Greta Larkins has been able to turn GIF making into a full-time career. In 2011 she established FashGIF, a Tumblr where she posts her animated appropriations of fashion photos sourced from all over the internet. Her images now receive thousands of comments and reblogs, and they’ve gained her work from industry leaders like Anya Hindmarch, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co., and eBay.
Larkins has so many clients that she's left behind previous jobs in product development, trend forecasting, advertising, and acting for fashion GIF-making. From her bedroom in Melbourne, Larkins is creating her own dialogue with the global fashion world—and fans, followers, and brands worldwide are taking note. We caught up with her to find out how she does it.
The Creators Project: Do you consider yourself an artist?
Greta Larkins: Oh no [laughs]. Art, for me—it’s not what I do. I would say I’m more like a creative re-toucher.
Are you really, really good at Photoshop?
I taught myself how to use basic Photoshop when I was about 20. I still teach myself. I should probably branch out into other programs; I’m pretty limited when it comes to perspective or anything 3D, which is basically because of the limits of Photoshop. Sometimes you want a GIF to look really fake because that’s where the humor lies, but if you doctor it too much people are just like, “This has gone too far.”
What can’t you do in Photoshop?
Making hands move is really hard.
Oh yeah, I did see your Margiela couture GIF with the model’s hands moving.
They’re my hands!
How did you do that?
I put my hand against the wall and filmed it on my iPhone. You know how you cut an image out like a clipping? I just did that around my own hand. I do that quite a bit if I think there’s something that’s more human that needs animating. If you want to get hair to move though it needs to be a cinemograph, otherwise it looks so fake. That’s the new frontier: it used to be water, now it’s hair. Tangled, brave—they have hair teams.
Some of your GIFs are quite subtle. The fun is almost in looking out for what’s different about the photo, like the Lolita one.
I made a Atelier Versace couture one recently and I was like, “I’ve taken this too far. It’s basically not moving.” You pretty much need to zoom in on it to see it. The obvious ones are often more work; the more it’s moving, the more retouching you have to do. So it’s sort of about weighing up the amount of hours against the end result.
What’s the longest you’ve ever spent on a GIF?
About six hours, but for clients it can build because I always ask for feedback.
Who are you working with at the moment?
I’ve just finished working with JanSport, who have a really strong Tumblr presence. I’m also working with Anya Hindmarch. They really see the value in online content and engaging the customer. They know how fun their own product is and they enjoy exploring it.
What’s the process like working with those bigger clients overseas?
Some brands love Skype. I recently worked with Roger Vivier, the luxury handbag company based in Paris. That was a nice Skype call, because they have the most beautiful office. The ideal scenario is that they’ll send me a batch of approved, already retouched images and they’ll go, “We’ve sent you 20 images. We want five GIFs. What do you see?”
What is your relationship with Tumblr like?
About two years into having Tumblr, I was contacted by them and they said they really liked what I was doing and wanted to feature me in their spotlight section where they showcased the best Tumblrs in their opinion. It looked pretty great because you were featured alongside big magazines and high profile people in the industry, so it definitely lent a lot of weight to FashGIF and it helped me gain followers quite quickly. They’re all about supporting and showcasing emerging talent, and they’re really supportive. Tumblr only functions as a result of its users.
Do you only make GIFs of clothes that you personally like?
I look for a good photo first and foremost. If I’m animating it, there’s something I like about it. I’m pretty conscious of having a representation of different models, but I’m also conscious of which models are popular. It’s weighing up between my favorite models and what everyone’s into at the moment.
Do you think that there’s a limit to how far the GIF can go?
The question is how much can I evolve. I could send you umpteen examples of where I’ve done the same GIF six or seven times. I’d like to think they’re getting better and more polished. When I first started GIFs they could only be two frames, now I can do anywhere up to about fifteen. That’s been awesome; I can really have a lot more fun. Something that I’m exploring at the moment is working on animating existing video footage.
What have been your most popular GIFs?
One’s a Valentino shot from a few years ago; I think it has 13K or 14K likes. Valentino even tweeted about it. Another one that got a lot of traction was from one of Raf Simons’ Dior shows. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not perfect, and it didn’t take long, but it just hit a note with people.
So what’s the formula for reblogs and notes?
Interestingly, they’re both detail shots—you can’t see anyone’s face. They’re very pretty—a feminine, pastel kind of aesthetic. Another GIF to get popular early on was from an Aquilano Rimondi show. They did this Gustav Klimt print and I made a GIF with the worst hangover known to man. Whenever I see it now all I can think about is the hangover! I put one of his paintings on top of it. People love art. I recently said that there’s things you can do to get a lot of notes and I take that back. I’m wrong. I don’t know what the trick is, and that’s probably a good thing because if I kept trying to make them to get notes I would just not have any fun.
This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Australia.