trial and error to figure out the balance between having an acceptable image quality and a small file size. You can also select an option for having the image loop — meaning once the frames all play in order, they will start again from the beginning.

5. Image editing

One of the things that makes GIF creation so cool is that since you are already working in Photoshop, you can manipulate the images before saving the animation. It’s sort of a quick and rudimentary way of editing a video clip with special effects. You can add elements, subtract elements, move elements, change colors or depict movements that are not possible using straight video capture.

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What are some subjects you have in mind now that you know how to make a GIF out of photos?

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