Photo montages are a great way to tell a story. Filmmaker Ken Burns made it so popular that a style — still photographs slowly zooming in on subjects of interest and panning from one subject to another — was named after him.

Photo montages are widely used in films, documentaries, corporate videos, weddings, even websites, and are fairly easy to create nowadays. Most personal computers come with picture/video editing applications like iMovie or Movie Maker, that offer user-friendly, drag-and-drop timelines with built-in effects to make your photo montage projects nearly effortless.

My father-in-law was having a high school reunion a few years ago and asked me to put together “one of those” photo montages with music, that he could present at the reunion and surprise his classmates. Well, I decided to take it above and beyond and created this 3D photo montage to really bring his photos to life.

The process of creating these animations is very time consuming. You have to cut out the subjects and rebuild the backgrounds in Photoshop, then animate multiple layers with moving 3D cameras in After Effects, and edit it all together to take it from a simple 2-dimensional photo montage to an exciting video-like montage that looks so much more interesting.

Mission accomplished. My father-in-law and his classmates were surprised, impressed and feeling a little bit more nostalgic after the presentation.