Platographs are a style of photo that appear to have constantly moving parts. Inspired by cinemagraphs, which are created by taking a video and masking certain parts to remain static, Platagraphs use software to create the illusion of motion from a static photograph. I first heard about Platographs a few years back, but the subscription based service was over $300 a year without any trial versions. Recently, Platograph released a Platograph app for iOS at a much more reasonable price, so I thought I’d finally try it out.
The app is similar to many other photography apps, where you pick a photo and draw a mask on it, then you drop tiny arrows to indicate which direction you’d like parts of the photo to move. The masked area will remain static, while the rest of the image appears to move. Drawing these masks was the most frustrating part of the process. The mask shows up as a grey, which is often hard to see on images of skies or fog. It’s also really hard to really get in tight with your mask because the image doesn’t zoom in enough. I was hoping this app would allow you draw near an object, then the software would autodetect edges to speed up the process, hopefully this will come later. There is also no way to soften the edges of your mask, so there are often very clear areas where the static image hits the moving sets. For skies, trees, or fog, it sure would be fun to have those animations blend into the static parts of an image.
After you preview your image, there are several options for exporting your video to Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. Unfortunately, there are no gif export options. So I exported each of these as the “platograph” setting, which is the shortest video export, then emailed them to my laptop. I saved them to my desktop, converted them in Gif Brewery 3, then compressed them in Compressor.io. That’s a ton of work, but a 1.5mg video quickly becomes a 8mg gif, which can often get trimmed back down to 2mgs with a good compressor. I sure wish that whole process was a little more streamlined.
After seeing a bunch of Platographs online this past year, I already had a pretty good idea for what kind of photos would work best with the effect. Waves, fog, skylines, and clouds are all good candidates, but you still want to avoid images that might be hard to mask out. There were quite a few photos I expected to love, that never really looked right with the effect. There are a few photos, however, that really came alive with Platograph. As far as my own style goes, I really enjoyed using the app in subtle ways, like on a small wisp of clouds through the eye of an ice cave. The effect isn’t always organic, so the more subtle the better.
Enough talking, here’s a bunch of beautiful gifs, all shot on an iPhone then processed with the Platograph app. Which ones are your favorites?