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The Ken Burns effect: Using static photos in your videos

/ WeVideo

Have you ever felt dissatisfied adding a photo to a video project? Most of the time, a still photo can make a video feel boring and more like a slideshow. 

One way to eliminate this feeling is to add movement to a photo using the Ken Burns effect. This effect simulates the movement of a handheld camera which, ultimately, makes still photos feel more organic alongside videos.

Keep reading to learn more about the Ken Burns effect and how you can incorporate it into your next video project.

What is the Ken Burns effect?

The Ken Burns effect is a combination of panning and zooming a photo to give it a handheld camera feel. The smooth motion of this effect brings photos to life. This effect is commonly used in films that rely heavily on images; however, its simplicity allows it to be used broadly across the film industry. 

Why is it called the Ken Burns effect?

The Ken Burns effect is named after notable documentarian, Ken Burns. Burns gained popularity for his specific style, which can now be found in many documentaries.

To better understand the Ken Burns effect, watch the video below.

4 tips for using the Ken Burns effect

While there is no perfect recipe for applying this effect to your photos, these tips will help you maximize its potential. 

1. Zoom with purpose

The zoom component of the Ken Burns effect has a major influence on the overall feel of a photo. For instance, zooming in creates intimacy; whereas, zooming out highlights detail. 

That being said, make sure not to over-zoom. This can leave you in a pixelated mess. By maintaining an appropriate amount of zoom, your photos will stay sharp and look great. 

2. Vary movement

Refrain from using the same pan and zoom movements on all of your photos. Having a variety of different movements in your project will make your video more interesting. Whether it be panning up instead of down or zooming in instead of out, there are a ton of different combinations to make your video feel more natural. 

3. Mind your speed

Make sure to pay attention to the speed of your movements. Alternating between drastically different speeds will make your video feel less fluid and difficult to watch. 

Keep in mind that the duration of your photo has a lot to do with the speed of the movement. Think of it as a race between a bike and a car. Both are going the same distance; however the car will take less time to get to the finish line. As a result, the car will have a faster movement. 

4. Avoid hard transitions

A hard transition is characterized as an immediate switch between two different clips. Hard transitions are the most common transitions in the film industry, however, they do not look the best when using the Ken Burns effect. 

Try using cross-fade, dip to black, or other transitions to give flow to your video.

Adding Ken Burns Effect in WeVideo

You don't need to be a video pro to apply the Ken Burns effect in WeVideo. Check out how to use it on one or multiple photos.

Applying the Ken Burns effect to one photo

A great way to have full creative control of your slideshow is to apply the Ken Burns effect one photo at a time. By doing so, you get to decide the speed and location of the movement for each photo. 

WeVideo online video editing dashboard with a photo of a beach in the timeline.

First, you need to drop content into the timeline. You can start by importing your own media or using the WeVideo Essentials library. On your Timeline, double-click your desired photo to open up the Clip Editor

WeVideo online video editing dashboard Animation tab with a photo of a beach in the preview window.

Once you are in the Clip editor, navigate to the Animation tab. This is where the magic happens. 

Blue box highlighting the Start toggle in the Animation tab.

You’ll be prompted to decide the position of your photo’s start point. Use the Scale and Position toggles to adjust the position of your photo. Alternatively, you can drag your photo in the preview window to adjust its position. 

Blue box highlighting the End toggle in the Animation tab.

Once you have decided on your photo’s start point, select End to decide on your photo’s endpoint. Just like before, use the Scale and Position toggles to adjust the position of your photo (however, make sure your endpoint is in a different position than your start point). 

Additionally, if you would like to easily add a transition to the beginning and end of your photo, select the Fade box. 

WeVideo online video editing timeline previewing a photo of a beach with the Ken Burns effect.

Once you feel like your photo is ready to go, select Save Changes. Your work here is done!

Applying the Ken Burns effect to multiple photos

While you may not be able to get as granular with the multi-select tool, it is a great way to accomplish the Ken Burns effect in just a few seconds. 

Six photos of the beach highlighted in the WeVideo online editing timeline.

On your Timeline, select the photos that you would like to apply the effect to and right-click any highlighted thumbnail. Then, select Adjust duration to open up the Photo options window.

WeVideo online video editing photo options window.

From there, the Ken Burns effect will already be selected. Once you specify the duration of your photos, click Done. Just like that, you have conquered the Ken Burns effect in only a few seconds!

To get a deeper walkthrough of the features discussed in this blog, check out the WeVideo Academy