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A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. This description would prove to be even truer if applied to a cinemagraph. From the term itself, you may notice the evident linking of the words “cinema” and “photograph” to create something even more dramatic than each of the two when they stand alone. This combination adds an extraordinary effect to any regular image that you might see.

What is a cinemagraph?

A cinemagraph is a photograph where subtle and repeated movement occurs while the rest of the image stays still. It is done by taking a series of photographs and putting them together in an endless loop of frames that show a repetitive motion. This could also be done using a video recording, but the element of stillness in the majority of the image should still be there. After all, the movement is just part of the drama; it’s the contrast against the silent background that makes the effect whole.

GIF formats have often been associated with banner ads and glitter art—things that do not exactly have a good reputation when it comes to serious graphic design. Therefore, the fact that cinemagraphs often come in this format breaks this cycle, proving that the repetitive movement that it is known for could still be used for something as artistic as a cinemagraph.

What makes it appealing?

What brings about the appeal that comes with a cinemagraph?

A cinemagraph gives the viewer the best of both worlds as it maintains the quiet stillness that comes with a common photograph, preserving a memory in that precise moment that it was taken. At the same time, it also has that added mystery and hint of life as a few elements of that still frame come to life. And in the most beautiful ones you will ever see, it’s that added surprise of sudden movement that makes you do a double-take and stare once again, albeit just a little longer this time.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a few strands of hair moving with the wind as you stare at a photograph of a beautiful woman, or a ripple that slowly grows at a pond that a subject is viewing from afar. Whenever a small element of a bigger picture moves, it becomes alive, beckoning you to come closer and pushing you to become even more absorbed.

Here are a few outstanding examples of just how powerful cinemagraphs can be.

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Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos. Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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