How to Turn Videos or Photos Into GIFs

How to Turn Videos or Photos Into GIFs

GIFs have been around since the beginning of the internet, but they’re more popular than ever. Here’s how you can make them yourself using Giphy Cam.
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How to Turn Videos or Photos Into GIFs

Whether you pronounce it with a hard or soft G, the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a low-tech, looping video format or mini-slideshow of sorts that’s been with us for years. GIFs have persisted, showing up in everything from President Trump’s Twitter feed to augmented reality apps.

These days, GIFs are even being looked at by the fine-art world: Earlier this year, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art hosted the first International GIF Exhibition, which ran during the MediaLive art and technology festival. (Could Ronald Lauder be buying up fine-art animated GIFs for his collection?)

But unlike the early days of the GIF, creating one now is simple—even on your smartphone. For this story, I used Giphy Cam since it’s free, offers a variety of fun features, and is easy to use. So if you’d like to create something high-brow, low-brow, or just raise an eyebrow, here’s how.

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  • 1Getting Started

    To get started, open up the Giphy Cam app on your smartphone or tablet. As you do with most photo- or video-based apps, give permission for the app to access your phone’s camera and photo library. You can choose to record a new GIF or select a video or photo from your camera roll. You can also import GIFs and Live Photos. (This is a video clip of a levitating wireless speaker that I thought would be fun to turn into an animated GIF.)
  • 2Choose Your Source

    To choose a video or photo from your camera’s library, click the small thumbnail to the left of the record button (see the red arrow in the above photo). Video clips appear as film-strip icons, and photos are displayed as simple thumbnails.

    Recording a new video is easy: Tap the white button with the red dot in the middle of your screen (see the blue arrow in the above photo) to begin recording a 5-frame burst-mode GIF. For a longer GIF, hold the button for the duration of the video. If you don’t like your GIF, press reset and do it over. In the upper left-hand corner, tap the arrows icon to reverse your GIF. Tap it again for a ping-pong effect, which plays the clip forward and backward, again and again. Hit the SAVE GIF button to store the GIF in your phone’s camera roll.

  • 3Working With Photos

    Most of these apps let you create animated GIFs from a series of photos, too. In Giphy Cam, select the number of photos to include (they’ll be highlighted with a purple border and numbered), and then choose the frame rate by adjusting the slider from 1 frame per second (very slow) to 30fps (rapid fire).
  • 4Filter It

    To jazz up your GIF, you can choose from a variety of photo filters (highlighted with a green border), from subtle, such as Film (left), to intense, such as Hypno (right), which gives your GIF a psychedelic effect.
  • 5Add Special Effects

    Giphy Cam lets you add other effects. Animated stickers, for example, can be placed anywhere on the screen. Other effects, such as Clay Faces and Accessories, employ facial recognition and automatically appear over your eyes, nose, or mouth. Overlays, backgrounds, and frames can be added as well. The text tool has several font choices, but it’s not very customizable. In the above screen grabs, I chose a peace-sign sticker (left) and wrote “Cool!!!” using the text tool (right).
  • 6Finishing Up

    Tap the Next button to complete the GIF, then save it (red arrow) or reset it (blue arrow) and begin again. You can upload it to Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • 7Hypnotizing

    I used the Hypno filter on the levitating wireless speaker video to create a surreal effect.
  • 8Desaturation

    Using the same levitating speaker video, I instead added a film filter to give the video a monochrome appearance. Then I added an animated sticker of a puff of smoke.
  • 9Slideshow

    This GIF was created using several still photos to create a photo slideshow. Photos changed at 3 frames per second.