Learn How To Make a Great Cinemagraph

I get asked this question a lot… and though some of it comes down to bias, there are a few key components that turn a good cinemagraph, into a great cinemagraph. So, what makes a great cinemagraph? Read on to find out.

Start Creating Great Cinemagraphs with These Tips

1. Compose Your Cinemagraph Like a Photo

Putting your camera or iOS device on a tripod, and hitting record isn’t enough. Sure, you’ll get some stable video footage, but your shot will be missing something… That something is composition.

Compose your cinemagraph like you would compose a photo. The magic behind cinemagraphs is that they appear to be a photo with a hint of motion. If you aren’t shooting your source video with photographic intention, then it will just fall flat. Trust me, I’ve gone through my fair share of “meh” cinemagraphs. Think about your framing, where your subject is positioned and more. Once you start applying the art of composition, you’ll be shocked by how much your cinemagraphs improve.

Cinemagraph by Max Kruse

TIP: Check out the scene in your viewfinder. Are you inspired by it? Every great cinemagraph can also make a great still photo, but the motion adds an extra level to the experience.

2. Good Lighting Means A Great Cinemagraph

Like in all great photography and video, light is your subject. Light determines the quality of your visual, how your subject is defined and more. Whether it’s using the natural light around you, or enhancing the scene with some external lights, good lighting leads to a better cinemagraph.

This is particularly important considering that many cinemagraphs use a frame from the source video as the still photo portion. If the lighting is poor, you will start to see some grain and “softness” in your visual creation, which brings down the overall quality.

Find the light. Use the light.

Cinemagraph by iyl86

TIP: If you’re using external lights to brighten up your scene, make sure they’re constant lights. Strobe lighting won’t do. 

3. Think About How to Create a Seamless Loop

After spending time composing your shot and making sure it’s properly lit… it would be a shame for your cinemagraph to fall short with a poorly executed loop!

Now, though the looping action is applied within the app, it’s crucial to think about what you want in motion, and how that will loop WHILE you’re setting up your shot. Don’t make it an afterthought. Nobody wants to get into post-production and think, “If only I’d done xyz differently”.

Visualize the end result, and setup your shot accordingly. Ask yourself: What sort of loop will be applied – bounce or repeat? A bounce loop brings the motion from beginning to end, then from end to beginning. A repeat loop brings the motion from beginning to end, then blended into the beginning again.

Bounce loops work great for motion with objects going back and forth, like trees swaying from side to side, or a person waving. Repeat loops work great for anything that naturally has a repeat motion, like a crackling fire, or clouds passing by.

Cinemagraph by Apricot Berlin

TIP: Know when to apply a bounce, or a repeat loop. The cinemagraph above uses a repeat loop. It might look a little funny if the honey swirled down, then reversed and swirled back up!

Let me know if this post helped you, or if you’d like us to tackle some more specific topics.

(Flixel Marketing Manager)

When Cassandra was six, she was asked to share a story with her class…and hasn’t stopped telling them since. Now she does so through photography, video and writing, but with the same sense of wonder - and love for glitter - as her inner kid.

  • Kelli M Tingey

    Awesome discussion. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.