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  • Shaikha Al Thani

Creating a Cinemagraph

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

For my first project, the cinemagraph, I wasn't sure what my final cinemagraph would be straight off the bat. So I had created many different cinemagraphs partly to get more used to the technical processes in regards to how cinemagraphs are made and partly in anticipation of that "aha!" moment where I'd have a clear direction that I may pursue. I found that in the following cinemagraph featuring a girl decked in what appears to be a cyberpunk take on a VR headset facing a fluid and abstract thing hovering in front her, whilst set against flickering bokeh lights.

The way I created this very rudimentary first draft was with pretty straightforward techniques that utilizes Photoshop's blending modes, layer masks, and crossfades in order to create a seamless loop (lets pretend the swirling thing doesn't jump right after the crossfade).

There are a lot of missed opportunities here in terms of moving elements. This was the biggest concern I wanted to tackle with my forthcoming takes on the project.


I put together a moodboard so that I have more of a clear direction with this cinemagarph (in terms of lighting, background, and the general theme) and to get ideas on what else I can incorporate within it. All the assets sourced were from, except for the futuristic cityscape which I found on youtube.

The Final cinemagraph

Impressions (what went well and what didn't)

In hindsight, there's a lot that could've been better. A lot of the motion elements's looping effects could've been better. Namely the starry sky and the jellyfish. In both elements, you can either see a clear shift within the crossfade or a jump within the crossfade. Both flaws defeat the purpose of having a cinemagraph. These issues could've been fixed if I hunkered down and chose a better moment to instigate a crossfade for a looping effect. However given that I was not able to view a preview while editing, and relied on exporting it as a web legacy over and over again - each time detecting a new error to fix - I'm beginning to think that this really was the best I (or at least my patience) could produce at the time.

Nonetheless, I am not entirely upset with the piece. Rather, there are quite a few things I am satisfied with. Such as the selection of assets, I do feel like everything pretty much fits well together.Editing wise, colors has never been my forte - so I am quite proud of the adjustments made to ensure everything matches. Of course it could be better, as could everything, but this is already better than the standard I produce when it comes to color editing so there's that.


The greatest challenge was saving the file. Since Photoshop isn't essentially a video editing software, it is quite understandable that I may face issues when it comes to exporting the file. This was something I wasn't prepared for, as a result I had to recreate the project, and thus retrace my steps, numerous times. Albeit this gave me the opportunity to revise some changes, but it was tedious and certainly challenging. Another challenge was trying to achieve a perfect loop on the jellyfish. This does seem counterproductive given that it is such consists of such a natural, fluid and organic movement. However I attempted to tackle the creating the loop on Premiere Pro and using the video on Photoshop. This granted me a certain degree of freedom I wouldn't have had if edited on Photoshop.

Possible changes

There are so many more things that could've been added to the cibemgraph if Photoshop could take more moving layers. On could be the incorporation of reflected light on the subject's arm that could shift and flicker with the movement of the undulating jellyfish. Another could have been adding neon lights that occasionally flicker. One change I really regret not adding is including more sea creature elements which would have really added to the whole cyberpunk / alien-y fish-y feel of the of cinemagraph

Whats next

In terms of what could happen next, who knows? On one hand, I've been itching to animate something illustrated (not the frame by frame animation I've grown accustomed to doing - but the computer assisted animation that only softwares like After effects can aid in). On the other hand, writing Photoshop a very long winded letter on how a new update in which the software is less finicky with large or moving files certainly feels overdue!

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