The Amazing Cinemagraph – Moving the Still

Cinemagraph by Melanie Gapany for

The .gif file as we know it was born in March of 2007, when an anonymous user posted an image to 4chan of a face that went from a smile to a frown. Since then, the popularity of the .gif has grown to completely unforeseen popularity, being used across the internet in advertising, forums, and websites. In 2011, U.S. photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, coined a new term for a special kind of .gif file. Known as the cinemagraph, this new type of moving image took the .gif from its previous incarnation, where it was mostly used to loop humorous video sequences to create memes; to a new, more artistic place that combines movement into the still image, bringing new depth and beauty to the existing piece.

Commonly made by taking a short video (or series of photographs) and then using an image editing software to composite the frames within the video into a seamless loop, the cinemagraph appears as a repeating or continued motion that stands out in contrast with the stillness of the rest of the image. The results are splendid. Below are a few of our favorite cinemagraphs from across the web, along with what we think makes them special. If you’d like to try your own hand at making these interesting images, we’ve also included a few links with tutorials on how to make your own.

1. On the Precipice – The Waterfall Cinemagraph

Random Tumblr finds can be very inspiring sometimes, but the downside is that they can also sometimes appear as anonymous posts. While we can’t seem to find a source to credit this magnificent image to, we still felt that it deserved a spot on our list. What makes this image stand out is the amount of motion that it features. The waterfall takes up much of the image, and as a result, would have created a giant file had it’s creator chosen to keep this image colorized. By de-saturating it, the .gif file is able to retain its sharpness and detail and at the same time, create the feeling of desolation captured in the image itself. Learn more about the color limitations of a .gif file here.

2. Turquoise Louboutins – by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck

Sometimes, the originals are still the best. Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck show us what kind of final results can be produced using rich color and focalized movement. This fashion-inspired shot still manages to draw the viewers focus to the beautiful footwear the model is showcasing, despite the fact that the motion is contained to the wispy dress she is wearing. The motion seems organic and natural, making the veiwer feel as if any moment now the model will be moving her other leg forward. Learn more about Burg and Beck here.

3. Yuki – by Kirk Wang
image via
California based photographer, Kirk Wang, may be a relatively unknown name in the game, but this adorable cinemagraph he posted on his Flickr account has all the right moves. The subtle movement of the cat’s ears loop seamlessly, and work in perfect tandem with the photo’s focal depth. Proper motion looping is very important in the cinemagraph, as it can make or break the image. With poor motion looping, the viewer is taken out of the world of the cinemagraph very abruptly, taking away from the image’s artistic value. Here is an example of an image with distracting motion looping, which basically makes all the difference between what you can call a cinemagraph and a .gif.

Ready to try your own? Click here for a simple tutorial on how to make a cinemagraph from Photojojo. Or, if you’re more of a visual person, PHlearn, a company that sells photoshop tutorial videos, has a free how-to for cinemagraphs on YouTube, which you can watch below.

*Header Cinemagraph by Melanie Gapany via




Category: Photography