There is no denying the power of social media as a means for potential clients to find a professional photographer for their portrait, wedding, and even commercial projects. Projecting a unique and creative vision online is extremely important to creating interest and generating assignments.
Corel PhotoMirage provides a unique opportunity for photographers to stand out from the noise of social media. The program makes it easy for users to animate a still image in an almost mesmerizing way and to save it to a common video format, or upload it directly to popular social media and sharing platforms. PhotoMirage is available for Windows computers for $70. I evaluated a pre-release version and release version 22.214.171.124.
Video animations are not new to advertising and social media. You can find complex-to-create video-based cinemagraphs throughout social media. PhotoMirage is different. With it you can animate single or multiple portions of a still photo limited only by your creative vision. You will find yourself, as I have, searching through your image files looking for appropriate photos to animate in PhotoMirage. The program accepts JPEG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, BMP, and even RAW images from over 450 camera models as starting points. Export options are MP4 (H.264), MP4 (HEVC), WMV, and animated GIF.
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With a single workspace, PhotoMirage is extremely easy to use. However, since you are doing something that is truly unique, you will want to watch the video tutorials before you head out on your own. Once you have played around a bit you can explore the additional capabilities of the program by using the online help or downloading the user guide.
In concise form, what you do is import an appropriate image, drag Motion Arrows over the parts of the image you want to animate and plot Anchor Points around the areas you want to isolate from motion. For most images, it’s that simple. You hit Play to view your work, make any adjustments you feel necessary, and export. You can also save your work as a proprietary PhotoMirage file and return to it later.
Icons in the tool pane atop the left panel chart the process from left to right. Tool tips appear for each tool. For most images, you will only need the Animation tool and its two associated subtools, the Motion Arrow and the Anchor Point. For areas that are more complex that you want to hide from the animation there is a masking tool. To adjust arrows or anchors that you have already added there is a Select tool and a Freehand Select tool. If you select the fifth icon, PhotoMirage automatically adjusts image brightness, saturation, sharpness, and white balance.
A crop tool is the last available icon. A dropdown list in the tool allows you to select the proper crop proportions for popular social media sites along with many other possible proportions. The resulting crop, masking, and animation tools are done on separate layers that you can view or hide at will.
What We Liked
Amazingly, this all works, and with the right subjects, it works very well. Laying down the animation arrows and the anchor points is easy. There is no need to be particularly precise for the first pass. Pressing the Play button allows you to see your initial animation. The selection tools allow you to adjust the points, and clicking on the trashcan icon enables a pointer that you use to delete any point you have entered. You can even adjust the speed of the animation with a slider or by entering the desired speed directly. You can make adjustments, play the result, and continue doing this until you are satisfied with the result.
Output options abound, from email to 10 popular social media accounts plus the PhotoMirage Gallery and your own custom settings. The appropriate settings populate each output option.
All told, PhotoMirage makes it possible for users to animate still images and export the result in a variety of ways without the user needing any knowledge of video or social media input requirements.
What We Didn’t
PhotoMirage does what it designed to do very well. With every program I use I wish that the industry could agree on a common set of keyboard shortcuts. Corel has come up with another unique set for PhotoMirage—Ctrl+Alt+N to zoom to 100% and Ctrl+W to fit to frame for examples. Why can’t we all get along?
The only issue I found in the program was with the masking brush. It is far from smooth when dragged across the image, making it difficult to use it precisely. The same problem occurs if you need to delete part of the mask. And the larger the brush, the more slowly it follows your mouse. A minor inconvenience as I never really needed it in practice. Using anchor points worked well enough for me with the images I chose.
I did catch an issue when I posted an .mp4 to Facebook. PhotoMirage output a 10 sec. clip for Facebook that cycles continually. While in the software the cycle is flawless, I noticed a slight “jump” when the video recycled every 10 seconds. Whether this is attributable to PhotoMirage or Facebook processing, I have no idea.
How It Compares
Being the first program I am aware of to animate still photos, there is little to compare it against. Its only competition is cinemagraphs that require some advance planning, multiple still images or video captures, and lots of careful post-production. While PhotoMirage offers less options and less precision than a cinemagraph, its simplicity, ease of use, and low cost make it a unique resource for photographers looking to separate their work from the mass of imagery online.