Alpha Universe Story Detail
Alpha Universe Story Detail
How I Shoot
Creating Cinemagraphs with Virgo Haan 

I first discovered cinemagraphs when I read an article about Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, two photographers from New York who were inspired by the moving images that featured on the newspaper pages of the Harry Potter films. I’d also seen the films and thought it would be cool if you could make those kind of moving images a reality. After a few months of trial and error I was publishing my first cinemagraphs on Facebook. It started with simple ideas, such as making everything still except the moving hands of a clock, but then I began to push my ideas further.

The Idea

To grab people’s attention, a great idea is key. However, for the idea to work, it’s vital to know where the cinemagraph will be featured. If the cinemagraph is going on Instagram, the movement must be very visible and obvious and it should start instantly to grab people’s attention before they continue scrolling. However, if it will be featured on a larger screen, such as an advert, the movement can be more subtle as it will still be easily seen.

© Virgo Haan | Model: Lisete Altma | Makeup and Hair: Triin Lepp | Stylist: Konstantsija Ivanova

Flixel Module

There must also be an element of surprise to make it eye-catching for viewers. For example, I often make a contrast between the moving and still parts of the images. Perhaps the still is something that you would normally expect to be moving, such as water drops that are suspended in the air, but at the same time, the model’s hair is blowing in the wind.

© Virgo Haan | Model: Maria Sergejeva | Makeup and Hair: Maret Ubaleht | Lights: Heiki Laan

Flixel Module

An element of surprise can also be achieved when the image looks like a still image – such as a portrait - then, after a second or so has elapsed, the person suddenly blinks, like in this cinemagraph. It’s a surprise that makes the viewer stop and really concentrate on the image, waiting for it to happen again.

Creating a Cinemagraph

It may seem obvious, but it’s crucial to keep the camera completely still, so a tripod is essential. I shoot with a Sony α7R III and the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens as I find the camera does everything I need for both stills and video, while the lens gives me a lot of flexibility to get the right frame.

© Virgo Haan | Client: Alexela | Agency: Age Creative | Lights: Heiki Laan |
Cat: Igor | Art Department: Viktoria Martjanova and Elisa Vesterinen

Flixel Module

When shooting cinemagraphs, it’s important to keep the exposure settings the same for both stills and video so that it’s easy to merge together in post-production. I therefore always make sure I have my camera set to full manual exposure and white balance.

Keeping the camera still is easy, but if you have a person in your shot it’s important that they also stay as still as possible. I sit subjects down, lean them up against things...anything I can to keep the subject as still as possible. 

© Virgo Haan | Client: Rohujuur Bakery

Flixel Module

This applies to objects too, like in this cinemagraph. The subject is holding a bagel that has just been torn in half, but what you can’t see is that to keep everything in exactly the same position, there are sticks hidden inside helping to keep it all together. In this image, there are drops dripping and steam rising from it which are the only moving parts; the rest of the image is a still photograph. 

To really make the most of the moving part, I capture the video footage shooting at 120fps. This slow-motion mode creates movement that is smoother and has a creamy look to it, so the movement really stands out. Often, I will also take advantage of other shooting features, such as the time-lapse mode, which adds another surreal element. 

Post-Production

I use a variety of different software to help me compile my finished cinemagraphs. I start by creating the video loop using Adobe After Effects or Flixel Cinemagraph Pro. The aim is to edit the clip so that the start and end point create a seamless loop that could play forever, with no jumps between the first and last frames. Sometimes I deploy a few tricks to do this, such as reversing clips when they reach the end, or creating fade transitions, but mostly I try and get any movement to start and stop in exactly the same place when I’m shooting. 

© Virgo Haan | Model: Maria Sergejeva | Makeup and Hair: Maret Ubaleht | Lights: Heiki Laan

Flixel Module

I then take the still image and edit it in Adobe Photoshop. I may have to tweak the colours slightly to match the video footage, or edit something from the image. Once the still image is edited I load this in to Adobe After Effects or Flixel Cinemagraph Pro alongside the loop, where the parts are layered. 

© Virgo Haan | Client: Solaris keskus

Flixel Module

The top layer is the still image, with the loop sitting below it. I then carefully delete a section of the image layer, which is like creating a window, so that it reveals the looping video part that is on the layer below. And that’s basically how a cinemagraph is created!

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