The Wigglegrams Can, And So Could You


Wiggelgrams aren't the latest trend—they're no Dall-E or Midjourney—but they're a fascinating illusion, a simple trick of camera angles and mild image editing and processing, fun for friends and advantageous for advertisement, and they're so easy to make yourself. If you have a camera and a computer, you can join us on this journey of crafting our very own.

Part of the the brilliance of wigglegrams is in their tricky brevity.

Choosing Your Victim

Start with a subject—whether it's your Cheshire cat or palliative pup, your shy but beautiful best friend, your morning sourdough popping out of the toaster golden and fragrant, or your begrudgingly extant house plant, we will make them dance.

Once you've decided on your visually vacillating victim, open your phone's camera app or, if you want to get fancy, dig up and wind up that old DSLR your parents gifted you for graduation (instead of the car your older brother received, which seems equitable), and train the lens on them. Make sure the subject is centered in the frame, and that their entire form is well within the boundaries. If part of the object is cut off, the end effect will not be as clean, as cropping the images will become difficult.


Now, take between 3-6 photos with your subject in the center, ensuring that you are holding your camera or phone at the same height from the ground and the same distance from the subject as you move your device gradually left or right about them. Each progressive image will thus be shot at a slightly different lateral angle, maintaining the center line through the centered object (note how the leaves, all in frame, move to the left as I positioned my camera for successive shots along a path to the right).


If your subject is centered in all of your images (really, you can take as many as fifty, but let's keep this simple for our first attempt—and part of the the brilliance of wigglegrams is in their tricky brevity), we can move on to editing. So upload to your laptop or desktop or—if you've the patience of a saint—your tablet, and open up one of the following programs: PowerPoint (if using Microsoft or any other major operating system—I see you, you industrious Linuxers) or PhotoShop (this application requires a paid subscription through Adobe, and it is one of the best tools for photo editing, but is certainly not required for our project here today).

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PhotoShop Workspace


In a new document in PhotoShop (the size and shape don't need to be set to anything specific, so long as the canvas is at least as large as your images and at a DPI of 100 or higher), drag all of your photos to the canvas. They should automatically populate as separate layers, one for each image, in the order of being taken. If they're not in the correct sequence, simply move their corresponding layer up or down in the Layers Panel (usually located in the bottom right of the workspace).

Now we're getting to the tricksy part. Ensure all but the last two of your layers are hidden (there should be an eye to the left of each image thumbnail in the Layers Panel; the eye's presence indicates that the layer is viewable; click on it to hide that layer). Then set the opacity of the penultimate (second to last) image to 50%. The easiest access to this setting is in one of the top bars of the Panel, above the layers themselves. You'll see the last photo in the sequence beneath it; we will use this to our advantage.

Start lining them up (but don't shoot them down yet)! Using the Move Tool and the arrow keys as necessary, shift the topmost layer so that your subject's center matches as closely as possible between the two images. This can translate to aligning the outer bounds of the bulk of the item (as I did here, specifically with my plant's pot), or to aligning the fiery eyes of your favorite feline across photos.

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Ghosts in transit.

Once you've matched the last two, get them back to 100% opacity, then place the third-to-last layer's opacity at 50%, and align the object's centers again. Repeat this process with each of the images as you move up the layers, unhiding them as you go.

Upon successfully (or nearly successfully—no one and no thing is perfect, and a little jank is welcome in the DIY Arts) matching all of the photos' centers, you'll need to crop your canvas to contain only the parts of the entire sequence that are displayed in every image. We don't want to see blank space pop up within the animation due to one photo out of five having an awkward splice taken out. Try to pare the boundary to just the essential object of your affection here using the Rectangle Marquee Tool, then select ImageCrop, and the entire canvas will conform to your selection.

Now we can start animating! In the Window drop-down menu, find and select the Timeline option (these should be alphabetized, so it'll be near the bottom of the menu). A panel will appear at the bottom of your workspace with a button that reads "Create Frame Animation." Click it!

A thumbnail will appear at the bottom that reflects what is present on the canvas—and what is unhidden in that Panel. The default delay time, shown directly beneath the thumbnail, is "0 sec." Let's change that to 0.1 seconds by clicking the time there and selecting the appropriate option from the pop-up menu.

Your first frame should display your topmost layer with your first image. Now click the small "plus" [+] button at the bottom of the Timeline Panel, the second from the last icon, which will generate a new frame in the sequence. We want an actual animation, so hide that original topmost layer. This second frame should display your second layer. Click the [+] button again, and repeat the process, until you have a number of frames equal to your number of photos, with each frame displaying a different image. To "mirror" the animation, replicate these steps again but in reverse, so that your photo series of 5 stills would translate in the following order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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Timeline Animation

Now you can export. Go to FileExportSave For Web (Legacy). A pop-up will appear with several options for the size, color, quality, and file type. For the highest quality but a manageable file size, select GIF 128 Dithered from the Preset drop-down menu near the top of the panel, but reduce the largest dimension of the Image Size (located near the bottom) to 1,000 px or less. Then click Save... at the very bottom, type in a suitable title in the new pop-up, and click the second Save at the bottom left.

And you're done!

E-mail, WhatsApp, Tweet, blog, or text all your friends (parasocial and otherwise) your newest creation, and don't forget to brag that Fat Pencil Studio taught you how.

May Gossett was a Designer at Fat Pencil Studio from 2021-2024