What are Cinemagraphs?

By March 15, 2016 March 29th, 2016 Instagram News

Big brands are mixing things up on Instagram using the glorified GIF known as the Cinemagraph.

Cinemagraphs: Break Away From The Static of Instagram

Cinemagraphs are a creative way to break the static of Instagram. Source: Reddit.com

Why are so many brands choosing to incorporate cinemagraphs into their campaign?

1. Cinemagraphs are cheaper and easier to produce than videos.

2. It’s a more intriguing form of advertising – more like storytelling.

3. They’re optimized for Facebook and Instagram (their autoplay feature is perfect for cinemagraphs)

4. Their short length and simple format allows for easier consumption

5. A strong cinemagraph can capture the essence of a brand in a simple way

Cinemagraphs are a fresh new look on Instagram posts. Think of them as living photographs. A still image with a little bit of life inside it. Using a program such as Cinemagraph Pro by Flixel, you can create still photographs in which a small and repeated movement occurs; basically it’s a gif that’s all grown up. For example, Heineken posted a cinemagraph that features their beer. The only movement in the photo is the beer being poured from the bottle into a glass. It’s simple, and yet eye-catching.

Cinemagraphs were created by photographers Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck in 2011. In an interview with Time, they stated that their goal was to create “a living moment in an otherwise still photograph.” They wanted to be able to tell a deeper story within a still picture. A moment can live forever in a cinemagraph.

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It’s been shown in studies by Nielson Holdings N.V. (a global company that measures consumer growth) that adding cinemagraphs to social media campaigns creates more excitement for brands and attracts new followers. Mercedes-Benz Canada used a cinemagraph in their instagram campaign featuring their cars in still images with nothing but the clouds moving overhead. This brought a 6pt lift in brand favorability in males, and 34% lift in ad recalls (across three campaigns).

Many wine and spirit brands have started taking advantage of the art of cinemagraphs on their social media platforms. It’s easy and simple to draw the audience’s eye to their product by slight movements in the image. Look at the cinemagraph below from the men’s clothing brand, Mr. Porter. It features a man leaning up against the bar, drink in hand. He’s completely still except rotating the drink in his hand, swirling the alcohol around in the glass. It’s so simple and pleasing to the eye. It just looks good amidst Instagram feeds filled with stale pictures of their products.

Cinemagraphs: Break Away From The Static of Instagram


There are a various ways to start creating your own cinemagraphs, the first being Photoshop. If you’re savvy with the ways of Photoshop, this might be perfect for you, but for those who aren’t, it might be best to take the Flixel route. Flixel offers a program called Cinemagraph Pro that allows you to create cinemagraphs in a simpler way. It’s user friendly, and walks you through each step.  They also offer several video tutorials for free that will teach you how to confidently create mesmerizing gifs. You can even sign up for a free trial on their website to see if it’s the program for you.

You’ll need to make sure you have a camera with video capturing capabilities, a program to edit with after such as Photoshop or Cinemagraph Pro, and a worthy subject to capture. It’s important to be patient in order to make a cinemagraph that is deserving of likes on Instagram. One of the creators of the concept, Kevin Burg, has said in his Times Magazine interview that it takes an average of two days to create one. Even longer if you’re working on human movement, as you can guess it’s a little trickier to perfect.

You also want to be mindful of what you want your audience to focus on. The element in the photo that you want to show movement should have a reason to be moving. Don’t choose to make objects move just for the sake of making them come to life. There is a fine balance between the still image and the movements you create. The beauty of cinemagraphs is that the movement is subtle and unexpected.

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Cinemagraphs are an inventive way to utilize the auto-play and looping features on Instagram. Pay attention to the way the end of your cinemagraph transitions back to the beginning. The less noticeable, the better. This will allow it to play continuously to appear more realistic and life-like as opposed to choppy and unprofessional. Think of a cinemagraph featuring a bridge over a river. Say you want just the water to appear as if it’s flowing downstream. When it’s on a continuous loop, it should appear as if the water never stops moving.

Cinemagraphs: Break Away From The Static of Instagram

Source: Greenpeace.org

While cinemagraphs are an exciting and different way to spice up your Instagram feed, try not to overuse them. Be selective of what content would benefit from the movement of a cinemagraph. They have a special appeal, which is why they should be used in the right context in order to remain unique.

Explore Instagram and take a look at some huge brands experimenting with cinemagraphs in their ad campaigns. It’s often difficult to stand out in a crowd of millions on Instagram.  We are always searching for ways to create engaging content that tells a story. One that really makes our followers feel something. Cinemagraphs can be a subtle way to grab people’s attention and draw followers to your account. They can take more work than the average Instagram post, but it will be most likely be worth it.

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