Create Cinematic Effect with Photos in Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro 24/02/2021 5 min read

Photos can often be a little problematic when it comes to editing and how to make them engaging for a viewer. You can add many effects to your images in post-production, such as tracking or zooming motions. If you are searching for effects that are a little more dynamic, check out this fantastic effect for photos in Premiere Pro.

Part 1: Create Your Cinematic Effect with Photos in Premiere Pro

All your images will be different, and this effect won’t be ideal for all of them. However, the skills we’re going to show you can be mixed and matched with other photo effects, giving you the tools to create complex compositions.

Step 1: Creating More Space

The first step is to create additional areas around your image to avoid black edges when you begin to animate. If you are working with video footage, this step should be done in Premiere Pro, but if you have a still image, you can also achieve this in Photoshop.

  1. Drag your video file to the Timeline and place the Playhead when you want to create a still.
  2. Go to the Export Still button on your Playback window and save your image.
  3. Delete your video clip, import your still image, and drag it to the Timeline.
  4. Select the image and change the scale to 50%.
  5. Hold down your ALT key and drag the image to a new layer to create a copy. Change the new layer’s position to sit to the first image’s right; a little overlap is okay.
  6. Go to the Effects Panel and search for Flip. Add a Horizontal Flip to your second layer.
  7. Duplicate the second layer and reposition to sit on the left side of the original image.
  8. Select all three layers, right-click and choose Nest…
  9. Repeat these steps using the Nested Layer, duplicating and positioning above and below the first layer. This time use the Vertical Flip effect.
  10. When you have created a seamless screen of images, select all the clips and Nest them again.
  11. Finally, export a Still Frame of the Image, and replace your Nested Sequence with the latest photo.

Step 2: Adding Perspective

Adding Perspective to a shot can give the simulation of a 3D effect, but you are just warping the image in reality. Warping can create some cool effects, but if you want to keep the Composition realistic, you should use subtle warping effects.

  1. In the Effects Control Panel, adjust your image Position, Scale, and Rotation to where you want the image to start, add Keyframes for each of these values.
  2. Move along the Timeline depending on the duration of the movement and add a second set of Keyframes. Adjust the values to the new Position and Scale.
  3. Check the animation to ensure that no black edges can be seen as the image rotates.
  4. Cut the end of the clip so that there is no additional image past the Keyframes. Place your Playhead on the last frame of your Image and Export a Still frame.
  5. Import the new Still Frame and add it to the Timeline. The position should line perfectly with the end of your photo animation.
  6. Go to the Effects Control Panel and search for Corner Pin; drag your new Photo effect.
  7. Place your Playhead on the first frame of your New Image, and create Keyframes for the Scale, Bottom Left, and Bottom Right corner pins.
  8. Move the Playhead along the Timeline and create the second set of Keyframes. Adjust the values to warp the images toward you, and Scale in as you would like.

Step 3: Add Directional Blur

The final optional effect is to add some directional blur to your image’s sides to create the effect of camera motion and depth of focus.

  1. Select your layer in the Timeline and add the Directional Blur Effect from the Effects Control Panel.
  2. Choose your blur direction and amount. Click on the Rectangle icon to add a Mask.
  3. Position the Mask to one side of your image, and adjust the Feather to blend into your image.
  4. Repeat the process, reversing the Blur Direction and Masking the opposite side of your image.
  5. Finally, at the beginning and end of the clip, add a Keyframe for Blur Length. Change the first Keyframe Values to 0 so that the effect builds as the image zooms in.

Part 2: Tips When Working with Photos in Premiere Pro

Scale to Frame Size

Premiere has several preferences for treating images when imported, which can save you a lot of time when Importing a lot of pictures.

In the Media Preferences, you can select the Default Media Scaling. Choose Set to Frame to import your images at the correct Frame Size without losing any quality. Scale to Frame Size will enlarge your pictures to the size of your Composition and can lose quality.

Adjust the photo’s Default Duration

Another handy preference to play around with is the Default Image Duration, which allows you to change the images’ duration when they are added to the Timeline. This can be particularly helpful when creating slideshows where you know all of your pictures need a specific length.

Use Automate to Sequence for time-lapse effect

If you need to work with many images, you can quickly create a sequence from the Project Browser window. Select all of the pictures and use the Automate to Sequence button. You will be able to choose to order the images sequentially or in the order in which you selected them in the browser.

If you want to use the Sequential setting, you may need to rename some or all of your files. Fortunately, Premiere has a shortcut for this task as well. Select all of your images and choose Tools > Batch Rename.

Anchor Points 

Anchor Points are essential for animating your images, as it is the reference point to which Premiere attaches all of your Keyframes. A poorly placed Anchor Point can change how the animation looks, such as the point from which your image scales up/down, so it is vital to get them right.

Select your image in the Timeline and click on the Anchor Point setting in the Effects Controls Panel; you will see a blue circle on the Anchor Point’s image. To adjust the Anchor Point, either drag the blue circle or use the Effects Control Panel’s numerical values.

Color Space

Some images will not import into Premiere Pro, such as .tiff files produced for printing; this is because of the Color Profile of the Image and is easily fixed. Images for print will use a CMYK color profile, whereas video requires an RGB color profile. A quick and straightforward way to convert the image is to open the .tiff in Photoshop and save the picture as a PNG.


Animation Presets can save you a lot of time when working with image animation, and it is super easy to save your favorite and most used animation styles. Create your keyframes as usual, go to the Effects Controls Panel, and right-click on the Motion tab. Name your Preset and find it in the Effects Panel, ready to drag and drop on your images.

Whether you’re an experienced Editor looking to add some flair to a slideshow, or a photographer looking for a simple image sequence system, the skills and tricks we’ve taught you here can save you time and add creativity to any project. Now you know how to animate still images in Premiere Pro, why not check out this handy guide to creating Premiere Pro Photo Montages.