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Cinemagraphs A still photograph with motion


Leaf Cinemagraph

A Cinemagraph is a still photograph which has a small element that moves, normally repeating. These images are starting to appear every where in TV advertising, TV programme trailers and Video Bill boards etc.

You can make them using a series of photographs and animating them, or use a video clip; the easiest way is the video clip. Most DSLRs will shoot good quality video as will most mobile phones. All you need is a video clip with some kind of action that will repeat and look natural when seen as a looped video clip for around a five or six second duration. 

Water Lilly Cinemagraph

Water Lilly Cinemagraph

I was out at the weekend primarily to shoot some insect macro shots but it was a typical English summers day, damp and wet and not an insect in sight. I had been walking around our local nature reserve for about an hour when I gave up on the insects and decided to give making a Cinemargraph a go. 

I thought I'd start with something simple, maybe water droplets dripping from a leaf. I found the perfect Ivy leaf growing on a tree trunk and set up the camera on a tripod and started to shoot some video clips. I always have in the bag a small water spray bottle that I use for spraying small wild flowers. The odd water droplet can add some interest  and catch the light in a interesting way. I used this spray to soak the leaf and the tree trunk with water. I kept spraying with the camera running until I captured the two drips happening almost simultaneously. 

I watched the clip back on the camera and I had the perfect three seconds of video that I hoped would make a cinemagrah. 

Layer Stack Still on top Video below

Layer Stack Still on top Video below

Back home at the computer, I used Photoshop CC to process the cinemargraph. It's not that complicated it's just two layers, the lower layer is the video clip and over this is a still taken from the video clip. All you do is add a layer mask to the still layer and use this to reveal the movement in the video layer below.

Using the same for the web command Photoshop will render out a .gif file, and that's it - you have a Cinemagrah.

Now that's a very brief description of the work flow and if you are an expert photoshop user it is probable that's all you need to get you going. If you are not, and you think I am speaking a foreign language then contact me via the contact form and I will make a step by step video on how I processed the leaf image and post it here on the blog. 

What I've done here is nothing special, its the bare bone principles of this very interesting way of making an image. I think to realise the massive potential of the Cinemargraph you have to develop a new way of seeing and start to think what would make a great shot.

I've started to try and think 'Cinemargraph' when I'm shooting. Today I visited our local pond, this is always a good spot to shoot insects. On the pond I saw a Water Lilly with a small open patch of water in the foreground that shimmered in the wind. I framed the shot and recorded twenty seconds of video. Back at the computer I looked at the clip to find what the best three seconds were when a goldfish pops out from under the Lilly pad and takes a tiny fly from the surface of the pond. I had not seen this at the time, I just got very lucky.

I hope this has inspired you try and make a cinemargraph.

If you would like me to make a video on the photoshop processes contact me using the contact form.

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Mark Shoesmith 

Shoey Photography