Create a Professional Photo Montage in Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro 14/10/2020 6 min read

Photo montages are a great way to show still images in a captivating way on video, whether it’s recapping your family vacation or presenting a new program at work. By adding music, transitions, and the Ken Burns effect, you can link your photos together to tell an exciting story for the viewer. 

In this tutorial, we’re going to show how you can quickly create a Premiere Pro photo montage, including some advanced tips to make your montage really stand out. Let’s get started!

Part 1: How to Quickly Make a Basic Photo Montage

Premiere Pro has a number of tools to automate the production of your photo montage so that you can create a quality video quickly, even if you have hundreds of pictures to include. 

Step 1: Setup Preferences in Premiere Pro

Before you get started editing your video, it helps to set up Premiere Pro with the default settings you’d like to use for your montage.

  1. Navigating to Preferences > Timeline, here you can choose 2 important settings for your project.
  2. Adjust Still Image Default Duration to the number of seconds you’d like each image to display in your montage. We recommend between 3 – 5. 
  3. Adjust Video Transition Default Duration to the number of seconds you’d like transitions to last. Usually, .5 to 1 second is plenty. 
  4. If your images are really large—like your stock photos from a DSLR camera—you might want to scale them down to prevent slow-down. You can do this by navigating to Preferences > Media and setting Default Media Scaling to “Scale to Frame Size.”
  5. Press OK to close Preferences.

Step 2: Import Your Images & Add Them to the Timeline

After choosing your defaults in Step 1, it’s time to import and arrange your photos in the order you’d like to show them in the video.

  1. Set up your Project and Sequence.
  2. In the Project Browser, right-click and select Import.
  3. Navigate to the folder storing your images and click Import. You can select multiple images and import them all at once. 
  4. Arrange your photos into the order you’d like to show them by dragging and dropping them in the project browser. 
  5. Select all the images and drag them over to the timeline together.

Step 3: Scale & Position Your Images

Unless all of your images are exactly the same resolution as your video, you’re going to need to position them a little bit manually. Luckily once you place one, you can copy & paste that change to the rest of your images. 

  1. Move the playhead to the beginning of your timeline and select the first image. You may notice it’s either too big or too small for the video. That’s okay; you’ll adjust the size next. 
  2. In the Effects Controls tab, adjust the number to the right of Scale until the image fills the frame appropriately.
  3. You might also want to adjust the Position of the image, so the subject is framed properly. The 2 numbers to the right of Position are the X and Y coordinates of your image, and changing them will move your image around in the frame. 
  4. From here, you can highlight your clip in the Timeline and copy it by pressing Control C (Command C on Mac).
  5. Drag to select all the images in the timeline, then right-click and select Paste Attributes
  6. If some of your images are different sizes or orientations, you may need to repeat this step for those images. You can always Copy & Paste the attributes from one clip to another. 

Step 4: Add Music & Transitions

Choosing the right song will set the mood for your slideshow and keep viewers engaged. Check out Motion Array’s library to find the perfect royalty free music track.

Premiere Pro also has several built-in transitions to help animate your montage. We used Cross Dissolve in the example below, but you can browse the available transitions and use whichever you prefer. 

  1. Import a song in the Project Browser and drag it into the timeline, so it starts with the first picture. 
  2. If your song is longer than your slideshow, press C to use the Razor Tool and cut the song right at the end of your last image. Now press V to switch back to the Selection Tool. Select the clipped segment that goes beyond the end of your montage and press Delete on your keyboard to get rid of it. 
  3. In the Effects tab, search for Transitions, this should display a number of results. 
  4. Inside Audio Transitions, expand the Crossfade folder, then drag “Constant Power” to the end of the song in your timeline. This will give the song a nice fade-out at the end. 
  5. Back in the Effects tab under Video Transitions expand the Dissolve folder. Right-click Cross Dissolve and set as default transition. 
  6. In the Timeline highlight all of your images and press Control D (Command D for Mac) to apply transitions between all your images. 

Now for the fun part! Move your playhead to the beginning of the timeline and press the spacebar to enjoy your montage! 

Part 2: Pro Tips When Making a Photo Montage

The steps from the first half of this article will build you a basic photo montage quickly. But if you’ve got a little more time on your hands, we have a few tricks to take your video to the next level. 

