How To Shoot a Portrait Cinemagraph

Cinemagraphs are a compelling medium that tell a unique story. Many of the best cinemagraphs include a person. Why? Because people make a scene more personal, while helping to draw the viewers eye. That’s why I’m going to teach you how to shoot a portrait cinemagraph, from start to finish.

By Thomas Brand

Cinemagraph by Thomas Brand

Creating cinemagraphs can be extremely simple, but when using a person as the subject, there are a few key tips that you’ll need to take into consideration. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to shoot a portrait cinemagraph to get the best results possible.

How To Shoot a Portrait Cinemagraph

STEP 1: Setup Equipment

You’ll need three items:

  1. SLR or iOS device that records HD video or higher
  2. Tripod
  3. Cinemagraph Pro

Start setting up your shot by testing out different camera angles and securing your tripod in place.

Cinemagraphs are based in video footage. If you’re planning on using any lighting equipment, make sure that it is constant lighting, not strobe lighting. If you use strobe lighting, then you may suddenly have flashing in your cinemagraph, or the still frame is much brighter than the video portion of the cinemagraph. Cinemagraphs need to be a seamless blend of photo and video to trick the viewer into thinking they’re seeing a moving photo.

Once you’ve got all of your equipment setup, it’s time to move onto step 2.

STEP 2: Compose the Shot

The biggest tip I can give you, is also the simplest one: compose your shot like you would compose a photo. If you’re a photographer, you’ve already mastered this! All of the attention will be on the model, so make sure the composition of your portrait cinemagraph stands out. Think of it like this: a great cinemagraph can also be a great still photo; the motion just adds to the overall scene.

Cinemagraph by MVK Photo

Think about what sort of loop you want to use in the cinemagraph before actually shooting it. Repeat loops work well for things like flowing water, or rising steam, but a bounce loop may be more appropriate for someone waving or hair moving in the breeze.

STEP 3: Direct Your Subject

For people who haven’t modelled for cinemagraphs before, this part is crucial. It’s best to show the model(s) what a cinemagraph is, explain how it is created, and then direct them from there.

Depending on the movement you wish to achieve in the cinemagraph, the tips you give to your subject may vary. If you only want the background in motion, and the model still—then that’s simple! You just need to hit record, capture the perfect pose, then have them leave the scene so that you capture video footage that contains the ideal motion.

If you want the motion to be on the model, then you’ll need to guide them. For example, if you want their hair to flow softly in the wind, then you’ll need them to stay as still as possible, posing, while you apply wind to the hair. Or if you want the model to blink, but everything else be motionless, then you’ll need them to keep their head and body as still as possible. Sometimes holding their breath can help them stay still!

Cinemagraph by apricotberlin

You’ll often need lots of patience when capturing motion on a model. Generally speaking, we recommend filming a few takes, so that you have options to work with when editing. Pay close attention to what you’re filming to ensure you’ve got the perfect shot before moving onto the next concept.

STEP 4: Use Cinemagraph Pro

If you’ve done all of the steps above, then this last one will be a breeze. Import your clip into Cinemagraph Pro and adjust the timeline to fit the motion you are showing in the cinemagraph. If you shot a cinemagraph concept with just the motion in the background, select the frame that your subject is in using the Still Image tab, then use the trimmer to select the video that doesn’t include your subject, but contains the ideal motion. Use the paintbrush tool to mask away at the part of the photo where you want to show the motion. You can make finer adjustments to the mask by tweaking the opacity, hardness, and size of the paintbrush. Following that, you’ll need to set the loop to either bounce or repeat. Tada, you’re done! It’s as simple as that.

To take your cinemagraph to the next level, use the adjustment tools within Cinemagraph Pro, or even export your still image to touchup in Photoshop, and re-import it back on top.

Now get out there and start creating some eye-catching portrait cinemagraphs! Read this post for some portrait inspiration: 8 Inspiring Portrait Cinemagraphs.

(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.


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