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How to Animate Photos for Free [A Step-by-Step Guide]

Last Updated on May. 6, 2022 – by David Morgan
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How to Animate a Photo

If you want to grab someone’s attention on the Internet, you should know that videos fare far better than photos, especially on social media. For example, more people tend to view and comment on Instagram posts with animated elements. 

If you have a particular picture in mind that you want to enhance, you may be wondering how to animate it. Good news! It’s totally possible to create photos that move. In fact, several of the best photo editing software options out there come chock-full of handy animation tools.

You can even turn your photos into GIFs. Short for “graphics interchange format,” a GIF is a looping animation similar to a video. You’ve likely encountered several memes in GIF form, but have you ever made one of these animations yourself? Fortunately, it’s not that hard.

This article will teach you how to turn your photos into captivating animations within seconds.

What is an Animated Photo?

An animated photo is an ordinary photo that contains elements that make it seem like it's moving. Animated photos may seem like something only found in the world of Harry Potter, but nowadays, anyone can make their photos come alive with only a few simple steps.

Best Free Photo Animator

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PhotoDirector Essential - Best Photo Animation Tool

Some photo editing software requires you to have advanced editing skills to create animated photos. PhotoDirector, on the other hand, makes the process of animating photos accessible even to newbies. Plus, it has various animation tools so you can animate your photo in different ways or add animated elements like moving skies, dispersion effects, and light rays. 

And PhotoDirector does so much more than animate photos. You can add effects, filters, stickers, and text to your photos with this photo editing software. In addition, you can use beautification tools to remove blemishes and even out skin tone, replace colors in a photo, correct graininess, and so much more. 

Download PhotoDirector below and start animating your photos like a pro.

How to Make an Animated Photo

Here is a step-by-step guide for animating photos using PhotoDirector. 

Download PhotoDirector and follow along:

How to Make an Animated Photo on Windows or Mac

  1. Under the Library tab, click on Import and choose Photos. Select a photo to animate and click Open.
  2. With the photo selected, click on the Guided tab at the top of the screen, then click on the Animation Effects toggle. Select Photo Animation.
  3. PhotoDirector - Photo Animation
  4. Draw animation arrows in the directions you want the animation to go by clicking and dragging over the sections of the photos you want to move. 
  5. Add anchor points by clicking on the Pin tab to the right of the Curved Arrow tab. Put an anchor point anywhere you want the animation to stop, and anything on the other side of that point won’t be affected. If you want to remove an anchor point, right-click it and select Delete.
  6. PhotoDirector - Add Anchors
  7. Use the brush freeze tool by clicking on the Snowflake tab to the right of the Pin tab. Drag the slider to choose the brush size. Next, draw on areas you want to keep still during the animation. To erase part of the mark you made, go to the left sidebar and click on the brush icon with the minus sign. Then hold and drag the eraser over areas you want to remove.
  8. PhotoDirector - Animation, Brush
  9. Drag the slider in the left sidebar to adjust the speed.
  10. Click Produce in the bottom left corner and select your preferred video file format. You can also select the aspect ratio, video quality, and duration.
  11. PhotoDirector - Animation Example

How to Make an Animated GIF from Photos

There are several scenarios when you may prefer to use a GIF instead of a video, especially given its smaller file size. Maybe you want to react to a social media post, make sales stand out in your email marketing campaigns, or break up blocks of text in an article.

To create a GIF from an animated photo, follow these first six steps the same way you would in the process described above:

  1. Import photo
  2. Go to the Photo Animation Workspace
  3. Draw animation arrows
  4. Add anchor points
  5. Brush freeze
  6. Adjust speed
  7. Click Produce in the bottom left corner, and select GIF instead of video. Then select the aspect ratio, quality, and duration.

How to Make an Animated Photo on iPhone

If you want to know how to animate photos on iPhone, it follows a similar process to the one we outlined above for PC or Mac. Keep in mind that the PhotoDirector app will look slightly different on an iPhone than on an Android device. Download it on your device below and follow along. 

  1. Tap Edit and select the photo you want to animate from your camera roll.
  2. Tap on the Elements tab at the bottom of the screen then hit Animation
  3. Tap Motion, then use your finger to draw arrows in the direction you want the animation to go. Wherever you draw an arrow, that area of the photo will move in the direction you’ve indicated. If you want to remove an arrow, drag it to the trash icon in the bottom right corner.
  4. PhotoDirector App - Photo Animation, Anchors
  5. Tap on Anchor at the bottom of the screen. Put an anchor point anywhere you want the animation to stop, so it will not affect anything on the other side of that point. If you want to delete an anchor point, drag it to the Trash icon in the bottom right corner.
  6. Brush freeze by tapping Freeze. Drag the slider to choose the brush size. Next, draw on areas you want to keep still during the animation.
  7. PhotoDirector App - Photo Animation, Brush
  8. Hit the Speed icon. Drag the slider to make your animation slower or faster.
  9. Tap on the Check Mark in the top right corner and save the animation as a video file. You can also select the aspect ratio, video quality, and duration. Finally, click on the Export icon in the top right corner.

