How to Create a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

Learn how to combine photo and video into a Cinemagraph

I don’t know about you, but I love to learn. So much so that I was the kid who was dying to go back to school in the fall. I still love seeing all the new school supplies on store shelves and I have to stop myself from adding to my burgeoning notebook collection (I have a drawer in my office with approximately ten unused notebooks of various sizes, colors, and paper types. . . ) All that to say, when I see something that interests me, I try to learn how to do it.

My latest fixation – the Cinemagraph.

What is a Cinemagraph?

Basically, it’s the love child of a photo and video. Think the newspaper photos in Harry Potter. At first glance, it looks like a still image, but then a subtle movement catches your eye like magic.

What do you need to create a cinemagraph?

As with anything in the photography world, there are many ways to skin this cat. You can use a special third party software to create the effect (Flixel is the most popular and a pretty expensive option), or you can use Adobe Photoshop to create the effect.

You’ll also need a camera (or phone) with video capabilities, a tripod, and time. It takes practice to figure out what’s going to work best. Like any new skill, you’re going to make some duds before you get something that works.

To get the best video for a cinemagraph, you’ll need a clip that has a starting frame that’s the same as the last frame. That way, you can loop it infinitely as a cinemagraph.

How to create a Cinemagraph in Photoshop

  • Open the video in Photoshop
    • drag the video file over the Photoshop icon on your computer or use the Open dialogue from the File Menu
  • This will open your video file as a Video Group in your Layers Panel
  • You should also see a timeline open below the Workspace. If you don’t see this, navigate to Window > Timeline and then you’ll have it

[btx_image image_id=”532″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]

  • Find the part of the video you want to use to create your loop
    • Trim footage to only the short clip for your loop
      • Place the playhead where you want the video to start and then click and pull the footage to that point [btx_image image_id=”530″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
      • Place the playhead where you want the clip to end, then pull the video to that point [btx_image image_id=”528″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
      • To preview your loop, select loop playback and play [btx_image image_id=”527″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
  • Duplicate footage to create looping video effect
    • Drag the clip to the New Layer button in the Layers Panel
      • Creates two video layers in the Timeline [btx_image image_id=”526″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image] 
    • Click and drag the bottom clip to start at the end of the first clip [btx_image image_id=”525″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
  • Create a fade effect to create a seamless loop
    • Place your cursor at the beginning of the second video clip and you’ll see it change to the trim tool. Click and drag to the left to bring back some of the footage you trimmed before [btx_image image_id=”524″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image] 
    • Next you want to trim the second clip so that it ends at the same place as your first clip by clicking and dragging left on the end of the clip [btx_image image_id=”522″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
    • You are then going to create a fade effect on the top layer of the footage, so that by the time the clip stops playing, it will be invisible
    • Using keyframes to set an opacity shift
      • a keyframe is basically a snapshot of the settings at point where it is placed on the timeline
      • To set a Keyframe, expand the Video Group in your Timeline by clicking on the Arrow at the far left. This will reveal Position, Opacity and Style Options. Place your playhead at the start of the second clip in the Timeline, and click on the Stopwatch icon to the left of “Opacity” 
        • This will add a Yellow Keyframe at the Playhead position. This keyframe will have a visibility of 100% since the opacity of the layer was at 100% when created [btx_image image_id=”521″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
      • To set your second keyframe for the fade, place your playhead at the end of both clips, set your layer opacity to 0% in the Layers Panel, and click on the add Keyframe button (empty diamond)
      • This will create a fade from the first keyframe to the second keyframe on playback and will prevent the video from jumping on loop [btx_image image_id=”519″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
  • Use a mask to show the motion only where you want it
    • Create a stamped visible layer
      • MAC: Shift, Cmd, Option, E
      • PC: Shift, Ctrl, Alt, E
      • This creates a still layer of everything that’s visible, so make sure that you’re playhead is positioned at a point for your image [btx_image image_id=”517″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
    • Trim your image in the Timeline to the length of the video 
    • Add a Layer Mask to the Image layer and paint with black where you want the motion to show through [btx_image image_id=”513″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
  • Save and Export your Cinemagraph
    • Gif
      • File > Save for web (legacy). . .
      • Choose Gif from the dropdown menu on the right of the dialog
      • Adjust your settings to create the smallest file size
      • Use Diffusion instead of No Dither
      • Change the image size
      • Change the Looping Options from Once to Forever to create an infinite loop
      • You can preview the gif in a browser by clicking on the preview button
      • Save. . .
        • Choose the name and location for the file
        • To test, drag the file to your web browser to test [btx_image image_id=”514″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]
    • Video
      • Use this for Instagram (why don’t they support gifs???!!!!)
      • You’ll need to come back to Ps and duplicate the work you’ve done and create your own repeating loop
        • Select both of your video layers and drag them down the the Create New Layer button at the bottom of the layer panel to duplicate them. Do this one more time to have your motion loop three times
        • Shift click on the first duplicate video pair and drag so that it starts where the first clip ends
        • Repeat for the Third pair so that you have three continuous loops of the video 
      • Play the footage to make sure you have things lined up properly
      • Render Footage
        • File > Export > Render Video
          • Select your filename and save location
          • Settings:
          • Format: H.264
          • Preset: High Quality (can also choose from different options to match where you are going to post the video)
          • Document Size: I leave this alone unless I need a smaller video size
          • Frame Rate: 29.97
          • Everything else I leave to the default [btx_image image_id=”536″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]

Get inspired to create your own!

Now that you know the basics of how to create your first cinemagraph, I suggest taking a look at how some other artists are using the medium to push the boundaries of what we can do using readily available technology and software.

[btx_image image_id=”509″ link=”/” position=”center”][/btx_image]

Oh, and if you decide to give this a go, I’d love if you’d share your work! Or if you have a better way of doing things, let me know in the comments below!

[btx_gallery images=”538,537,541,540,539″ style=”masonry” no_of_columns=”3″]Insert gallery caption[/btx_gallery]

Kevin Burg & Jamie Beck

Petra Švajger

Julien Douvier

Gustavo Lopez








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