Cinemagraphs — a still photo with one moving part — have spread to every corner of the internet over the last couple of years. These tutorials will show you how to make your very own animated GIF cinemagraphs in After Effects and Photoshop.

Image via Shutterstock

Have you seen those animated GIF images bouncing around the internet on Facebook and Tumblr? They’re pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that you don’t have to be a world-class video editor to put one together. It’s actually quite simple and can be easily accomplished. Before we jump in, here’s an example of what we’re talking about.

How to Make Cinemagraphs in After Effects and Photoshop
Image via Wikimedia Commons

With the right composition and a careful juxtaposition between the still part of the image and the moving part, cinemagraphs really can be quite beautiful. Let’s explore how you can edit one of your own with either After Effects or Photoshop. But first, in case you are looking to shoot your footage yourself, here are a few helpful points.

Tips for Shooting Cinemagraph Footage

How to Make Cinemagraphs in After Effects and Photoshop - Tips for Footage
Image via Shutterstock

There’s no reason to overcomplicate this, but you do want to make sure the footage you’re working with is shot correctly and ready to edit. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Keep Your Shot Static and Stable

Shooting a cinemagraph is similar to shooting a timelapse. You need your camera in a static position where it doesn’t move around in the slightest. A tripod is always the best way to go, but in a pinch you can place it on a solid surface — just don’t leave it in your hands!

2. Shoot Enough Footage

A cinemagraph usually isn’t more than a few seconds, but to put together a good edit, you’ll need to shoot longer than that. Especially if you’re looking for something specific in your image, you’ll want to have a decent single take to pull from. I recommend at least 20-30 seconds for a 2-3 second cinemagraph.

3. Set Your Focus

Cinemagraphs, like their name implies, are cinematic in nature. That is, they employ the same cinemagraphic elements which you see in professional photography. A key component is depth of field and focus. I suggest putting the part of your cinemagraph which you want to be in motion as the focus with a shallow depth of field making everything else more blurry.

Edit Your Cinemagraph in Photoshop

Like I said at the beginning, the basics of creating a cinemagraph are actually quite simple. The entire process is built around creating a loop, duplicating a still layer, and covering up everything but the motion. For those most comfortable with photography, Photoshop is a great option for putting together your cinemagraph. Photoshop Tutorials by PHLEARN is a good resource for Photoshop and has a nice tutorial for cinemagraph editing.

Edit Your Cinemagraph in After Effects

If you’re more of a video editor than photography editor, After Effects will be your better option and will offer you a little more control. It is also a better resource for adding other effects if you’re looking to really create something magical. The concepts remains the same, but here’s a step-by-step tutorial for After Effects (and another take on Photoshop as well) by Vox Lab.

Other Resources to Try

Outside of After Effects and Photoshop, you can also work with third-party software and online platforms to create and even host your cinemagraphs. Here are a few to check out.

  • Fixel — a subscription Mac-friendly cloud-based app, Fixel allows you to share and stream, watermark your work, destination link, and license and control your work.
  • Cliplets — a free Windows-based app that allows you to upload and mix a static image with dynamic elements by pausing the background elements which you wish to freeze.
  • Giphy — while not an actual resource for creating your cinemagraph, it is a great place to find others, host your own, or animate GIFs from your longer video clips. A cinemagrapher’s go-to in a pinch.

Have any other cinemagraph tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments.