Suzette Allen: Texas School 2014 & Event Photography with Flixel

Suzette has been teaching Photoshop and digital artistry for 13 years, and is now a leading instructor of living photography, creatively combining video with her still portraits. As a dedicated teacher, she loves to empower photographers to launch into new territories and help them be successful and embrace new technology. Suzette teaches and travels about half of her time with her techie husband, Jon, helping other photographers grow, and happily photographing her world with new eyes and a new perspective! Suzette sat down with us to discuss her experience capturing living photos at Texas School 2014. 

Tell us about your role with the Texas School of Photography?

I have been teaching at Texas School for about 7-8 years, mostly teaching Photoshop and digital Imaging. I’m one of 35+ different instructors, each teaching a 5-day hands on class in Photography. My class this year was in Hybrid, helping students learn how to shoot video and then creatively combine them with still photos for new product lines and profit centers. I shoot with a Panasonic Lumix, which is super easy to do video, but help out many of my students who are using DSLRs as well. It is a fun class and helps them to embrace the new world of video: a fresh new language of communication!

What gear and lighting setup did you use to create these Flixels?

The videos were filmed on a Panasonic Lumix GH3 with a 12-35mm 2.8 lens on a video tripod. The backdrop was 20′ wide, provided by, allowing for all horizontals and large groups. We used all continuous light for video. For the main light, on the left side, we used a Westcott TD6 with a 7′ silver parabolic umbrella and a white diffuser. For the fill light, right behind the camera, we used a Limelight Mosaic, which is a 12” square LED panel with no diffusion.

How easy was it to create Flixels on the fly in the context of an event like this?

We were duly impressed with the smooth system and the flow of the evening! We had our background/set established for a continuous flow of people, with the lights and camera positioned, and two macs with tech guys to create Flixels. One camera guy, one card runner [6 SD cards] and one or two poser/preppers. The posers would describe a Living Photograph as a still photo with a little bit of motion and help them plan what to do (detail later). Of course, the set had stationary props that flashed so that if the movement was not a successfully isolated area, the people could be stationary and the flashing lights could be selected as the moving parts. The Camera guy would shoot 5-10 seconds of video and let them know when the camera was rolling and sometimes help them with their routine or idea. 

The Flixels were displayed live on a 65” monitor (via HDMI) which created a huge crowd and lots of excitement and entertainment! That was definitely a big bonus. Many viewers got great ideas from it and went back through the line for a second photo and fresh motion ideas! Subjects entered from one side of the set and exited from the other. Keeping the creation tables with the monitor after the photo set helped with crowd control, too.

How did people react to the living imagery?

The overwhelming surprise and appeal was fabulous! There was a crowd around the monitor most of the night and lots of laughter and inspiration. Many came up with more creative ideas and ran back into the line to do a second shot! It was awesome to have it directly uploaded to the site as well, so they could instantly share and post the finished Flixels.

How do you “direct” a living photo shoot like this one? Any tips for event photographers?

If you can let people know what flixels are ahead of time, to help them have a mental picture of what the end product is, that would be a huge benefit. But even without that, having an enthusiastic person to prep and inspire them as they approach the set works too.

We described a Living Photo as a “Still photo with just small parts moving. We take a 5-second video and just make a still photo and keep part of it as motion.”

The goal for them was described as: “It is best if you can keep your body perfectly still but just move one thing or one body part.” Or if they wanted to dance around or do crazy things, we told them “spread out so there is space between each of you and don’t overlap each other”. Then they would be ushered to the set, and the photographer would space out the people or help them squeeze in and execute their idea and then shoot 5-10 seconds of their chosen movement idea.

Having them exit out the opposite side of the set kept the flow going and lessened the confusion.

Definitely a photographer should have a run-through to test and be sure the system is worked out and smooth ahead of time. It is also good to have a hosting site built and a strong internet connection established, and workers (especially the poser/preppers) educated on what works and how, so they can give ideas and keep the motion and excitement going with fun ideas!

What makes for a beautiful / stunning Flixel in your opinion?

The impact of a Flixel is isolated movement, but has so much more impact if there SHOULD be more than one element moving, but there is only one. Our brains are immediately alerted to the fact that something is wrong or different here. Our attention is captured and our curiosity peaked. It makes it very easy to create them quickly if you have a stationary area -like a prop or mirror or a framed-in area that shows movement. Sometimes, that scenario is not only easy but also very dynamic, like in the case where a person and his or her reflection is shown in a mirror. The flixel needs to show both the person and the mirror, but the movement is only in the mirror and the actual person is in a frozen pose. The slight delay and element of surprise is also very effective.

Thank you very much Suzette.

To see Suzette’s Flixels of Texas School 2014, click here. To see more of Suzette’s work and portfolio, please visit her at 

Learn more or download a trial version of Cinemagraph Pro for Mac.





  1. Installed the trial version and created one animated GIF. The software was quite slow loading a time-lapse mp4 but I was only using 5 seconds of it so the render of the final gif was acceptable.

    I've created cinemagraphs using Russell Brown's technique and your software was a lot quicker. However, since I don't create cinema graphs that often, I don't think it was $199 easier. I was also annoyed to find a huge watermark on the finished gif. That is very old school and amateurish; I won't be buying.

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