I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this from fellow photographers, so, finally, here goes! If you look through my Instagram, you’ll see that when I was still shooting weddings and elopements, I loved making gifs for my couples. It’s just a little something extra that they’re usually not expecting, which makes it so fun to surprise them with! I’m sure there are a ton of ways to make GIFs, but I use Photoshop for mine. Keep reading to learn how to make GIFs in Photoshop!
Camera Settings for GIFS
When learning how to make GIFs in Photoshop, it’s important to remember that making GIFs starts with taking photos – because a GIF is basically just a slideshow of a few photos. I’m sure there’s a more technical definition out there, but that’s how I think of it :).
I always shoot in continuous mode. Of course, I can’t speak for all cameras, but on my Sony a7III there are 3 options for continuous mode – low, medium, and high. I always keep it on medium, which I think is perfect. It’s slow enough that if I’m not trying to make a GIF, I can click the shutter quickly to only get one photo (I used to shoot in High but ended up with a million photos that I didn’t need), but fast enough that when I hold the shutter down to shoot photos for a GIF, my gifs look smooth and not choppy. This way, I don’t have to think about switching between continuous and single shooting, and I can do a GIF any time.
Important gear for GIFS
Of course, you’ll need a camera that can do continuous shooting. I’m pretty sure every professional camera can do this – I haven’t tested them all, but I think it’s a feature you’ll find on yours :). I use a Sony a7iii, usually with my 24- 70 lens, which I love over all, but for GIFS it’s great because the autofocus is fast, and it also gives you the option to lock the focus on a subject, and it’ll automatically follow them – handy if there are a lot of people and you want to focus on one for the GIF, or if there’s a ton of movement going on in the frame.
Anyway, the camera you use isn’t isn’t super important – as long as it can do continuous shots, you’re set! But, what is really important for making GIFs is the memory card you use. SD cards and CF cards all have a read/write speed, indicated in MB/s on the card. Because for GIFs, you’re shooting several dozen photos in a row, if the card is too slow, it will buffer after a few, missing shots. If that happens, when you make your GIF in Photoshop, it’ll be choppy.
I use these 170 MB/s SD cards – anything slower just doesn’t work for me. If your camera has a CF slot, I recommend using it – CF cards tend to be faster, and also more durable. My one complaint about the Sony is that while it has two card slots, they’re both SD. My old Canon 5D Mark III did take CF cards, so if your camera does to, I recommend them!
Taking Photos For GIFS
During a session or a wedding, I intentionally pay attention to moments that I think would be cute as GIFs, and I just hold my shutter down for a few seconds to get a burst of photos. Sometimes I plan ahead and have the couple do something GIF worthy, other times I just see something cute and if I think it would make a good GIF, I’ll hold down the shutter.
Making the GIF in Photoshop
So, after the photos are taken, I edit them all in Lightroom first. I flag the photos that I’m going to use for GIFs, edit them all (copy & pasting the settings so they’re all the same), and export them. Don’t worry about aligning them right now – we’ll do that in Photoshop.
To start making the GIF, I open Photoshop. Then go to File > Scripts > Load Files into Stack
This screen will pop up, and you can choose your files. Select all the photos that you want to use for your GIF, and make sure to check “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images.” This will align all your photos, so that when your GIF plays, your background stays stable while the subject is moving.
Click OK, and you should see this Timeline at the bottom, but if you don’t, go to Window > Timeline and make sure it’s checked.
Click the “Create Frame Animation” button, then click those 3 little lines on the top right of the Timeline. Choose “Make Frames from Layers.”
You should see all of the photos in the Timeline now.
Most likely, you photos won’t all match up perfectly (except maybe if you used a tripod). The gray checkered space shows when one photo is smaller than another one in the GIF. Just click the crop tool on the left, and crop the photo. You can also straighten it. Do this to one photo, and it will change all the others as well.
Click the play button and see how your GIF looks!
You can change how long each frame plays – Photoshop automatically sets it to 0, but I think 0.2 seconds looks best. Play around and see what works for you, though! To select all the frames at once, click the first frame, hold the shift key, and click the last frame. Now you can change the speed on all the frames at once!
You can also delete frames by clicking on one, and then clicking the trash can at the bottom. Sometimes there’s one photo that throws off the “loop,” and the GIF might look better without it – try it out and click Command + Z (or Ctrl + Z on PC) if you want it back 🙂
You might also notice that your GIF is backwards – this is fine for some GIFs, but sometimes it makes things look funky. You can easily reverse the order of your frames by clicking those three lines again, and choosing “Reverse Frames.”
You’re done! Time to save. I usually save it as a PSD just in case I want to go back and edit it. To save the GIF, go to File > Export > Save for Web. This screen will pop up. I use all the default settings, except I change the size under “Image Size” to either 50%, or to 2,000 pixels. GIF files are already big, and the full size is sometimes overkill and will make it slow to load. I think 50% is usually perfect, and since your clients will only see this on their computer (as opposed to photos that may get printed out), it works fine and the quality still looks great.
The final product
But wait… if you want to post your GIF to Instagram or Facebook, there’s one more thing you have to do before you quit Photoshop.
How to post your GIFs to Instagram
GIFs are great for Instagram – I find that they get a lot of engagement because they’re unique and people aren’t usually expecting them when they scroll down the timeline. Instagram doesn’t support GIFs, but there’s a way around this.
All you need to do is turn your GIF into a video file. In Photoshop, go to File > Export > Render Video.
Another way to do this is to find a website that will convert your gif to an mp4 (which is a video file). I sometimes use ezgif.
Save your video to your computer, then send it to your phone (I use Airdrop), and now you can share your work on Instagram! The video will loop when you post it, just like a GIF!
Update: I don’t know why, but recently when I sent the GIFs to my phone I’ve been getting a black space around them. It’s easy to fix and I just crop it on my phone – not sure what’s up with this though.
Thanks for reading, and good luck making your own GIFs! They’re super fun and a great way to get a little more creative. Shoot me a DM on Instagram if you have questions, or to let me know if you try this out – I’d love to see what you make! I hope this tutorial on how to make GIFs in Photoshop was helpful!