I am using CS5, and I am pretty new to AE but have been using PS for 15yrs. I have about 8 photo's of a flower that I have masked out. I want to be able to take those 8 seperate images / layers, and have them duplicated to create around 30-40 copies. Then I want to have them randomaly circle around another image in the middle of the frame, kind of like the rings around Saturn. How do I accomplish this? Then I would lie to have a few motion trails follow some of the flowers? I do have particular but have not used it yet.
I suggest you study some of Andrew's tutorials on Video CoPilot. While they usualyl may aim at a different kind of aesthetic, they cover all the techniques. In Particular you would use the images as sprites or textured polys and animate the emitter trajectory, then use perhapse the Aux system for some fancy trails. You could also attach everything to 3D lights... Many ways to skin a cat. Depending on what look you have in mid, you could also simply use good old Card Dance - arrange the images in a grid in a pre-comp, apply the effect, fan them out, animate rotation and a few other parameters.