I’m excited for this year’s fireworks fiesta. I’m planning to do more portraits with sparklers and flash, but I’ve got a new plan for finishing them, too.

Forgive me for using this picture (again!) but it allows me to practice with the finishing process. I’ll do some more next week with fresh pictures to help you along, too. Heck, feel free to download this picture and give this a try right now yourself.

Animating with Plotagraph

It’s been a while since I’ve made a Plotagraph, and I regret that. It’s such a cool tool, and I’m having fun using it again. It allows you to animate a still photograph. I’ve seen some people using Photoshop to imitate the result, but those methods aren’t as good and they’re a whole lot of work.

Plotagraph gives you results quickly, and I love it for that. I’d rather go make more pictures than spend more time playing around in Photoshop.

Right now I’ll show you quickly how to get started. It’s best just to download the free trial and start practicing yourself.

1. Paint (mask) what shouldn’t move

The first thing to do once you load a photo is to use the Brush to paint the stuff you don’t want to move. In this case, I painted all over my daughter’s clothes. Otherwise, they’ll flow across the screen and that’s not what I want.

You don’t have to be super careful — just get a mask on there so you can see what will happen. Plotagraphs are the kinds of images that develop as you work on them.

You can switch to the erasing brush if you need to, as well. On the right in the Layers pallet, you can view or hide things like the Mask so it turns red where you’ve painted.

2. Animate and anchor

Now click on the icon that looks like a dancer and choose Animation Points. Click on the thing you want to move and drag out an arrow. A long arrow moves faster, and a shorter arrow moves slower. Just place one animation point and then press play to get an idea of what’s happening. Now add more points.

Use the anchor points to keep things from moving. My daughter’s elbow was smearing too much, so I dropped anchor points around it.

You can see here the animation and anchor points (red dots) for this picture.

Be sure to drop some points outside the frame to help the continue flowing.

Each of the individual sparks has an animation point, and some of them have two. Give it a shot and see how it goes.

Pro Tip: Use the keyboard shortcuts — just hover your mouse over any of the menu items. It can get annoying to move the mouse all the way across the screen every time you want to switch from an animation to an anchor point or to press play.

3. Export

Now export your animated photo. If you export as a GIF, you can upload to the site called GIPHY.com and they’ll let you embed the Animated GIF or share a link. This is a great way to get it on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe someone can leave a comment and let us know if it works well on TikTok.

These are some of the features from GIPHY.com

You can also export an MP4 video file and upload that wherever you’d like to share.

Be patient: There’s a lot of brainpower going on during the export. You’ll get a notification that pops up when it’s ready.

4. Do another one!

Sometimes I have a plan to animate a picture, but it’s just not turning out the way I have in mind. That’s OK. If I come back to it later I can often figure it out. In the meantime, open another photo and animate it. Landscapes with skies or roads are easy to work with. The key is to just start doing it.

I can’t wait to share my sparkler portraits with you, and I’d love to see yours on our Facebook or Flickr groups.

Want to learn more about Plotagraph and try it for yourself? Click here to get started!