1. Simulate Camera Movement with the Ken Burns Effect

The Ken Burns effect simulates camera movement to breathe life into still images. This technique is widely used whenever editors need to show still images in a video. Just follow the steps below to create your own Ken Burns effect. 

  1. Move the playhead to the first image in your timeline, in the middle of the clip between the 2 transitions.
  2. In the Effects Controls tab, inside the Motion menu, click the stopwatch icon besides Position and Scale to enable keyframes for those 2 properties. 
  3. Create keyframes for Position and Scale by clicking the grey diamond to the right of each. The diamond should turn blue.
  4. Drag the keyframes you’ve just created to the beginning of the clip.
  5. Adjust the Position and Scale properties again slightly. You can simulate camera zoom by adjusting the scale, or simulate panning and tilting by adjusting the Position. Premiere Pro will automatically animate the motion between your first and last keyframes. 
  6. Drag the keyframes you’ve just created to the end of your clip.
  7. Once you’re satisfied with the effect, highlight your clip in the Timeline and copy it by pressing Control C (or Command C on Mac). 
  8. Now you can highlight the other clips in the timeline, right-click them and select Paste Attributes.
  9. In the Paste Attributes pop-up, make sure Motion is selected, then press OK. Your motion effect will be applied to all the clips you’ve selected.
  10. You might want to repeat this step with different images in your timeline to create some variety in the motion.

2. Cut to the Beat of the Music

You may want to synchronize the cuts in your photo montage to the beats in the song you’ve selected. This will create a rhythmic visual effect like a music video, and can be accomplished easily using Markers and the Automate to Sequence feature in Premiere Pro.

  1. Load your song into the timeline.
  2. Move the playhead to the beginning of the timeline and press M to create a marker for the first frame. You should see a green marker appear above the timeline. 
  3. Now press Space to play the song and tap the M key on your keyboard in time with the beats you’d like your photos to transition on. Try not to do this too often, no faster than once every 2 seconds.
  4. Move the playhead back to the first frame of the Timeline.
  5. Select your imported photos in the Project Browser and press Automate To Sequence.
  6. Change Placement to at Unnumbered Markers to have your pictures placed at the markers you created. 
  7. After you’ve added the footage to the timeline, you can continue on Step 3 from Part 1 above. 

3. Create a Parallax Effect 

By isolating the subject from its background and animating them separately, you can create an extraordinary parallax effect in your montage. The ideal candidate for this effect is an image where the subject is close to the camera and surrounded by a faraway background. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Choose the image you’d like to use and if it’s not already there, drag it to the timeline where you’d like it to appear in your video. 
  2. In the Effects Controls tab under Motion, adjust the scale of the image so it fills the frame, but is still at least 10% larger than your video. This extra space around the picture will be used to create motion in the image. 
  3. In the Timeline, hold Alt and drag the image to the track above itself to create a copy. Press the Eye button to hide the track with the original image, and select the new duplicated image in the Timeline. 
  4. Back in the Effects Controls tab, choose the Pen tool under Opacity.
  5. Now move over to the Program Monitor and place a series of dots outlining your foreground object. The last dot you place should be on the first dot to close the shape mask. 
  6. You should now see just the foreground object against a black background. Bring back the background by clicking the Eye icon to the left of the original image’s track on the timeline. 
  7. Now to animate the 2 layers against each other. Select the first image (the background) and enable scale keyframes by clicking the stopwatch icon next to scale in the Effects Controls tab. 
  8. Create a keyframe at the beginning and end of the clip, and decrease the scale of the ending keyframe by about 10%.
  9. Now with your foreground clip, do the same thing but increase the scale towards the end of the clip about 10%.
  10. If your edges are not perfect and there are some background artifacts in your foreground layer, you may want to select the foreground clip and increase the Mask Feather property in the Effect Controls tab. 

As you can see, creating a basic photo montage in Premiere Pro is easy. And with a few tricks like the Ken Burns effect, cutting to the music, and creating a parallax effect—your video can really bring those photos to life! 

Now if you’d like to really step-up your montage game, Motion Array has thousands of Premiere Pro slideshow templates available with stunning effects and cool themes to make your Premiere Pro photo montage truly stand out. You can also check out the list of our 25 favorite slideshow templates.

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