Create a Photomontage With iMovie

IMovie isn't just for movies

Whether you're in charge of a family reunion, rehearsal dinner, or business event, a photomontage adds an entertaining or informative touch to the occasion. The Mac's iMovie software integrates closely with the Photos application so you can produce a professional-looking photomontage you can be proud of.

The Photos application ships on all Macs, and iMovie is free for Mac users. If you don't have iMovie on your computer, download it from the Mac App Store at no charge.

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Digitize Your Photos

Mac Photos app showing the Favorites folder

Before you begin assembling a photomontage, you need digital copies of all the pictures you plan to use on your Mac. If the images come from a digital camera or you already have them scanned and saved in Photos, you're all set.

If you're dealing with standard photo prints, digitize them at home with a scanner. If you don't have a scanner or if you have a lot of pictures, a local photography store should be able to digitize them for you.

To speed up the montage-making process, place all the selected photos in a single album in the Photos app and name it something easy to remember, such as iMovie album. Otherwise, you can just scroll through Photos and select the ones you want to use randomly.

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Open iMovie

iMovie Projects screen

Open iMovie and select New Movie from the File menu at the top of the screen or use the keyboard shortcut Command + n. In the iMovie screen that opens, click the Projects tab and select the Create New icon with the huge plus mark on it. Choose Movie in the pop-up window.

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Access the Photos App

Access Photos in iMovie

In the iMovie project screen, select the My Media tab followed by Photos in the Libraries section at the left of the main work area. This opens the Photos library previews in iMovie, where you choose the pictures that you want to include in the montage either from a saved iMovie album or by browsing through your Photos albums and selecting individual images.

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Assemble the Photos in the Timeline

Adding images to the iMove timeline

Click on each image to select it. Drag the selected photos to the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Rearrange the order they appear by clicking and dragging each photo into position.

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Go With Ken Burns

my movie screenshot
Method for adding the Ken Burns effect to the photos.

Use the Ken Burns effect to add motion to the images. Select the first photo and click the crop icon above the preview screen at the top of the iMovie window to activate the Ken Burns controls. Click the image in the preview window and position the Start box and the End box in two positions on the photo. Repeat this process for each photo and then click the play control under the preview window to see the effect. This may take some trial and error, but each image can be adjusted individually until you are happy with the final effect.

When you want to check how your photomontage effects look, move the playhead (the vertical yellow line on the timeline), to just before the first photo and click the play control under the preview window.

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Add a Transition

Add Cross Dissolve effect between photos

Other effects are available for use with your photomontage. Transition effects smooth the breaks between photos. While iMovie gives you a selection of transitions to choose from, the simple Cross Dissolve works well with still images without calling too much attention to itself. Select all the images on the timeline, choose Edit from the menu bar and select Add Cross Dissolve. Click the play button under the preview screen to see how it looks. The default cross dissolve time is 1 second, but you can change that by clicking the icon that appears between each image and entering a different number of seconds.

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Add a Title

Adding a title from the Content Library

Click the Titles tab near the top of the screen and select Content Library > Titles to open previews of several title styles. After you find a title style that you like, position the playhead in the timeline in the position where you want the title to appear, which is usually at the beginning. Double-click your favorite title style and type the title over the placeholder text in the preview window. The title screen is added to the timeline.

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Fade to Black

Screen showing various transitions

Open the Transitions menu by going to Window > Content Library > Transitions or by clicking the Transitions tab. Adding a Fade Out, which is with the Transitions, ends the video elegantly. That way, when the pictures finish, you're left with a black screen instead of a frozen final frame of video.

Apply this effect after the last picture in the montage in the same way you did the title and the picture dissolves: Position the playhead and tap Fade to Black in the transitions options.

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Don't Forget the Audio

Adding a sound track to the photomontage

After you have all your photos and effects just the way you like them, take a minute to add a little background music to your photomontage. Click the Audio tab and select a tune from the menu that appears. Click it and drag the song to the timeline beneath the photos. If the music track is too long, side-scroll to the end, click it and pull it back to a point past the last photo where the music ends smoothly.

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Final Steps

Options for sharing the photomontage

It's time to give your photomontage a test run. Move the playhead to just before the first photo on the timeline. Click the play control under the preview window and watch the photomontage from beginning to end to make sure all the picture effects, transitions, and titles look good. If you see anything you want to change, now is the time to do it.

IMovie saves your project as you work, but click File > Share and select Email, iTunes, YouTube or one of the other options available to share your photomontage right away.

Click Projects at the top of the iMovie screen and type a title in the field that opens, which returns you to the original iMovie screen.

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