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moving photos | creating a cinemagraph

Hello lovely you! In a small change to this weeks planned update on editing white balance, I am popping in with a tutorial on creating a cinemagraph. So many people asked me how I created the post below and if I could share it here, so that is exactly what I am doing! White balance to follow next week...

I was first inspired to look at creating a cinemagraph when Sara of Me & Orla started playing with them, a couple of years ago actually. Just look at #cinemagraphand you will find thousands of examples. And in the meantime I have made many, some of which are on my Instagram gallery. But cinemagraphs have been around a lot longer than this. I would guess that their rise in popularity recently is linked to the ease of editing, like many editing skills,  creating a cinemagraph is now a possibility for anyone who would like to try and not just those with access to professional editing software. Actually the origins of the cinemagraph are decades old. I found this articleabout their history really interesting if you'd like to read more too.

Someone said to me this week that they thought the time of cinemagraphs was over and trends will move on. Indeed trends always do by their very nature. But that doesn't mean beautiful cinemagraphs don't have a place any more. They do. And it all depends on your outlook anyway since trends come and go. I'm not concerned so much with them as I am with learning new skills and editing techniques. And as I replied to the above, curiously enough I am asked by brands to create cinemagraphs more now than ever before.


There are a few ways to create a cinemagraph. Using photoshop is one, and I fully intend to work my way around to trying that again one day. I did try, found it baffling, and moved on. The easiest way I have found is with an app or programme designed specifically to create them. To be honest, with hindsight and a little more homework on your behalf, the method I used for this one was a little long winded. So I'll correct myself here and save you the extra steps!!

I am using two components for this cinemagraph, a still photo for the frame using a little vintage mirror I picked up 18 months ago and a film I took last June with exactly this post in mind. Yes it has taken me more than six months to create - but better late than never hey? Actually part of the reason I put it off was the 'creative reflections' micro trend last summer. Same idea, a few other people I know put it together first! Very well actually, so I shelved it for a while.

The editing programmes I used were iMovie on my mac (simply to add the still frame to the timeline before the moving frame) and Cinemagraph Pro app by Flixel. Now after I created it I realised that I could have skipped the whole iMovie stage by using Cinemagraph Pro's still frame import option. The app allows you to choose a photo as the still frame for your film, rather than choosing a frame from the film's timeline. Are you with me? First time errors, haste and my love of playing with editing apps before reading the how-to to blame there.

Cinemagraph Pro is a fairly expensive subscription though. Unless you can see the value in subscribing and plan to make a lot of cinemagraphs, there is another app you could consider. DrawMotion will do a pretty good job. The masking brush is adjustable and would work fine for this kind of 'fill a frame' technique too.


The basic process is really very straightforward:

  1. import your film to the app

  2. trim the clip if needed - this will depend on how much you want to show and whether you would like the clip to loop. (If so, the end result will be more appealing if the start and finish of the clip match as closely as possible). However if you want it to bounce it won't matter so much as it simply plays the clip forwards and backwards

  3. choose the frame you wish to be the still image. In Cinemagraph Pro, select timeline then scroll the menu bar at the bottom to Still Image. At this point you can import the photo from your photo library. In DrawMotion, use the Select Frame option to choose your photo. The app then layers this on top of your film for you. (I took an extra step here, in iMovie I edited the still frame and the daisies together so I could select the still frame for the finished film while editing it off the timeline, a complete waste of time, don't do it this way!)

  4. once you have selected your still frame, remove the mask layer on the area you want to show the film by drawing the area with your finger or a smart pen. In this case, I simply followed the line of the mirror. Brush sizes can be changed in both apps and it is worth zooming in to get the finer detail if a precise shape is what you want

  5. watch your film a few times to check your happy with the selection, once you are

  6. save and post! In Cinemagraph Pro you can choose a loop or two as you save - Instagram loops films indefinitely but your film needs to be at least 3 seconds long


Try and choose a part of your film that loops well. You want the start point and end point to look as similar as possible. For example, I tried to catch the daisies in the same part of the mirror at beginning and end of the loop. Although the horizon moves a little (mental note to take the tripod next time) it still loops reasonably well without a big jump in continuity. It's not perfect though, I'm sure you could do better...

You will need to ensure both your film and photo are cropped to the same dimensions before importing.

Fine adjustments to the timeline can be made during editing so don't worry if its not 100% right when you import.

My thoughts are these, Cinemagraph Pro is an expense for a reason. Even in the app, the fine detail and editing options are vast, the results professional (with some practice!!). You can crop and edit the film, set the speed, loop and bounce, edit colour, use presets, adjust the hardness and opacity of the brush. I could go on...

DrawMotion is a basic app which does a clever job provided you have edited your film already or are happy using a straight off the camera film. Cropping is limited to the format you import or square, it has no film editing capability beyond setting the timeline and so on. But it is cheap with a small fee to remove their watermark and as I said, it does a pretty good job if pretty good is what you're after.

So will you have a go at creating a cinemagraph...?

J x

further reading

I'm going off piste here and mostly sending you elsewhere...

My free editing eBook download includes some video editing app recommendations, find it HERE

Beautiful creative reflections last summer - HEREand HERE

For lovely cinemagraphs visit Jo Yee

If you are looking to begin to explore shooting and editing films, I really recommend Xanthe Berkeley's online course. I learned so much from her! Find out more HERE.


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