About a year ago I came across an Instagram post that just didn’t look right. It was a still image but it had animation to it as if it were a video. I just thought it was one of those Photoshop tricks that could only be done by someone who was an expert in the program. So, naturally I thought it was pretty cool and didn’t pursue my wonder in how they did it. Then I started to see still images of waves that were animated and thought, “Okay, there’s got to be a program that people are using to animate these images and I need to get it because it looks amazing!” It was hard to nail down because people don’t like to give away photography secrets too freely, especially if they are doing something that no one else is doing. After doing some digging, I finally discovered that the program was Plotagraph Pro.
I searched for the website so I could find a way to use or download the software. I was shocked when I realized the program cost about $300 at the time. I laughed and then moved on. Then, for about two weeks this last December, Plotagraph was doing a free trial of their program along with coming out with a pricing structure that made more sense. I quickly jumped on it and started animating as many pictures as I could before my trial ran out. I then got my hands on the Pro version of the program and have been animating my wave photos ever since. There’s just something hypnotizing about being able to watch a wave on endless loop!
I am going to try and keep things short, and this is not meant to be an exhaustive overview or an in-depth tutorial on how to use the program (you can find tutorials on how to use the program on Plotagraph’s YouTube channel here). I just want to draw attention to what Plotagraph is capable of and encourage people to consider using it as an enhancement to their photography. Using the program is incredibly easy and by the time you download the program and watch a few short tutorial videos, you will be making stunning animations. Here are the simple steps to follow in order to make a Plotagraph animation:
Once you have selected your image for your project and opened it, start by selecting the areas you want to animate and masking the areas you don’t want to animate.
The masking and animation selector is pretty good but not perfect, so you will want to refine the areas with the masking and eraser brush.
You will then want to adjust the feathering of the border between the masked and animated areas so that there is smooth animation along the border lines.
Once you are good with the areas you want to mask and animate, set your animation and stabilizer points. Simply click and drag the animation point over the areas in the direction that you want it to move. The longer the animation points the faster the animation, and vice versa. If there are areas that you want to move one direction and an area next to it to move a different direction, set stabilizer points between the animation directions (see the stabilizer points below in between the different areas of the wave).
Once you have set your animation and stabilizer points, you will want to select the animation type. There are 5 presets that the program offers and each will give you a different effect (see options below). For waves, I almost always select the Bielmann Effect because it is specifically designed for waves, hence the name in honor of Brian Bielmann.
Hit play! Then you can see if your animation needs any changes or refinements once everything is set.
Export your animation into the desired size and format.
Stand in awe of your animated photograph, or Plotagraph!
The program has come a long way since it first came out. The team at Plotagraph is constantly working on it to make it better and add more features. They have also come a long way with pricing. Click here to see the pricing guide. As of today (the publishing of this article) they have released their app for iPad that you can use to animate photos right on your iPad. As of right now (the time of this article), the app for iPhone will be out soon. One thing to keep in mind is that if you post on Instagram, the platform heavily favors video over still images. By using Plotagraph to animate images and by posting them, there will be a significant increase in engagement since Instagram bases video popularity by views instead of likes. But regardless, animating still photos is just cool. If you’re ready to jump in, click here to start making amazing animations of your still photos.