Cinemagraphs are looping GIFs or video clips that replays a small action or animation. Somewhere between a photo and a video, cinemagraphs seem to loop infinitely and draw focus to a small details by contrasting still and moving subjects. In this post, I’ll explain how to make your own cinemagraph using free, simple tools and techniques.

Cinemagraphs are somewhere between a photo and a video. One part of the video appears to move while the other sections remain still. Here are some cool examples:

Footage

The defining characteristic of a cinemagraph is that the start and ending frame are the same. To achieve this effect, plan a scene that has limited or constrained action. Make sure that your subjects return to their starting point. Film multiple times so that you have several takes to choose from. Keep your camera completely still and static so that you can use that perspective as a reference point (try using a tripod DIY from home).

Once you’ve chosen the best clip, trim out a small section of your video (1-3 second clip) where the start and end frame are nearly identical. This will create a seamlessly loop between the start and the end. Here's the cinemagraph I filmed with my iPhone proped up against my computer.

If you don’t have the time or ability to film your own repeating scene, you can look on YouTube or Giphy to find a replayable moment.

Editing

Like images, you can apply simple post-production edits to your short cinemagraph clip: resize, filters, watermarks ,etc. But cinemagraphs are unique in that you want the image to appear as still as possible except for the areas of the photo that are moving.

To isolate the motion in the cinemagraph, you may want to mask part of the video with an image layer that will be perfectly static throughout the animation. Grab a JPG from the animation in Kapwing's Convert Video tool, then overlay this layer on top of parts of the cinemagraph that should not move.

Once you’re happy with how your clip looks, use a looping tool to make the video play on repeat. Kapwing’s free online Looper supports videos and GIFs and allows you to import by pasting a URL.

You can also use the Studio and  duplicate your scene multiple times to play the action again and again. Note that GIFs repeat by default, so looping is more relevant if you want to convert the GIF to an MP4 or loop the cinemagraph a certain number of times.

Sharing

Once you download your looped MP4, you can publish it and share it across platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and your website. To share over email or in a document, you’ll need to convert the video back into a GIF.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps aspiring photographers make cinemagraphs of their own. As always, feel free to reach out over Twitter, email, or in the comments section with your thoughts, ideas, and questions.