Fun and sexy animated GIFs are one of my favorite ‘extras’ to create with a client’s boudoir shoot. It’s a fun way to bring something new to the table for them that they can share with their friends or their partner without being much extra work on your part. A lot of this is because I like to give my clients movements to follow, so in the process of capturing that movement and motion, many times it can be easily turned into an animated GIF that the client can enjoy.
I recently created this Animated GIF for a friend, and when I shared it many were surprised that I did it myself in Photoshop. So I decided that I would share my process and how I do that real quick to help those of you out who are thinking about adding this sort of thing into their arsenal of goodies to offer their clients.
As well, it should be obvious, but clearly anyone can use this technique to make Animated GIFs for their clients. Doesn’t have to be for boudoir, that is just what I use it for.
Creating Animated GIFs in Photoshop
OK, so the first step that I take is actually in Lightroom, and that is getting all of the images that I am going to use in the GIF processed and looking the same. Nothing will kill your GIF more than processing inconsistencies between the frames, so I highly recommend processing one image to where you want it and then simply syncing that edit to the other images in the set.
Once I have synced my edits, and gone through to clean up whatever skin clean-up I need to do in Lightroom it is time to send the images over to Photoshop. You could send them over one by one, but that is the slow and clumsy way. What you want to do is open them into Photoshop as layers.
At this point, your computer will take a minute to prepare the images and load them into photoshop as layers. You need to make sure that you have the first image in your series open in Lightroom when you do this or your images may be imported into Photoshop out of the correct order, which is easy to fix by dragging the layers, but it’s obviously preferable to just have them imported into the order you want.
OK, now that your images are open in Photoshop and in the order you intended them to be in (first frame at the top, and last frame at the bottom), you need to open the Animation/Timeline panel in Photoshop. Chances are this won’t be open from the start so you will need to enable it in Photoshop.
When the Timeline panel opens it will be directly under your main editing window. There will be a button that says ‘Create Frame Animation’ and this is what you will want to click in order to get make your sexy animated GIF. On a side note, this is also how you can edit video in Photoshop, except you would select the other option. But anyway, moving on.
Once you have the Timeline panel open and you have created a frame animation you will see a single box. This is the first frame of your animation, but you don’t need to touch that for now. First, we need to make frames for the rest of your animation, and luckily PS makes it super easy to do this. Simply click on the Timeline Options, located in the upper right corner of the Timeline panel, and select ‘Create frames from layers.’ This will make additional frames for the rest of your animation.
Now is when you decide how long you want each frame to show. If you select a time too quick the animation will happen super quickly, and depending on how many frames you are doing this could be a good or bad thing. I generally find that .2 seconds is a good starting point and for me is a nice middle ground between showing the movement but still allowing each frame to be displayed long enough that the viewer can see it clearly.
You set the frame time by clicking on the little time tab indicator at the bottom right of each frame. By default, they will all be set to 0, so you need to make sure to set them to your frame time of choice or you will have issues with your animation when you try to view it later.
At this point I recommend previewing your animation, this will cause Photoshop to play the frames for you, so you can see what it will look like once the animation is exported. If you think your animation was too fast, go back and adjust the frame times to be a little longer, if you think your animation was too slow, go back and make the frame times a little faster. If you think it looks good, you can move on to the export phase.
OK, now that you are ready to export you simply save this like you would any other image. Go up to File -> Export -> Save For The Web (Legacy) and then you want to select the GIF option. Photoshop will detect that you are making an animation and will give you some additional options at the bottom of the panel. First, you want to resize the animation. A full resolution GIF is simply too large to be shared and enjoyed, so you need to make it something smaller, I usually shoot for around 700x wide, but even that is a little big, to be honest. Find a size that works for you in terms of viewing and file size(storage space, not resolution) and go with that.
Then you need to tell Photoshop to make your animation an infinite loop, otherwise, your animation will play just once and then stop. To do this click on the ‘looping options’ and select forever (or a number you want, but it’s easier to just select forever). Then save the file, name it what you want, and voila. You are done!
Going an extra mile: Smooth Playback
Now, if you notice on the GIF that I shared above, it goes through the initial animation, and rather than restarting directly at the beginning again, it goes in reverse and then restarts. This won’t work for all animations as well as it does for this one, but when it does work, it’s great for giving the animation a smoother infinite loop look. In order to do this I simply doubled the frames in my animation and at the point where my initial motion stopped, I had the frames go back in reverse order. At the point in the middle, I made the frames have half as long as a frame time so that the two frames there last as long as one frame in the rest of the animation. This way the animation doesn’t appear to ‘hang’ in the middle with an oddly long frame (since they are both the same frame, it would look odd while playing).
I also skip that first frame at the end, again to avoid the appearance of an extra long frame. (Because if I had both the first frame and the last frame, which are the same layer, the same length, it would look like an extra long frame during the animation loop.) So by skipping what was actually supposed to be the last frame, I eliminate that animation inconsistency.
Now, to add these extra frames you will have to do it one by one because it won’t let you make frames from the layers more than once. So to do this you click on the ‘add frame’ button and do that for as many additional frames as you need to make. In my case, my original animation was 9 frames, so doubling that would mean I need 18 frames, but taking into account that I am skipping what should be the last frame, I needed to have 17 frames total.
In order to get the correct layer to show on each of the frames, you will need to manually change that. By default, all the new frames you add will have the same image showing as the last frame of your original animation. So in order to change this you select the frame you want to change by clicking on it, then you will notice in the layers window all the layers are invisible except the one image that is showing. You need to go over to the Layers panel and make the layer that is showing invisible, and then make the layer below that visible. Then repeat this down the line until all of your new frames have the correct image showing.
Once you finish this step I recommend previewing your animation again, just to confirm that you got your timings right and that all the frames are displaying the correct images. Then from here, it’s just a matter of saving it like I described above. Simply as that.
It is really not that complicated, and after you do it a few times you can bang these out in just a few minutes. They make a great ‘extra’ for your clients and for the relatively low effort needed to do it, beyond remembering to shoot some motion that would work for this during the shoot, it’s a no brainer.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below and I will answer as best I can.