What You Need to Know to Make Beautiful Cinemagraphs

Our resident cinemagraph expert and curation team member Lisa Fotios shares her top tips for creating magical cinemagraphs. Read on to grab special Pexels-exclusive discounts for top cinemagraph software by Ashampoo and Flixel, so you can get started making your own!

I love making cinemagraphs because they push you to be more creative—you have to really think about the layout of the image and which parts should move and which parts should stay still. 

If you haven’t made a cinemagraph before, it might seem intimidating, but with the right software the process can be surprisingly simple. A cinemagraph is a still image in which only one thing moves, with the end result a cross between video and photography. They were first developed in 2011, by American photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck. Lately, as programs like Ashampoo Cinemagraph and Flixel have made it easy for anyone to make a cinemagraph, they’ve become more and more popular.

I think cinemagraphs stand out more than regular video because people can instantly tell it’s not a regular video, so it piques their interest when they notice part of it is moving. As a photographer it appealed to me to try and create a cinemagraph after I’d first seen one. It seemed much more interesting and eye-catching than doing a simple looping video.

Simple scenes often make the best cinemagraphs.

Especially for your first cinemagraph experiments, I would recommend trying to use scenes that aren’t too cluttered. Think something that will loop easily, such as the motion of stirring coffee or pouring liquids.

It’s also good to have something in the image that would normally be moving, but isn’t, so it’s easy to spot the part that is moving.

Repetitive movement is easiest to record in a cinemagraph.

Because a cinemagraph is a looping video, inconsistent movements tend to look jerky and distract from the seamless effect you’re aiming for. Motions that loop easily—such as a swing going back and forth—are better than random movements.

I would also suggest that the moving part of the image stays within one section of the picture, so it’s easier to cut out. For example, maybe only the right side of the pictures moves, while the left stays static.

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Cinemagraphs require some practice to perfect.

Expect a bit of trial and error before you create something you’re happy with. I would suggest looking at other cinemagraphs you like and trying to recreate something similar, so you know what works.

I sometimes come up with ideas that I think will look great but don’t turn out so well. For example, I recorded my husband blowing bubbles in the garden, which I thought would be a great cinemagraph visual. But the random movement of the bubbles made it very difficult to separate them from the rest of the image.

Keep things steady and stable and your cinemagraph will turn out well.

If you are making your first cinemagraph, I would recommend using your tripod to make sure the camera is steady.

To begin with you should try doing some cinemagraphs indoors, so you’re not contending with the elements. Filming something on a flat surface can also make for a more predictable and easier cinemagraph shoot.

Choose the tool that’s right for the type of cinemagraph you want to make.

There are lots of great apps out there for videographers looking to make cinemagraphs. Whether you want something simple for your phone, or a more serious software to create high quality cinemagraphs, there’s an option for you.

I typically use a combination of tools depending on the type of cinemagraph I want to create. If I want to single out a particular section of video that I want to move, I use a program called Ashampoo Cinemagraph. In this app you can select a paint brush and paint over the part or parts you want to move. This makes creating cinemagraphs really easy and fun.

Ashampoo is a Windows program, but the cinemagraph app Flixel is a good alternative for Mac users. We’re also pleased to be able to offer you a special discount code for both of these excellent programs:

Head here to give Ashampoo a try at 30% off.

If you’re a Mac user, redeem your 50% discount for Flixel here, until June 1.

Another program that allows you to create easy cinemagraphs is one you may already have installed: Photoshop! I use Photoshop when I want to create cinemagraphs in which I insert a video into a still photo: for example, to show a video playing on a cell phone. To create a cinemagraph like that, I first take a photo of myself holding my iPhone. I then open the image up in Photoshop and cut out the section where I want the video to be. Then I just place my chosen video underneath the layer that contains the phone.

This is a slightly different process from creating your standard cinemagraph, but the results it gives are just as eye-catching and fun.

I also use two other apps, Vimage and Pixaloop, to create quick cinemagraphs to share on Instagram. These apps are great if you just want to make a simple, lower-quality cinemagraph for use on your phone. For higher-quality videos, you’ll want to use your computer.

All cinemagraphs created by Lisa Fotios. Find more of her photos and videos at her Pexels profile.

Ready to create your own cinemagraphs? Submit your best ones to our Cinemagraph Magic contest before June 1 for a chance to win!

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