Welcome, friends! So… you want to learn how to make a cinemagraph. These simple creations add so much fun and movement to photos that were once still shots. Chances are, if you found this page, you’ve already seen my work on Instagram but if not, go ahead and take a look.

Cinemagrahs have been growing in popularity lately. These are some apps that allow you to make simple cinemagraphs out elements like snow, rain, the sky, and water – but these apps have their limitations when it comes to objects that require continuity to stay in-tact. This step-by step tutorial will show how to make a cinemagraph out of anything!

P.S. I have one request: if you use this tutorial to create your own cinemagraph, please mention it when you post your new project!

How to make a Cinemagraph

I started creating cinemagraphs a few months ago and they’ve already gained so much attention on my Instagram account. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant to share this tutorial because I feel like my photoshop creations are something that makes my account very unique. But, I’m trusting you to give credit where it’s due and link back to this tutorial, and help share my work with others who haven’t had a chance to see it yet. It’s difficult to reach new audiences on Instagram when you’re a (relatively) small content creator and blogger account. 

Most of what I’ve created thus far is using one technique (although some projects like the video in a book and the dancing shadows make use of more photoshop tools than some simpler cinemagraphs). Once you understand a few basic techniques, though, you can combine them to make spectacular creations.

I have been using photoshop for a long time, originally to create Pinterest images for my blog posts and to do simple things like make images wider or taller so that they fit blog posts or my Instagram feed a little better. It was only a couple months ago that I started using Photoshop for animated photos and cinemagraphs, and now they’re all that I want to make! However, they’re certainly a little bit more time consuming, so I have to make them sparingly. I’ve been accumulating a long list of ideas for cinemagraphs and animated images that I want to create going forward, so if you did happen to find this and you’re not already following me on Instagram – make sure you do! Currently, that’s the only platform where I share my photoshop creations and cinemagraphs.

The technique that I’m going to share with you today is the fundamental technique behind cinemagraphs and moving images. Once you get comfortable with it, you’ll be able to try out bigger and better things!

How to Make a Cinemagraph

What you’ll need to make a cinemagraph:

There are only a couple of things you really need to make a cinemagraph. Outside of using apps to animate the weather or water, cinema graphs require combining a stationary photo with a video clip. In the example above, the Ferris wheel spins and the boat moves across the water but I remain still. Here are the tools you need to get started:

  1. You must have a tripod. It’s essential that you be able to capture a photo and a video without the camera moving.
  2. The program you need to make the cinemagraph is photoshop. If you don’t already have photoshop, I would really appreciate if you use my link when you register. 

filming a cinemagraph

This is a cinemagraph of me on a bench… and me whizzing through on a bike! Click to see it in action.

Filming a Cinemagraph

The first step in how to create a cinemagraph is gather the photos and footage that you will need for the project. First, find a location where something is moving or where you can add movement, and where there’s also an opportunity to show that another area of the photo is stationary. Set up your tripod, and decide what your shot will be. If you’re going to be in your shot, use the timer and multiple shots feature on your camera to capture the image that will be the still. 

Once you have the photo, start recording a video on your camera. Move the camera as little as possible – if you have a remote or a way to control your camera from your phone, that’s ideal. My camera starts a video recording by pressing one button, so I just press and start recording.

Capture the moving portion of your cinemagraph, and stop recording. Voila! That’s all the upfront work required. The rest happens in photoshop.

How to Make a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

  1. Open your video clip and your photo in photoshopDon’t make any edits prior to opening the files. It’s going to be easier to line up the images and create the cinemagraph if the angles, image, and colour all line up nicely. There’s time for editing afterwards. If you make any colour edits prior to opening the photo, the next couple steps won’t create as nice of a transition from one layer to the other. Resist the urge to straighten out or rotate your video or photo, too. Once again, it’s going to be more seamless if you make the cinemagraph first and do that later.
  2. Create 2 Video Groups, one for your video clip and one for your image. The image should be in front. Reduce the opacity on the image the image and adjust it’s positioning until it is exactly aligned with the video underneath, then bring the opacity back up. If you set up the tripod correctly and didn’t move it during filming, then the layers are going to line up really nicely. Fortunately, photoshop does have a little bit of leeway so if it’s not exactly you can adjust for that by adjusting the images. The most important thing is really that the video was taken on the tripod in the first place so that it’s very stable.
  3. Create a layer mask for the image, and gradually expose the video layer underneath. Use a black paint brush on the layer mask to show through what’s below, and a white paint brush to cover areas back up. I recommend feathering a little bit so there’s a nice transition between layers, but not to much. The image layer is going to crisper than the video layer, so you ultimately want as little video showing through as possible. Play back your clip to make sure that all areas with the movement you want to caption have been exposed by the layer mask.
  4. Make adjustments to the video layer. Right click on the video layer and select “Edit Contents” to open up an editing session where you can change the volume and the speed of the original video clip. Often in cinemagraphs, I find it necessary to slow down or speed up the movement. With the Ferris wheel clip, the Ferris wheel seemed to be moving so slowly in the clip that it was almost imperceivable. I sped it up to 200%. Watch that you don’t go to far on the speed and make the clip look bizarre and unnatural – just far enough so it’s obvious there’s movement. The boat clip has the boat coming out from behind me, so I needed to adjust the speed to make sure that it would be obvious what was happening within a few seconds, before someone scrolled away thinking there was nothing there.
  5. Duplicate your video clip. This is so you can line up the end of your first clip with the beginning of the second clip – that way when it loops on Instagram, there is no disruption to the motion. I recommend keeping your cinemagraph to only a few seconds long. The loop will take care of the duration. The mark of a good cinemagraph is the continuity in this step!
  6. Edit your cinemagraph as one video. Merge all of the pieces of your cinemagraph in to one group so that you can edit the clip all at once – including rotating, cropping the image (if you filmed widescreen it’s definitely too big for Instagram), and making adjustments to light and colour.
  7. Render your cinemagraph. Render a video and export it to your computer, then send it to your phone and share away!

  8. Tell your friends about this tutorial!

– Nina