Since the development of the motion pictures, filmmakers haven’t rested much. It seems like every day brings a new modern hybrid—the talkie, the GIF, the vine, the vlog, and now the cinemagraph—but what is a cinemagraph?
The brainchild of visual artist Kevin Burg and photographer Jamie Beck, cinemagraphs are essentially animations that are looped to create isolated movement. Minus the magical roots, they’re not all that different from the bewitched newspapers you see in Harry Potter films. However, instead of Sirius Black’s full-motion mug shot, you see only the shake of his hair—while the rest of Azkaban remains frozen in print. Cinemagraphs are versatile and useful pieces of media that can be used in so many different ways.
Burg and Beck’s original inspiration was to capture living moments in their fashion photography, but the format has evolved into an art form of its own and is applicable to any genre.
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Why It’s Not a Standard GIF
You’re probably familiar with animated GIFs, those crazy moving photos all the kids are posting on Reddit, but cinemagraphs are different. Think of them as the GIF’s more refined older brother—the one who went to art school, listens to obscure jazz (on vinyl, of course), and drinks only single highland malts. While your standard animated GIF can be created in seconds, cinemagraphs begin in-camera and require both patience and expertise.
Cinemagraphs have the potential to make photos more lifelike, and more artful. They also bring a couple of new characteristics: isolated motion, and an insane level of precision that makes them appear to move perpetually without “resetting.”
What Do I Need to Make One?!
As with most tasks in post-processing, there are a number of ways to make a cinemagraph—all of which require simply a steady tripod, a camera, and some type of photo editing software (e.g., Photoshop).
As for the specific recipe, we’ve got a 7-step tutorial on how to make a cinemagraph if you’re interested in experimenting. We have a full library of stock footage that’s waiting to be transformed into moving pictures. There are also plenty of resources, including a site called Flixel, that allows you to create beautiful cinemagraphs without having years of experience.