9 Creative Cinemagraph Ideas for Beginners
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When I started creating cinemagraphs in 2012, every single piece of footage was an exercise in trial and error. There were a few examples of cinemagraphs out on the web from movies and from a few other cinemagraph makers but it was a small world back then. Most of the time, I wasn't sure if something would loop nicely until I recorded it and started working with the footage. My first 2 years as a cinemagraph maker, I shot so much footage that I ended up not using. Over time, I became better at understanding what footage would work and at rescuing footage.
Anyway, if I was starting all over again here is how I begin practicing:
Food is one of the best starting points for creating footage for cinemagraphs because it's so easy to control every element. If anything goes wrong, you can easily reshoot.
Coffee and Tea Cinemagraphs
This was one of my earliest cinemagraphs! Look at the phone! I think that might be the iPhone 5. Anyway, coffee and tea are great to practice cinemagraph making with because they're so easily available and you can pour or stir for motion.
Smoke is great to cineamgraph because you can trap it under a glass and it loops so nicely. A while ago, I worked on a series of cinemagraphs for MGM resorts and this piece was part of that campaign. This was a bit challenging to put together because there's pouring and smoke. If you're just shooting some practice footage, stick to a bit of smoke. For more examples of brands using cinemagraphs, see my commissioned page.
I'll admit that I first ventured into making cinemagraphs with wine as an excuse to open some bottles of wine. Thankfully wine works great in cinemagraphs. You can pour or swirl. With champagne and sparkling wine, you can capture the bubbles. Plus you've got wine to drink at the end!
Around the same time that I was becoming enamored with cinemagraphs, I was also starting to travel more regularly. At the time, I was mostly focused on traveling to go see beautiful landscapes. From Iceland to South Africa, I loved getting out of the city.
Waterfalls by by far the easiest thing to cinemagraph. You only need about 15 to 20 seconds of footage to loop. Plus, so many waterfalls have scenic look out viewing spots where you can easily place a tripod down.
Ocean waves make for great cinemagraphs but they take a bit of practice to film and edit together. On the filming side, you have to watch out not to get drenched by a rogue wave, which happened to me when I shooting footage for this Converse cinemagraph. In terms of editing, you need to make sure to get enough footage to make a loop. I usually shoot several 1 to 2 minute segments to be on the safe side.
Capturing animals and looping them into a cinemagraph is more challenging than everything else I've suggested so far but when it works, it's so great! Be patient, this always takes time and practice.
In many ways my cinemagraph making progress and improvement can be tracked through various trip cinemagraphs I've made over the last 6 years. See some of my favorites over here.
Long Exposure Cinemagraph
Cities can be challenging to cinemagraph since they're so bustling. Using long exposures to soften and blur everything is one easy work around for creating a city loop.
When you're starting out, trains are also great to cinemagraph. They stay on a track. They're usually on a schedule and you'll always have additional opportunities to shoot makeup footage if you don't get the shot the first time around. One thing I've realized from making train cinemagraphs is that often not every car is exactly the same so that's something to look out for when you make your first train cinemagraph.
Empty Streets Cinemagraph
It is borderline impossible to make a cinemagraph of a busy, city street without using some long exposure magic but that's not quite true of empty side streets. In a mostly empty street, you can catch a single moment and loop that. This takes a bit of patience but it's a fun moment to have.