The Dos and Don’t of Stop Motion

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My Guide to Stop Motions

For anyone who is unaware of what a stop motion is, it’s basically a series of still photos put together as a video. You can see mine here .

I recently filmed a stop motion for a collaboration with a brand and one of the requirements was that it was shot as a flatlay. Now, I had done stop motions before but they had always been in my normal format, never as a flatlay. To say that it was a challenge was an understatement. It took two tries to get right, and for anyone who has ever done a stop motion before, you know how time consuming they can be. The first try was a complete fail, it didn’t fit my style at all, and, most importantly, was too long. (It was over a minute long in fact) But I guess that’s what I get for being too ambitious and taking over 500 photos. Thankfully, after a bit of a rethink, the second one was a lot more in keeping with my style and A LOT shorter!

The ‘Do’s’ of Stop Motion

1. The most important thing to remember when shooting a stop motion is to use a tripod. If you don’t, then your camera will be moving around too much and your stop motion won’t look all that great. I don’t know the exact make of what tripod I use (I stole it from my grandad’s house!) but you can find loads of really cheap ones on Amazon and Argos. They don’t have to be anything fancy, just as long as they do the job!

2. If you want to shoot a flaylay stop motion, it might be a good idea to invest in an arm for your camera which you can attach to your tripod. I got mine from Amazon here. I ran into the problem where my camera and the arm were too heavy on one side so the tripod wouldn’t stand up, but I counteracted this weight but hanging a bag of books on the tripod - it worked!

3. If you’re going to be in your stop motion, you’re going to need to get someone to take the photos for you. You can’t be changing your position otherwise your stop motion isn’t going to have that ‘fluid’ look, or look like the photos work together. 

4. Invest in an external device to take the photos. Whenever you touch the camera or the tripod, you run the risk of moving it and even the slightest of movement can ruin the stop motion. Some tripods come with an external clicker which you can connect to your phone/camera via Bluetooth. Alternatively, you can download Canon’s CameraConnect app (if you have a Canon camera of course) where you can remotely shoot your photos. 

The ‘Dont’s’ of Stop Motion

1. Don’t take too many photos. I learnt that lesson the hard way. Stop motions should be around 10-30 seconds long, anymore than that and it’s more than likely that the viewer is going to get bored of it. I took around 100 photos for my final stop motion and it ended up being 12 seconds long. 

2. Don’t shoot your stop motion at different times of day. You have to take it all in one go otherwise the light is going to change and your photos will not look consistent! 

3. Don’t be too ambitious. Stop motions are hard and very painful to edit. The last thing you want to do is create more work for yourself. Keep it simple, they always work the best. 

4. Don’t edit each photo individually. Just don’t. For your own sanity, PLEASE mass edit. You’ll save yourself so much time and save yourself from going insane. I edit my stop motions in Lightroom and Photoshop (desktop) and I’ll walk you through my editing process below. 

(This was the first unsuccessful layout)

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Lightroom. 

1. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is import your photos (obviously) 

2. Then you’re going to take the first photo of your stop motion and edit it the way that you want to - including cropping it to size. I always lens correct my photos as well as this gets rid of the lens ‘curve’ that can sometimes be really visible in your photos, especially if you have straight lines.

3. Then you’re going to go into ‘Settings’ and click on ‘Copy Settings’. Make sure everything is clicked and press copy. 

4. Go to your Lightroom Library and highlight all of your photos that will be included in your stop motion (you can do this by holding down the shift key).

5. The right click, go to ‘Develop Settings’ and click on ‘Paste Settings’ and boom! It will automatically copy all of your edits onto all of your highlighted photos! Give it some time though, it may take a while. 

6. Once all of your edits have been pasted onto your photos, you’re going to want to mass save them. You can do this by highlighting all of your photos with the shift key and then going to ‘File’, and then ‘Export’.


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Photoshop

1. Open up your first photo of your stop motion in Photoshop.

2. Then click on ‘Window’ and click on ‘Timeline’.

3. A little video timeline should appear at the bottom of your Photoshop screen. Then go to ‘Create Video Timeline’.

4. On the left hand side of your photo in the timeline, there should be a little film reel icon, click on that and then select ‘Add Media’. 

5. Highlight all of your other stop motion photos using the shift key and import them into your stop motion

6. From there, go to the bottom left of your Photoshop screen and you should see three little square boxes, click on that.

7. From there, you can set how quickly you want your stop motion to go. You can do this in mass by holding down the shift key to highlight all of your photos!

8. Then you’re going to want to export it as a video render!

I found that the video had black, empty space on either side of the photos, and to get around this, I simply used a video crop app that meant I could cut it out!

There are also apps you can use use to edit stop motions so if you are not editing this way then let me know and I can go through that for you. 

(This was the second more successful second set up) 

So let me know, have you had a go at stop motions? Do you want to? Any questions about them? 

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