Every time we hear someone tell us that cinemagraphs are a fad or a gimmick, we like to direct them to our growing community of creators, marketers and enthusiasts who are seeing higher performance in their marketing and turning a profit because of their living photos.
Meet Jencey Provoost, an average student in Belgium who, like many others around the world, needed to finance his post-graduate studies at Lancaster University. After discovering cinemagraphs in an article on the marketing website Bloovi, Jencey identified their limitless potential from both a marketing and business venture perspective. With some market research and basic photography skills, he decided to monetize the opportunity by getting into the cinemagraph business to tackle his education expenses.
And boy, did it pay off.
In just under one year as a cinemagraph freelancer, Jencey managed to reach a turnover of $26,000 with a net revenue of $12,500 that helped him take care of the tuition for his Advanced Marketing Management program at Lancaster University, with a little leftover to help pay for his accommodation as well. It’s that kind of success that begs the question: how did Jencey, a visual enthusiast, manage to turn a fascination into a full-blown money-making business with cinemagraphs?
Here are six tips that we learned from Jencey that can help you transform your cinemagraph passion into a cinemagraph business.
Tip #1: Invest In The Right Equipment and Tools
There are three main ingredients required for a cinemagraph: a camera, stable footage and Flixel Cinemagraph Pro. Early on in his business, Jencey knew he needed the right tools to get his business going. “The Nikon J5 – quite basic,” he recalled when asked about his cinemagraph toolbox. “I bought a few zoom lenses and a tripod that I had bought second-hand online.”
The third piece took a little bit longer. “For the first few months I was working together with an animator,” Jencey admitted, mentioning that his collaborator used a combination of Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere. When Jencey came across Flixel in May 2015, he knew the Cinemagraph Pro tool would help him lower his costs. “I could deliver them more quickly as I wanted to because at that time I was still working full-time.”
Tip #2: Make Sure You Have An Accessible Portfolio
Like any hiring process, your potential employers and contractors want to see what you can do. You need to create an accessible, shareable portfolio for your cinemagraphs that displays them in their mesmerizing glory. Providing a home where your work can be found reflects your own professionalism, allows potential collaborators to see your work and in Jencey’s case, gives you an opportunity to be the answer to what marketers and small businesses are looking for.
“I started Googling around ‘Cinemagraph Belgium’. There was almost no one if you search. So I said, ‘Okay, I need a website to start a cinemagraph site to post,’ and not much text. Then I got to second place [on the Google Search Results Page] and then things got rolling.’
Tip #3: Network, Network, Network.
It’s funny how easily you can build your client base if you start with what – or rather, who – you know. While some people in your inner circles are easier than other, Jencey was lucky enough to bring his employer on board with his cinemagraph venture. “I started shooting a bit for a company I was working for that was B2B. I shot some [cinemagraphs] for some of our brands that used them in presentations, and in exhibitions.”
When Jencey saw the seeds of success begin to grow, the possibility of a freelance business became bigger. Naturally, his efforts to build a client base increased. “I went to a few fairs, where there were a lot of advertising people, and I got contacts there. Then there were bigger clients with bigger budgets.”
But he soon realized that for a medium like cinemagraphs, it was best to scope out their natural habitat: social media.
Tip #4: Use Social Media To Connect With Prospective Clients
Although the social media landscape has become a fairly conventional setting for relationship building, many still feel apprehensive to start a conversation in a space that appears informal. But maybe a touch of personality is what you need to get moving on your cinemagraph business.
“When my website was finished and online, I was contacting lots of restaurants with over 2,000 likes on Facebook. I sent them a message explaining what is a cinemagraph; would you be interested?” he said, mentioning that he obtained about twenty clients when he first started his outreach.
The key, according to Jencey, is to start small. “Work for smaller clients, [such as] restaurants around your neighbourhood that are doing well and are excited about cinemagraphs,” he said. “Don’t be afraid – I even used LinkedIn!”
Tip #5: Don’t Shy Away From Collaboration
Starting your own business is challenging, but things can be significantly less daunting if you seek help. Although Jencey learned the basics of photography during his undergraduate program, once he became an expert cinemagraph producer, he sought to collaborate with photographers on bigger projects. He frequently worked alongside a young and talented photographer named Marloes Desterbecq and even eventually connected with Flixel’s Mark Homza for guidance.
To make your business thrive, find talented individuals who support your vision, inspire new ideas and skills, and pursue mutual growth.
Tip #6: Be Passionate About Your Cinemagraphs
If you’re thinking about starting a cinemagraph business, you’re likely committed to the idea of cinemagraphs as a viable means to profit. But as you grow your client base, just remember to stay passionate about the medium itself. You are a storyteller with an incredible ability to transform standard art, daily behaviours, and stale concepts into visual living experiences. The more passionate you are, the better your stories will be for both your clients and your audience.
Maybe you’ll become so passionate about cinemagraphs that you’ll design studies surrounding them; seriously. These days, Jencey is developing a thesis to investigate the effects of cinemagraphs. “We’re using eye tracking tools from Tobii Studios, to create heat maps and gaze glasses,” he explained with excitement. “I’m going to track participants eyes and see how long they’re looking at cinemagraphs.” By doing so Jencey can identify how cinemagraphs can impact attention recall and clicks, which may mean higher sales conversions for photographers, marketers and small businesses alike, and change how they market on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.
Jencey saw cinemagraphs as an opportunity. Jencey became deeply passionate about cinemagraphs, and profited from them too. Now Jencey is researching cinemagraphs to see how they will change digital marketing.
Be like Jencey.