Note: While editing the photo animation, you can press Play in the bottom right corner at any time to preview it.

How to Make an Animated GIF from Photos on iPhone

Who among us hasn’t communicated with our friends in the group chat using only GIFs? When the inspiration for the perfect GIF strikes and you want to send it at the moment while it’s still relevant to the conversation, the PhotoDirector app will help you create the perfect GIF in seconds.

Follow these first five steps the same way you would in the process described above:

  1. Choose a photo
  2. Draw animation arrows
  3. Add anchor points
  4. Brush freeze
  5. Adjust speed
  6. Save the animation as a GIF rather than as a video. Then select the aspect ratio, quality, and duration, then click on the Export icon in the top right corner.

For more information on animating photos with PhotoDirector, click here

Tips for Making an Animated Photo

Here are a few tips for making an Animated Photo. 

Tip 1: Wherever you draw an animation arrow, that area of the photo will move in the direction you’ve indicated. To change the length or direction of an arrow, drag it by the tip. To create curved arrows for more nuanced animations, click on the Curved Arrow tab. If you want to remove an arrow, right-click it and select Delete.

Tip 2: While editing the photo animation, you can hide the animation marks at any time by unchecking the box in the left sidebar.

Tip 3: If you don’t have a smartphone stylus or pen, getting one would make animating photos—and photo editing in general—easier. When drawing animation arrows or making brush freeze marks, using a stylus will give you much more control, especially if you want to apply them to a small area. As a result, you’ll speed up your workflow.

Download the Best Photo Animator for Free

Making your photos move is something you can do right now when you use PhotoDirector. Jazzing up your photos with animation will captivate users on social media or your brand’s website in a way that basic stills simply won’t do. You can also create the best GIFs for inside jokes with your friends when you use your own photos.

No matter the purpose of your animated photo, PhotoDirector makes the process of creating one a cinch. Simply draw animation arrows, add anchor points, brush freeze, adjust speed, and export. The whole process can take less than a minute. 

PhotoDirector is the best choice for photo animation. Besides making your photo move in the way listed above, PhotoDirector offers other animated elements like animated stickers, overlay, wraparound, sparkle effects, and more. 

Download PhotoDirector for your desktop or the PhotoDirector app for iPhone or Android today!

Photo Animation FAQ

1. How Do I Add Animated Sparkle Effects to my Photos?

Mac and Windows

  1. Under the Library tab click on Import and choose Photos. Select a photo to animate and click Open.
  2. With the photo selected, click on the Guided tab at the top of the screen, then click on the Light Effects toggle. Select Sparkle.
  3. To see all of the sparkle effects, click the black square next to Sparkle at the top of the window. Selecting an effect option will automatically apply sparkles to your photo.

  4. Use your cursor to add or remove sparkles with the manual Sparkle Tool. Then adjust intensity, amount, rotation, hue, and saturation using the left-hand toolbar sliders.
  5. Select the Enable Animation Effect checkbox in the toolbar if you want your sparkles to twinkle and move. You can also adjust the twinkle speed using the slider at the bottom of the toolbar.

iOS and Android

  1. Tap Edit and choose the photo you wish to edit. 
  2. Hit Elements along the bottom menu. 
  3. Choose Sparkle.
  4. Choose the sparkle effect you want. Use the slider to adjust the speed. 
  5. Tap the Check Mark in the top right corner when done. 

For more information on adding animation effects to your photos, check out How to Add Animation Stickers With a Wraparound Effect. 

2. What Features Should I Look for in a Photo Animator?

The top five features you should look for are:

  1. Animation arrows
  2. Brush freeze
  3. Speed Adjustment
  4. Animated stickers/text
  5. Animated overlay

If you’re looking for a product that checks all of these boxes, we recommend PhotoDirector.

3. What are the Best Photo Animation Apps?

The top five features you should look for are:

  1. PhotoDirector
  2. Werble
  3. ImgPlay
  4. Motionleap
  5. Movepic

For a more in-depth look at the above apps, check out 5 Best Photo Animation Apps for iPhone & Android.

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