One of the exciting and really fun ways how to make your photography a bit more interesting and alive is an art of stop motion. Well, that is how they invented movie in the old times, right? They got bored by photographs so they just found a way how to make them tell stories with a movement. And you can do the same, how amazing is that? Moving photographs are one of my favourite things to create at the moment. It is challenging but so magical once everything works out and I just love the whole process so much. And you can totally do it too! So today, I am sharing with you some foolproof tips on how to get started, find inspiration and create your very first stop motion this weekend!
What I love the most about the stop motions is that you can create your own little film out of literally nothing. For you who don’t know anything about stop motion, let me explain so you don’t get scared away straight away. Stop motion is basically (in my opinion anyway) something in between photography and film. What you do it to take several photos of some kind of movement or work process, step by step and then put them together and make a magical film. The number of steps really depends on you and how fluid you want the movement to be. You can only have a two steps for that matter (imagine blinking eyes) or you can have hundreds to create a real masterpiece. Let me show you some amazing inspiration so you can get the idea before you get started on your own!
Let’s start with the high end, one of my favourite films, Coraline based on Neil Gaiman’s novel. Would you believe that the whole film was made as a stop motion? Mind blowing! But those are made out of millions of photos and take year or two to put together! I find it fascinating anyway and a movie full of creativity and imagination.
There are two amazing films from Wes Andersen which area also made as a stop motion video and those are Fantastic Mr Fox and the newest one, The Isle of Dogs which was just released and looks totally hilarious.
And if we go on the other end, very beginnings of pictures moving, is a thing called “phenakistiskope” and if you just put the word into Pinterest, you will see tons of different types. The words is coming from greek and means something like “to deceive the eye”. You basically draw a movement of something like a bird or a person step by step on a circle and spin it around and voilá, bird is flying and people dancing!
I am intentionally not giving you any Instagram examples as I don’t want you to copy or try to emulate anyone, you are so amazing and you can for sure create your own thing!
10 steps to great stop motion
You know that I always stay that good picture is always about telling a story. Well stop motion IS literally telling the story through the tons of photos you create step by step and connect together. So you must start with thinking about what do you want to say or capture in the movement? You don’t have to talk about world peace of course. But having an idea of the narrative will also help you to decide what kind of photographs you need to take to put it all together. There is nothing worse then finding out you missed or messed up some step and can’t take it back. Start with something simple, maybe you can make your favourite pie and the ingredient will be jumping by themselves in the bowl? Or cup of coffee filling itself up? Or flowers dancing around?
In general there are a couple of “rules” or tips you should follow in order to create fantastic stop motion for Instagram, so let’s go through it step by step, shall we? I am sharing all the tiny tips and advice with you, but in general, my approach is always to make our lives as easy as possible. And by avoiding all the basic mistakes while preparing and shooting, you will spend almost no time editing and putting video together. And that is all so worth it.
- Story. Decide the story and if it helps, draw it on the paper. You can draw it step by step or you can just draw a couple of steps to imagine how the story will go. That way it might be easier to decide, how many photos you need to take. if you want to create a stop motion of opening flower, you might need only five, six steps.
- Props. Think about the props for your scene and prepare everything in advance and around you. Often when you set the stage, you pretty much cannot move away for whole time so just have everything ready. In general, more simple stop motions work better as they are easy to watch and understand even in the little square.
- Tripod. One of the major mistakes people do is that they are trying to shoot from hand. That is just impossible, the frame will be shaky and the whole result will make you a bit sea sick. I totally understand that many of you don’t even have a camera, neither the tripod. BUT! You just need to find a way how to stabilise your camera. You can put your camera/phone on the shelf, in the cardboard box with whole cut out for the camera lens, you can stuck your phone in a mug, tape it to the window top etc.
- Scene. Find the place where you have a possibility to set your camera around. You will need clean surface like table or floor or a blanket or rug, something simple like an empty canvas.
- Light. The light is one of the most important things in creating a stop motion. You should have stable, even light which is not changing too fast. So the best would be a slightly overcast day as there is enough light but the light is soft. The reason for that is that, as lazy or unskilled I am, it is almost impossible to edit all the photos looking the same when the light is changing. And you want the colours and light to look the same in every frame to support the illusion.
- Frame. Kind of similar as the light, if you take all the photos and need to crop them later, it is very very difficult. There are apps which would batch crop your photos, but I didn’t find them working so well. And if you will try to crop or rotate the photos one by one manually, it will drive you nuts.
- Angle. Stop motions I have seen are always either top down/flat lay kind of style or front shot as a regular movie. The reason for it is that it is already complicated enough to figure out all the other things so shooting in another angle would be just too much.
- Direction. One of the key aspects which might make your stop motion so much easier to make and more fluid to look is that sometimes you need to take the photos in the reverse order. Remember my last stop motion where I am painting the leaves on the branch? I tried and tried and couln’d quite hold the brush stabile enough on a same spot. So I first created the final result and then started to remove the leaves until the branch was empty.
- Timer. If you have the option, use a “clicker” or remote control. If you don’t, use at least a timer. You can set a sequence on your phone or camera to take three, four, five steps at the time. The reason for that is that every time you press the shutter on your camera, you might move it a tiny tiny bit and the frames won’t line up. Anyway, try to press the shutter as gently as possible so the camera is just not moving.
- More is more. Take enough photos, too many even! Of course it depends on your steps. I made one stop motion with only 12 frames, another with 25 and other with almost 50. Either way, if you think your stop motion will have 20 photos, take at least twice as much so once you sit down to edit everything, you will have all the steps you need.
BONUS INSTAGRAM TIP! Because I like you, here is an extra tip. Think about how will the stop motion look like in your gallery and take and set the first picture so it looks beautiful by itself in your gallery. Once you are posting video on
Well once you did all this work, you need to edit your photos and put them all together into the video. There are some apps you could use in the phone but I didn’t find them personally as good and I always use iMovie. And all I know about editing the video I learnt from ever amazing Xanté Berkley. So just head over her amazing tutorial if you fancy some editing knowledge.
NOTE ON ENGAGEMENT: You might notice that Stop motions don’t get “so many likes”. And as I know it matters to many people and you put so much work an effort into it, I don’t want you to be discouraged or sad. I shared a couple of stop motions before and the very first one went surprisingly quite viral for my numbers, as of today it has over 160k views and it brought me over 500 new followers. I think the reasons were several: it was very seasonal and relevant at time, visually interesting AND practical. But the other stop motions I shared since did never reached the amount of likes as my regular photo. I think one of the reasons is that people are clicking to see the video so they might forget to click like, as the comments on those are often higher then regular photos. So be aware and do it for fun!