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Displaying & Sharing
Your Digital Photos

Animations

 
The object being photographed rests on a turntable that is then incremented between shots. Courtesy of Kaidan.
 
 
Click to see an object rotate.
 
 
 
Continuous mode icon.
 
 
Click to see how continuous mode can be used creatively.
 
 
The Time Machine can take pictures at specified intervals or when sensors detect sounds or motion. Courtesy of www. bmumford.com.
 
 
Click to see an example of time-lapse photography.
 
 
The camera was pointed at a bird feeder and time-lapse photography was used to take a photo every few minutes. Here's one of the images.

You can combine any series of still images into a slide show or animation. When viewed with a browser, the images are displayed one after the other like frames in a movie. To create these little shows, all you need are some images of the same size and a program that can combine them for you. The first step is capturing the images. There are a number of ways to do so.

Object Photography

Animation can make a still object look like it's rotating in front of you. The process of taking these photos is called object photography and is the opposite of panoramic photography. Instead of standing in one place and rotating to see a 360-degree view, object photography rotates an object in front of the camera so you can photograph all of its sides. To capture the series of images, so the object rotates smoothly in the animation, you use a turntable to rotate the object a precise and equal number of degrees between shots. Once captured, you use a software program to combine the images into an animation.

To create a rotational object, you start with a series of images showing the object from various angles. Images courtesy of Rick Ashley.
 
When taking object images, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Use exposure lock or manual exposure mode to keep the exposures constant. If you use automatic exposure there will be just enough difference in exposures to make the images appear to flicker when played back. You can determine the best overall exposure by using a gray card. If your camera has a video mode, you can also use it to capture the object as it rotates, but you'll have to rotate it very smoothly and evenly. That's what motorized turntables are used for.
  • A tripod is essential and holds the camera steady as you take pictures.
  • To light the object, use a light tent (which also provides the background) and two small studio lamps.
  • Keep the setup simple, with a smooth even background against which the object rotates and appears to float in space. If you have enough distance between the subject and background, the background will be out of focus and even less distracting. Many objects look best when the camera is pointed slightly down at them. Most objects look best when centered on the turntable, but asymmetrical objects often have one point around which they look best when rotating.
  • Take pictures every 10, 20, or 30 degrees (36, 18, or 12 images) in a clockwise sequence. More pictures make the file larger but make the object Continuous mode icon. rotate more slowly and more smoothly.

Continuous Photography

Continuous mode is a good way to capture a series of frames to be used in an animation of a moving subject. In this mode, you just hold down the shutter button and images are captured one after another until you release it.
 

Time-lapse Photography

If you have ever seen one of those videos of a flower blossom opening, or a building going up over the course of a few seconds, you've seen time-lapse photography in action. With some cameras you can use its time-lapse mode (sometimes called an intervolemeter setting) to capture images at preset intervals. The camera will then take pictures at approximately the specified interval until you turn it off, the batteries run out, or the memory card fills up. Between pictures the camera enters sleep mode and all controls are turned off to conserve battery power. On cameras without a time-lapse mode, you can sometimes find software that will operate your camera from a connected computer.

Creating and Viewing Animations

Once you have your series of images, you need a program to combine them. Here are some factors to consider:
  • Can you specify how long each image remains on the screen? For slide shows you will want a longer time. For animations, where you are simulating a movie, you'd want shorter times.
  • Will the program make all of the images the same size or do you have to do that?
  • What output formats are there. One of the most popular formats is the animated GIF because it will play in a browser without a plug in. It also plays in place on the page rather than in a separate window. The problem with the GIF format is that it supports only 256 colors— compared to the millions of colors your camera captures. For higher quality, some programs let you output the files in a movie format such as AVI, MOV, MPEG, or Flash. Some programs even let the viewer spin objects in either direction or zoom them.
When you post your animation on a Web page, the visitor views it in their browser. If it is a GIF it will run continuously if it was set to loop, otherwise the viewer has to click the browser's Refresh button to start or restart it. If it is in one of the more powerful formats, a plug-in may open and run it.


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