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How to line up your layers for an animated GIF in Photoshop

Earlier this week, I was tasked with producing some photos for one of my mainstay clients, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. They had developed an online scavenger hunt around the city, and they needed photos to help promote it.

Throughout our hour-long photoshoot, we realized that one of the scavenger hunt tasks was to do a group activity at an outdoor stage. Between a kick-punch routine and some amazing jumping jacks, I snapped in a high-burst mode to get the photos I needed.

But beyond that, I knew that I also wanted to create an animated GIF. After all, photos like that are always better animated, right?

The problem

Usually when I would create an animated GIF, or a time-lapse, I’d do so with my camera on a tripod. This would ensure there would be no change in the frame and that everything would line up from beginning to end.

But shooting handheld, I couldn’t rely on a tripod.

The solution

From Lightroom Classic, I did my edits and copied them to each frame I wanted to turn into the GIF. I then right clicked and went to Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop.

This brought the different frames into a sole Photoshop document, as separate layers. I selected each layer, then went up to Edit > Auto-Align Layers. This provided me with a few options for Projection. For my use case, the Auto setting was perfectly fine. I could have also checked to remove any vignetting or corrected any distortion, but I wasn’t worried about that for this.

After about a minute, all the layers were lined up. I cropped the document so that they’d all fit without any empty space, and then brought them into my Timeline and gave them each a 0.2 second time. I sized the document down to something more manageable, and then exported the file as a GIF, with looping set to Forever. And the animated GIF was complete!

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Rafael Jones

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