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Cinemagraphs seamlessly merge photos and videos to create moving stills.

They emerged into the photography world thanks to the creativity of two creative artists – photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg.

In a cinemagraph, one part of an image moves around in a loop while the rest stands still.

Here’s an example:

A cinemagraph of pouring coffee - the coffee and steam are moving in this image

Only the pouring coffee and steam are moving in this image. Everything else is as perfectly still as a simple photograph.

Knowing how to make a cinemagraph will give you lots of creative freedom and inspire you to try out new things.

These opportunities, in turn, will make you more curious, fearless, and imaginative.

What You’ll Need for This Tutorial

If you think that it’s impossible to effortlessly combine two art forms unless you’re an Adobe Photoshop guru, you’re wrong.

Even if you’re not an editing expert, you can turn your videos into stunning cinemagraphs within a few minutes. To create a beautiful animated gif file, you’ll need the following:

  • Photoshop CC or Photoshop CS6
  • A short video

It’s important to note that to make a successful cinemagraph, a part of your video needs to be a seamless loop. You can easily trim any unnecessary parts in Photoshop, but your start and end points need to be perfect.

Keep this loop playback in mind when you shoot your video.

This is why many photographers like to experiment with videos of beverages pouring into cups and objects entering and leaving the frame.

How to Make a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

The aim of this tutorial is to show you how to make a new cinemagraph like this:

A cinemagraph of an aerial shot of a person running along a beach

It’s easy to make a perfect loop if you’re working with a subject that’s entering and leaving the frame.

In this case, I wanted to focus on the runner and make everything else look like a photo.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

You can open your video in Photoshop by either dragging it over to the program or going to File > Open.

When you do this, a video toolbar like the one above should appear.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

This is one of the most important steps of the process. If you look closely, you’ll notice that I slightly moved the red line in the video toolbar.

Use this red line to find the start and end points of your loop. Once you know where they are, drag the left and right sides to the red line.

This will quickly trim your video file.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Create a new layer above the Video Group folder.

You’ll use this to paint over any parts of the video that you’d like to remain unchanged.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Select a visible colour, set your opacity to 100%, and paint over any parts of your image that you’d like to see moving in your final product.

Your work doesn’t have to look perfect.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Make your paint layer invisible (click on the eye next to the layer) and press Shift + Option + Command to create a new layer. You must make your layer invisible before you create another layer. I didn’t do this once and it completely ruined the process!

Now you can decide how the “still” parts of your cinemagraph will look. Afterwards, press Shift + Option + Command + E to transform your new layer into a stamp visible layer.

This will basically take a screenshot of your photo, so make sure you’re happy with the result before you proceed to the next step.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Now, hold the Command button and click on your painted layer (which should still be invisible).

This will select the area that you painted over.

A screenshot of how to make a cinemagraph in Photoshop

Click on your stamp visible layer (the one with the still image), and create a new layer mask. Now, press play.

If your cinemagraph is doing the opposite of what you want it to do, you’re on the right track! (Don’t worry, this is not a prank.)

To get the results you want, click on that new layer mask (the box next to the stamp visible layer), and press Command + I.

This will reverse the effects and give you the results you want.

To avoid losing all of your work, save your progress before you export.) Once the cinemagraph is ready, you can convert it into a gif. Go to Export > Save for Web. Make sure you select gif from the drop down box that’s right under Preset.

If you don’t want your gif to stop, select Forever next to Looping Option. You can also resize your gif to make it easier to upload online.

Depending on your video file size, this process might take up a lot of time, so don’t be alarmed if it looks like Photoshop is about to crash. If you’ve saved your progress, this step won’t be that stressful.

A cinemagraph of an aerial shot of a person running along a beach

And here is the finished result! Once you get used to the process, it will take you a maximum of 10 minutes to create stunning cinemagraphs.

Extra Tips on How to Make a Cinemagraph

Don’t Move Your Camera

A canon DSLR mounted on a flexible tripod - how to make cinemagraphs

Flexible tripods are perfect for filming from unique perspectives.

As you can see in the cinemagraph above, parts of the sand are moving with the runner. This is because the original video (probably made by a drone) zoomed out at the end.

This is a mistake that many photographers make.

If you want to create a perfect gif, your original video mustn’t be shaky. Make sure you use a tripod when you film your subject.

Movements cause by hands, wind, or uneven surfaces will all make your editing process inconvenient.

Practice Before Your Film

Filming can take up a lot of time and discourage you. Finding perfect loops isn’t always easy, so you might end up with failed results and no desire to create a cinemagraph once you’re done.

To avoid this, practice first. Get to know the steps before you dive into the filming world. Use free videos made by other people.

I recommend Pixabay, a free stock photo/video community with lots of interesting resources. Once you’re familiar with how loops work, you’ll be able to detect real-life opportunities easily.

Colour Correct, But Don’t Overdo It

Before you export your cinemagraph, you can colour correct it the same way you would a regular photo. You can use Levels, Curves, Saturation, etc.

You can even convert your gif to black & white! This is a fun process that can really make your results stand out from others.

A cinemagraph of pouring coffee without color correction

This cinemagraph wasn’t colour corrected in any way.

A cinemagraph of pouring coffee edited using the Curve, Levels, and Gradient Map tools.

This one, on the other hand, was edited using the Curve, Levels, and Gradient Map tools. Which version do you like more?

Keep in mind that gifs are compressed in a way that limits the use of all colour ranges.

If there are dramatic colour contrasts in your final result, your cinemagraph might look too noisy or even unflattering.

Conclusion

Thanks to the creativity of two gifted photographers, artists of all kinds can experiment with their favourite genres and transform them into stunning gifs.

The best part is that you don’t need to be an experienced editor to make your most interesting ideas come to life. In a few simple steps, you can create a final cinemagraph to post on tumblr or other social media.

All you have to do is practice, find recurring patterns to film, and create the cinemagraphs of your dreams.

We have a great article on how to capture a still image from a video to check out next!

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.

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You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!

Thanks again for reading our articles!

Taya Ivanova

Taya Iv is a curious bookworm, portrait photographer, and admirer of nature. Her photos have been published in international magazines and featured on book covers.

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