5 Ways to Make Your Cinemagraphs Pop

Not just another passing trend, cinemagraphs are here to stay. With apple’s recent release of it’s latest iPhone that includes “moving pictures” you know that cinemagraphs are on a lot of important people’s minds. Flixel has been working with a lot of major companies to create stunning ad campaigns and they are taking the advertising world by storm! So this gets us to the meat of this tutorial and that is “How do I make cinemagraphs that really pop and get people to notice them?”

1. Find the Movement

This is harder than it sounds because it actually is more conceptual than just looking for physical movement and recording it. When you are looking to film or shoot for a cinemagraph you are looking for a specific movement and how that movement adds or subtracts from the overall scene. Therein lies the magic (I am a wizard too!) when you find the movement and how it adds to the scene. This goes beyond isolating the flowing traffic but focussing on a reflection of that movement and freezing the rest. It plays with people’s heads and keeps them interested in the cinemagraph.

2. Isolate the Movement

When I first started shooting cinemagraphs I would say that some of my shots had almost too much movement in them. Meaning that it was hard to see that it was actually a cinemagraph and not just a looping video. Isolating the movement adds to the mystery of the shot. There is a delicate balance here because having too little movement is a lot like telling a joke that nobody gets. You find yourself repeating the punchline over and over again until someone gives and goes “ahhhhhh….” You’ll find yourself doing the same if you isolate an insignificant portion of the shot. You will be pointing out the movement until people finally go “ahhhh…. his arm is moving…” The moving element should be obvious but not overpowering.

3. Edit your Video like a Photo

Whatever software you use to edit your video, USE IT! Don’t just dump your video into Cinemagraph Pro and hope that by tweaking a few sliders will make your cinemagraph stand out. I use photoshop and convert the video footage to use smart filters. Then I edit using the RAW filter. This is pretty much like editing a photo in lightroom but you are working on a video. As of yet, you cannot edit video in lightroom’s development module. At any rate, you want to focus on the photo or the still parts of your cinemagraph. Make it pop! Use rich colours, deep contrasts, and make sure that it looks the best that you can before importing it into Cinemagraph Pro. Then focus on what cinemagraph pro does best and that is making a cinemagraph.

4. When Video Fails use Time-Lapse

I must admit I had trouble figuring out the best times of the day to use video. My head is always thinking like a photographer and video is something completely different with regards to exposure. If the scene is not working for you and the footage is too dark or not dynamic enough, then it might be time to try time-lapse. This will allow you to get longer exposures and create some interesting effects with the movement over a significantly longer period of time. Also cinemagraph is already set up to handle the image sequence. One trick to keep your images looking exactly the same is to edit in lightroom and work on one photo. When you have it where you want it, select the remaining photos and hit “sync” and make sure all the necessary boxes are checked and then hit ok. Check out my tutorial on time-lapse cinemagraphs here

5. Get Close

This is a classic photographic technique that helps draw a person into the frame. A tree may look great with it’s branches moving in the wind but I bet it would great if you got up close and focused on a single leaf. Getting in closer to the subject may not always work but used well it will help make the movement an essential element in the frame and not just something added in the background. Just think of the old photo rule “If you think you are close, get closer” and then see what magic you can create!

Try these 5 tips out and see what you think. The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to try to create the scene in your head first. Then experiment with these tips to try and make it happen. Visualizing the shot before shooting will help you come out with something closer to what you want than just shooting away and hoping for the best.

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