How to Create Your Own Cinemagraph with Photoshop

You might think shooting and editing your own cinemagraph is a little beyond your Photoshop skill level, but it’s really not that hard. Aaron Nace shows us how to create a professional cinemagraph from capturing the footage to the final Internet-viewable GIF. If you follow along with the video, you’ll be able to create a smooth, great looking cinemagraph in no time:

A cinemagraph is a small clip of video that repeats itself infinitely in one loop. Since it creates one continuous movement, you have to take video of something that is going to move over and over continuously. Your end frame needs to be the same as your beginning frame, that way it will create a continuous loop that looks completely seamless.

What you need to capture footage for your cinemagraph:

  • Any camera that will record video (Nace uses a Canon 5D Mark III)
  • Tripod (this is important because the end frame has to be the same as the first frame, any camera movement will stop you from being able to complete the effect)
  • A subject (something or someone that is doing something with a continuous movement.)

Using Photoshop to Edit Your Cinemagraph

1. Importing Footage into Photoshop

Now that you have the footage, it’s time to bring it into Photoshop. Import it as you would with any still image, the only difference is that the video will pop up with a timeline. If you don’t see your timeline, just go up to Window and select Timeline.

The most important thing to remember is you can’t use the first frame of your video as the first frame of your cinemagraph. You want to adjust the starting point of your cinemagraph by moving the red line into the video a little on the timeline. Then trim it by clicking on the beginning of the footage and dragging it into the red line.

create cinemagraph in photoshop

2. Selecting Frames for Your Cinemagraph

  • Decide how long you want your cinemagraph to last. (Remember, a shorter cinemagraph will have a faster downloading time.)
  • Click on the end of the timeline and drag it in toward the beginning of the clip.
  • Click on the little gear in the timeline window and select Loop Playback to get your clip to play over and over again.
  • Play the clip to see where the frame starts and ends so you can make adjustments.
  • Duplicate the video group; you’ll see both layers in the timeline now.
  • You need the beginning frame to be the exact same as the end frame, so now that you have two video layers you can move them around to make that happen. Click on the bottom layer in the timeline and drag it to the right until it snaps so the end of the top footage marks the beginning of the bottom footage.

photoshop video timeline

Blending Layers Together

It’s important to have a little extra footage at the beginning of your video clip because you need to cut it off at the beginning of the process.

Now you want to bring it back, so click on the beginning of the bottom layer and drag it to the left to bring back the original footage. This will line up the two timelines so the beginning of the footage in the top layer is the at the exact same place as the end of the bottom layer.

Now you can drag the end of the bottom layer into the left to line it up with the end of the top layer footage so the two clips end at the same place. The overlap will allow you to create the infinite loop.

blend layers

What you need to do now is make sure the top frame is completely invisible by the time it gets to the end, allowing the bottom footage to take over. This will give the seamless effect you need.

Using Keyframes

You want the footage on the top to fade out so it shows the footage underneath it. To do this, you can use keyframes to adjust the visibility of the layers—the Opacity. Set up your top clip with the opacity set at 100% and gradually fade it out to 0%. This will cause your top clip and bottom clip to blend together perfectly.

adjust opacity in photoshop

Creating a Stamp Visible Layer

Next, you want to restrict movement to just one part of the video. In this case, the subject’s hat is moving in the wind, but Nace wants to stop that so the cinemagraph only shows the movement of the waves. He creates a copy and makes it a still image which he puts on top of the video. Then he uses a layer mask which allows you to see through part of the still image, revealing the video underneath.

Nace uses a Stamp Visible Layer and paints black over the areas we wants visible. Sometimes everything in your scene won’t work for a continuous motion, so creating a Stamp Visible Layer allows you to control where the motion is coming from.

photoshop stamp visible layer

Saving & Exporting

Once you’ve finished editing your cinemagraph in Photoshop, you can export it by going to your menu and clicking Save for Web. Make sure that you change the file type to GIF, since PNG and JPEG files don’t support motion.

Now, adjust some of the settings in the dialogue box:

  • By default, Photoshop does not apply a dither, so change that to Diffusion to get a better looking image
  • You can make the image smaller to lower the file size
  • Change the Looping Options to Forever

cinemagraph gif file

Preview the cinemagraph and save it. When you have a saved GIF of your cinemagraph, you can now just drag the file into Google and it will open as you would see it on the web.

The only thing left to do is get it out there so others can enjoy it, too!

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