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Turn Old Family Photos into Lifelike Animations

by Elizabeth Harper on February 26, 2021

Today we capture high resolution photos and 4K 60fps video from our phones — but our old family photos don't have any of the benefits of technology. Old photos can be grainy and discolored, while black and white photos are often stiff and formal. But now there's a way to bring our old photos to life with a new photo animating tool from genealogy site MyHeritage called Deep Nostalgia. The site already offers a great suite of photo tools that can enhance, colorize and color correct your family photos. The company's new Deep Nostalgia tool brings these enhanced photos to life with animation, which can make a big difference in how we view our oldest ancestors.

Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning to combine still photos with video sequences of natural human gestures — generated by recording real people — to make faces that move, blink, and smile at the camera. The tool matches the image with one of several sets of gestures depending on the position of the face, pairing the image with the animation that looks most natural. The tool is rather limited: it only works on faces, it can only animate one face in a photo, and it has a limited range of gestures. The animated faces make small movements, turning or dipping heads, smiling slightly and blinking naturally. The result of these effects is mixed: on some photos it can look strikingly real, while others may look bizarre.

It seems to work best on images where the subject is directly facing the camera — portraits capture from the side or where the head is tipped significantly up or down don't seem to match up with the animations as well. Neutral expressions also seem to be a must, as pictures of people with broad smiles may be distorted into more neutral expressions. The sharper your original photo, the better the end result, and MyHeritage will automatically enhance photos before animating them. Deep Nostalgia works great on old black and white portraits, which typically have subjects looking straight in the camera without smiling. But more modern images, particularly casual snapshots, don't always come out as well.

It doesn't cost you anything to animate your first few photos and check out what Deep Nostalgia can do, but after that you'll need a MyHeritage Complete subscription. At $299 per year (discounted to $179 for your first year), it's pricey if you just want to edit photos, but the site also offers an impressive set of tools for researching family history. If you're interested in building out your family tree, you get a lot for your money.

You can upload photos at the MyHeritage website to animate and share them without even making an account. It's a quick process, taking less than 20 seconds. When you upload photos, you retain ownership and you can delete them at any time — which is always an important thing to check before you upload content anywhere. You can also control whether others can see your photos: navigate to My Privacy under your account name and check the Access and Content permissions in the left-hand column. By default, you photos aren't shared, but it's a good habit to double check anyway.

Now you're ready to animate your photo library!

[Image credit: Techlicious/MyHeritage


Photo / Video Sharing, News, Cameras and Photography, Computers and Software, Family and Parenting, Blog

Discussion loading


From Lori on February 26, 2021 :: 4:37 pm

Thank you so much for introducing me to this awesome software. You helped bring my brother back to life. It’s a little bit odd, but incredible at the same time!



From Poppy on March 02, 2021 :: 11:50 pm

It is a honey trap. The result is nice but they force you into paid subscription.



From Josh Kirschner on March 03, 2021 :: 10:23 am

You can upload and transform photos for free. Sure, MyHeritage ultimately wants you to subscribe to their service, but there’s no requirement to do so. I use MyHeritage for my family tree and DNA tracking, too, but I don’t pay for that either.



From Les on March 24, 2021 :: 11:50 pm

What Poppy means is that after 10 free animation transforms, MyHeritage locks you out of the app unless you upgrade to paid service.



From Christine Chris M on April 25, 2021 :: 3:06 pm




From Patrick on May 24, 2022 :: 7:05 pm

The technology is nice, but “free” is a word used by these reviews “very freely”! Most say things like “free download”, but, of course if you want to do anything after the download, you have to sign up “and pay, pay, pay”.
Great if you only have a family of ten people, after that, pay up or go away!
Why can’t these so-called reviews be honest and tell what is actually going on? No doubt they are getting paid for their promotions!



From Josh Kirschner on May 27, 2022 :: 10:11 am

We actually never used the word “free” in our review at all: “It doesn’t cost you anything to animate your first few photos and check out what Deep Nostalgia can do, but after that you’ll need a MyHeritage Complete subscription. At $299 per year (discounted to $179 for your first year), it’s pricey if you just want to edit photos…”

Don’t know how we could have been any more clear than that. And no, we were not compensated for this story, we believed it would be something that our readers (at least some of them) would find interesting and valuable.


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