Create stunning images with only the slightest amount of movement using cinemagraphs.

Top cinemagraph by VIA films from Shutterstock.

Cinemagraphs are the perfect photo/video elements for the web. You can use them in a variety of ways on websites or in social media posts. Let’s see how you can create your own cinemagraphs with these helpful tips.

What Is a Cinemagraph?

Cinemagraph via mikie11 (Shutterstock).

Cinemagraphs are a combination of of still images and video. The term itself is a combination of cinema + photograph. Essentially cinemagraphs are still overlays or mattes that have a moving component in part of the frame.

In the example at the top of the post, the only moving part is the pottery wheel — the clay, hands, and vase are all still. In the example directly above, the clouds and sky move, but the reflection in the water is still.

Cinemagraphs are great for web use because they can be background videos, or you can convert them into high-resolution GIFs that won’t seem too lossy — since only a small part of the frame is actually moving.

How to Shoot a Cinemagraph

Cinemagraphs will start as traditional videos that you will then need to edit and composite. So planning your final look is a must. You need to determine which part of the frame will continue moving, and which part of the frame will be still. 

In this 4-Minute Film School episode from Aputure, the A-team discusses a few tips on shooting cinemagraphs.

Once you determine the cinemagraph’s movement, you’ll then need to decide on the end. Will it loop continuously, or will it bounce backwards (like a Boomerang video)?

Here are a few tips from the Aputure team:

  1. Shoot a few takes with consistent lighting — especially true outdoors.
  2. Keep the cinemagraph as short as possible, generally around 3-seconds.
  3. Minimize motion blur, and crank the shutter speed.
  4. Shoot about 10 seconds of footage, so you can find a perfect start and stop point for looping.
  5. Keep still elements as motionless as possible, including actors.

How to Edit a Cinemagraph

In this follow-up episode of Aputure’s 4-Minute Film School, you can dive in to masking and editing your cinemagraph. As Valentina Vee says in the video, there are two ways to edit a cinemagraph: the easy way and the hard way.

The easy way for Vee is to use the Flixel Cinemagraph Pro app, but the app comes with a $100/per year plan, which includes the app and 1TB of storage. While it may be easier, it’s not as practical as editing it yourself.

You can certainly create a cinemagraph in Premiere Pro.

How to Shoot and Edit Cinemagraphs — Premiere Pro

Find a shot where the beginning of the frame matches the end, so you can get a near-perfect loop. If you can’t get a nice, clean loop, try using a morph cut to ease the transition of the video when it starts over.

Then, feather the edges of the moving part of the cinemagraph to give it a softer and cleaner look.

How to Shoot and Edit Cinemagraphs — Feather Edges

Now take a still, either by capturing a still in Premiere Pro or using a still photo from the shoot, and overlay that on top of your footage.

Then mask out the area that will be still using the lasso tool. If you have the results you need, you’re ready to export.

How to Shoot and Edit Cinemagraphs — Mask

If you can’t get the layers to look right, consider hopping over into After Effects for fine tuning.

VIA films from Shutterstock.

Best of luck shooting your next cinemagraph, and be sure to share it with us in the comments.
Don’t have time? You can always get quality cinemagraphs from this Shutterstock collection.