Storytelling With Cinemagraphs

Where stillness and motion meet.

This week, in my motion media course, we learned about cinemagraphs. Cinemagraphs are lovely photos brought to life with unexpected movement. They exist in the beautiful gray area that lies between a picture and a video. They were created by married creative couple Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg a decade ago and are still a unique form of art and storytelling. After learning about cinemagraphs, I rounded up some of my favorite examples and then created a few of my own.


I like the explicit use of foreground and background in this image—not only from the depth of field but also from the distinction of stillness and movement. It draws your eye to characters dancing in this scene of Pulp Fiction. It’s as if nothing else matters to them at that moment.

Beck and Burg created this one for Amazon. I like that secondary, insignificant objects are the ones that come to life in this image. It brings attention to the little details in a moment that might otherwise go unnoticed. Click here to view the animated gif.

Another great one by Beck and Burg, I love the juxtaposition between still and moving life between two otherwise similar subjects (ie people). I also like the mood in this image and how the lighting draws your attention to the picture. Click here to view the animated gif.

I like this one for its surreal qualities. It’s a good reminder that photos and animation have all sorts of magical possibilities. Click here to view the animated gif.

Life in the Former French Concession

As I was conducting my research on cinemagraphs, I realized that the ones that appealed to me the most were those that clearly had life frozen in time–something that should be moving isn’t, or only partially. With that in mind, I decided to stroll around my neighborhood and start shooting some videos.

I’m currently living in the Former French Concession in Shanghai. I can’t express enough how much I love the charm of my neighborhood and its beautiful juxtaposition between east and west, old and new, classy and casual. It truly feels like everything has a place here. And, there is always so much to look at! Every time I step foot outside, there is something new I had never noticed before. But, due to the intense humidity and summer heat lately, I’ve spent most of my recent days indoors. So for this shoot, I was excited to get outside and start early.

It was my first time using the video settings on my Sony Alpha 6300, and I didn’t realize how quick the battery goes when shooting. It didn’t take long for the sun to catch up and the battery to die down. Next time, I’ll make sure to take a backup battery. Luckily I was able to get some great footage before heading back inside.


I used adobe photoshop to create this cinemagraph. One thing that made this cinemagraph challenging was not being able to control the light. As cars passed by or the sun came out from behind the clouds, the lighting on the entire scene would “flicker”. Because of that, I had to choose a video segment that had a nice motion of the lantern and consistent lighting. I also needed to find a similar start and ending position of that lantern to help make the transition loop more seamless.

JianBing Breakfast

JianBings are one of my favorite street foods in Shanghai. A crepe-like dough is filled with egg, spring onions, crackers, chili oil and soybean sauce. It is sweet, savory, spicy, soft, and crispy all at the same time!


Once it started getting hot out, I decided to sit on a shaded bench at a cafe, sip an iced coffee and prepare my tripod and camera for filming whatever passed by.

I used Adobe After Effects to create this cinemagraph. I had never opened the program before this project, so I needed to familiarize myself with it first. I used the mirror feature in AE to stitch the loop together, which was relatively easy and a good solution for this cinemagraph.


Lin, J.C. (2014, February 19). When Photos Come to Life: The Art of the Cinemagraph. Time Magazine.

Betonio, D. (2017, January 21). 40 Examples of stunning Cinemagraphs. Tripwire Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s