How to Animate Photos

While several computer programs allow you to turn still photographic images into animated films, the process is also possible using simple handheld devices. Optical toys popular in the 19th century brought to life still photographic images. The thaumatrope (a card that spins), flip book, and zoetrope (a drum that spins) depend on the persistence of vision to blend individual images, thereby creating the illusion of continuous motion.

In our web resources, How to Make a Zoetrope provides detailed information to build a zoetrope drum and animation strips. You can watch examples of thaumatropes and flpbooks in Photographic Flip Books and Photographic Thaumatropes, and can view historic and contemporary stereo cards in Stereo Cards.

The Reframing Photography book provides step-by-step instructions for making thaumatropes and flip books. For additional resources and examples of pre-cinematic animation devices, check out the Pre-Cinematic Animation Devices page in our Resources > Topics section of this website.