Photoshop Sunday; Cinemagraphs Revisited

Today I wanted to go back and try creating a cinemagraph which I have done before but this time with a new work flow. In an old Editing Friday post I created a kind of cinemagraph using a series of still images. Today I am going to use a video file.
The idea of a cinemagraph is quite easy to understand but to undertake can be a bit more difficult. It is an image where one element is moving while everything else is still, think Harry Potter and the moving newspaper images. This is different to a clip on repeat as everything in the clip is moving, or a clip which would normally have only one image moving. For me a good cinemagraph needs the movement to be subtle or make to do a double take. I also think a good cinemagraph should have two elements that usually move with only one element actually moving.

To create a cinemagraph you need to create a video of a scene. With nearly all DSLRs now able to shoot video this will be quite easy. You will also need a version of Photoshop which is CS5 or above.

  1. Open the video file in Photoshop and go through the video looking for the best still frame of your scene. When you found the frame copy and paste it as a new layer.
  2. On this still layer you then need to mask out the areas that will be moving.
  3. You then need to choose a start for your cinemagraph and then drag the beginning of the time line to this point. To find an end you need a frame which has similar composition of elements so that you can’t see where the beginning and end of the cinemagraph is.
  4. Once the video editing is over you can now edit the cinemagraph using layer adjustments just like any other image.
  5. To share the cinemagraph you will need to save this a gif via save for web and select for it to be a loop file. I usually also save a master file as a PSD.

My first idea was to have a cup filling with water on a never ending loop.


I actually got the exposure completely wrong which lead to the mug being under exposed, but with some editing I think shot looks like a cold morning. The actually filming isn’t too bad but if I was to do this again I would have used a different angle and add the spout of the tea pot as it is a bit ambiguous about what is in fact going into the pot. As a cinemagraph it is ok, although it does look like a video on repeat.

The second idea I experimented with was of a portrait with only the eyes moving. I have seen several of these and I have noticed they all have a similar problem with the movement of the eye being quite obvious. Also because a cinemagraph is on a loop it looks a bit unnatural for a person to blink every second. To work around this I masked a smaller area near the eye and added a still frame before and after the video to create a longer pause between blinks.


I modelled for this cinemagraph and tired to choose a pose where I could rest my head to minimise movement. Although there is a slight movement in the eyes still I think it works quite well and having the still image before and after gives a false sense of what is happening when you look at it.
With this cinemagraph I took similar tones from others I have seen. I used a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer, reducing the contrast and brightening the image. I then added a black and white adjustment layer and reduced the opacity to mute the colours. I wanted to add some colour toneing so I used a gradient map; a sepia tone for the midtones of the gradient, a light blue for the highlights and black for the shadows.

Of course you can’t print these and they are only for digital use, although Facebook won’t allow to post them but tumblr is a perfect place.
I think cinemagraphs will be wildly used once advertising agencies have gotten hold of them. When you think of how many digital magazines there are now and embedding a gif could be quite easy. Advertisers I am sure would choose a moving image which catches the eye over a static one. For one I think I am going to continue playing with cinemagraphs as they are quite fun to create with huge creative possibility.

What do you think of cinemagraphs? Is it something you may want to try out? or  have you already created a cinemagraph? Feel free to let me know and share a links in the comment box below or just say hi.

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11 thoughts on “Photoshop Sunday; Cinemagraphs Revisited

  1. omg~ just glancing at your image before I read the title and description completely took me off guard…. all I could think was, “Did that photograph just blink at me?” LOL — very, very cool!

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