How to Successfully Develop a Cinemagraph

By now you’ve probably seen something like this in any one of your social feeds — a popular form of content that is part video/part still image. The creator’s hope is that when you see this, your senses are fooled – which makes you wonder if this an image or a video?

That effect or technique applied to this type of visual is called a cinemagraph and according to Time Magazine was pioneered (and named) by husband and wife team Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg. Beck and Burg defined the craft, “in which individual instants of motion are isolated against a static image. This dichotomy creates moments that are quiet and contemplative, elevating the humble GIF into something much more refined.”

In my words, this content technique creates a scene where time passing is only affecting isolated parts of the image – but not all of the image. A real cinemagraph consists of a scene that could not otherwise be possible in the physical world – and THIS is what makes a cinemagraph successful and magical.

Good and Bad Cinemagraphs

This waterfall scene, as nice and majestic as it may appear, isn’t a successful cinemagraphs because it’s virtually impossible to notice that the trees aren’t moving – so nobody would even take a second glance at it.


Compare that water visual to this one we did inside a twitter party invite for our client Neutrogena. The woman has been frozen in mid splash, yet the water keeps flowing under the splash.

This is an example of what I mean by not being possible in the physical world – some water is moving and alive whereas other parts of the scene are frozen in time.

Cinemagraph Apps

With the onset of many desktop and mobile tools that claim that you can “easily create” cinemagraphs, (which I could argue against in another entire blog post) many creative people are creating these for their clients – with the hope that it gets their client’s brand or product noticed more than what a static image or regular video would get. However, the problem is that many of these people are failing to understand what makes a good cinemagraph…and what makes a bad cinemagraph.

A cinemagraph should have a part in it that is so un-natural and practically impossible to actually happen that it borderlines on bizarre. That weirdness should be happening in any cinemagraph you create – as this will prove that you have been successful in breaking the rules of nature, time and physics.

Get the Picture?

Following are some examples of cinemagraphs we’ve done for some of our clients.

This visual, when you look at it appears that it’s a nice video of a couple sitting next to a bonfire, however, upon further watching – the people are motionless. It’s very difficult to decipher where the video “ends” and the photograph begins. This is cool.

This visual is a very simple, yet an effective use of the technique we did for Club Carlson and Country Inns & Suites.

And this for the same clients – where you look around the image and parts are moving and other parts are frozen in time.

Here are a couple nice ones that other creatives have done right:

Here’s a nice one by Isabelle-faith.


And a nice one by the founders of the cinemagraph.


Here’s their how-they-did-it story on creating some specific cinemagraphs.

Not so Good

Here are more examples that are not-so-good cinemagraphs. They are too subtle – so each appears to be a regularly–looping video.

In this gif – all that is happening is the bell is swinging back and forth – nothing out of the ordinary that couldn’t happen normally, and way too subtle to catch.


This could just be an ordinary gif of a hot tub. I don’t know what makes this a cinemagraph.


One last, but very important point to make….

Be Seamless

A successful cinemagraph GIF should be very difficult to tell where the loop starts and where it ends – so it should appear seamless, like the scene could go on forever, thus magnifying the bizarreness of the scene even more and increasing the chances that the viewer will share this content.

If a viewer has to look too long and too close at your cinemagraph to even know it is not just a photo or video – they won’t be intrigued and they’ll just move on to content that is exciting.

Hope you this article helps you realize the difference between good ones and bad ones.

Let us know if we can make some cinemagraphs or any other magical content for you!

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