The Ultimate Guide on How to Make a Cinemagraph

The animated GIF has been around for a while, but the artistically inclined are finding a way to turn the animated GIF into a work of art. Part video and part photograph, the cinemagraph helps to bring attention to the desired focal point through the use of motion. So, what is a cinemagraph? Let's take a look at exactly what this new form of art is, and how you can use your favorite video editor to make one. 

What is a cinemagraph?

As mentioned previously, cinemagraphs typically come in the form of animated GIFs, but they are more than the typical animation you see all over the internet and social media. Cinemagraphs, at their core, are fantastic still photos. Frames of animation are overlaid on top of the still photo to breathe some life into it. The animation is typically isolated to a small area so the result retains its photograph feel. For example, a watch company might have a great shot of their watch on someone's arm and then animate only the watch hands moving. This select use of motion provides a striking effect. 

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Cinemagraph's aren't just for advertising firms who want to show off their client's watches, however. The medium allows great flexibility for photographers to retain the beauty and power that can come from a well-framed and shot photo, while also combining that with the dynamic nature of video. It's an art form worth trying out, and with the right video editor, creating a cinemagraph is a breeze.

How to make a cinemagraph

Creating a cinemagraph may take a while to get the hang of, but the process is easy. With a little practice, you'll be able to put together a cinemagraph just as easily as you'd make any other simple edit. To learn how to make a cinemagraph, follow the steps below:

Take the photo — You'll be taking your photo as a video capture so you can capture the motion, but you should treat its framing and lighting exactly as you would a still photo. Ask your subjects to stay as still as possible while you record enough video to capture the desired motion elements.

Open the video in your favorite video editor — In order to create the cinemagraph, you'll need a video editor that supports multiple video layers and layer masking. All the good ones should support these features.

Trim the video to isolate your desired movement — Cut away the parts of the video before and after the motion you want to appear in your cinemagraph. Usually, a clip no longer than a few seconds works best.

Save the desired frame as a still image — Select the frame of the video that will serve as the still image and use your video editor to save it as an image file. If there's any unwanted motion in your video file, try to select the frame that lines up best with the motion you'll be keeping.

Mask the video layer to only include the target motion — Bring your newly created still image into the project as the bottom video layer, so the motion layer is on top of it. Now use your video editor's masking tools to cut away all elements of the top video that don't include the target motion.

Export the cinemagraph — Using your video editor's export tools, save the file as an animated GIF.


Creating cinemagraphs is easy and fun. If you don't already have a video editor to create your cinemagraph with, we invite you to try VideoStudio. It has all the features you'll need to create a cinemagraph, and some extras, like powerful animation controls to get your motion just right. You can even download a free trial and have a go at making your first cinemagraph without any commitment.