How To Bring Your Photos To Life Using After Effects

If you are looking for a way to bring life to the photos in your video projects, other than using a pan & scan effect, you might want to explore the process of animating your photos in 3D space using After Effects.

There are hundreds of tutorials available that will walk you through this process, but here are the basic steps:

  • Using Photoshop, divide your photo into separate layers.
  • Import the Photoshop file (with layers) into After Effects.
  • Move those layers around within 3D space, using a Camera layer.
    After Effects Puppet Pin tool drop-down menu, found along the top tool bar.


After Effects Puppet Pin tool drop-down menu, found along the top tool bar.

This technique will give your photos a sense of depth not possible by simply using pan & scan on a flat image. To further sell the illusion of life within your photos, you can use After Effect's Puppet Pin tool to animate subjects within your photos. So, as the camera moves through the space, the people, animals, objects, etc. within the photos move as well.

The tool is extremely easy to use. Simply select the pin tool, then click on the joints of your subject (arms, hands, legs, etc.). Then, click and drag on the pin to manipulate your subject. You can keyframe the position of the pin over time to make it appear as though the subjects within the photo are actually moving. 

Below is an excellent demonstration and tutorial on this technique from The Creators Project, featuring Joe Fellows from Make Productions.

Feel free to share your own techniques, or links to your favorite tutorials, in the Comments section below.