Social media is all about GIFs and videos these days. There are several ways to create them – including apps like DSCO Cam or GIPHY Cam – but I like to use Photoshop to retain full control of dimensions, settings and quality.
1. Shoot Frames
To capture a particular real-time action – like the street lights above – you need to take several frames in quick succession. A decent DSLR can handle this; or use the ‘burst’ mode on your smartphone’s camera. I use between 5 and 10 frames to create such a GIF.
Another option is to make a ‘stop motion’ sequence. More time could lapse between each frame so it’s important to keep your camera or smartphone in one position throughout the shoot, for example on a tripod. In the cookie stop motion below, I styled 42 frames in total.
If you wish to crop, colour-correct or adjust the photos in any other way, make sure you apply the same editing process to all of the frames so the GIF will look consistent.
Upload the frames onto Photoshop using the ‘Load Files into Stack’ function. Click ‘Browse’ and highlight the frames you have prepared. Select ‘Create Frame Animation’ from the Timeline menu, then ‘Make Frames From Layers’ to import.
Set the animation to loop forever, then adjust the timings of each frame as you wish. You can preview your GIF at any time by clicking the Play icon. A useful tip is the ‘Reverse Frames’ function from the Timeline menu. Photoshop sometimes imports the frames I’d prepared backwards so this flips the sequence.
When you’re happy with how the GIF looks, it’s time to decide on the quality you’re willing to sacrifice in favour of loading time. Go to ‘Save for Web (Legacy)’ and experiment with the variables to find the look you prefer.
In this cookie example, I chose ‘Selective’ and ‘Noise’ as the dither effect. Keeping the colour palette at 256 yields a GIF file size of 13.74MB so I reduced the palette size gradually and kept an eye on the size. I found that reducing the palette to 200 colours did not affect the final GIF too much so this was the final decision.
…et voila, my final stop motion:
To post GIFs on platforms such as Instagram, you will first need to convert the files into MP4 format. A search of “GIF to MP4” on Google will point you in the direction of several websites that offer this service. Note: videos uploaded to Instagram must be at least 3 seconds long so, if your GIF is shorter than this, have it loop a few times. Try to keep the video size under 50MB or else it will take forever to share.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you used it to make your own GIF, I’d love to see. Leave me a link in the comments below… and have fun experimenting!