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Moving Pictures: How to Increase Engagement With Cinemagraphs

by Chad Lott  |  
February 1, 2018

You'll recognize a cinemagraph the moment you see one.

They're hypnotic, mostly still images with artistically rendered, subtle motion—kind of like the moving photographs and paintings in the Harry Potter films.

Although there are no marketing silver bullets, cinemagraphs are fairly shiny and new, and they are still rare enough to have impact on your audience.

Here's a beautiful example I couldn't stop looking at when I first saw it:

The History of Cinemagraphs

Cinemagraphs were invented in 2011 by photographer Jamie Beck and Web designer Kevin Burg for Fashion Week in New York. The response to these magical images was so overwhelmingly positive, that the pair was able to build a business around them. Fashion cinemagraphs were soon being used by heavy-hitters such as Vogue's Anna Wintour.

One of their first major commercial projects, four Instagram posts for shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, earned over 1,600 comments and 60,000 likes from fans within a few days. The content took advantage of the platform's new-at-the-time video looping feature.

Even with new developments in consumer-grade video apps, such as Instagram's Boomerang, Beck's and Burg's cinemagraphs stand out for their craft and composition. Here's a (low-resolution) GIF version of one of them:

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Chad Lott is the senior copywriter at Webdam, a Shutterstock company. He has been creating content for brands and magazines for over 10 years.

LinkedIn: Chad Lott

Twitter: @Chadfredlott

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  • by Ian Thu Feb 1, 2018 via web

    The cinemagraphs are certainly beautiful, but how do you differentiate between distraction and engagement? If you get a click-through on the cinemagraph or ad containing it, that seems like engagement. If someone just lingers on a page a little longer maybe they are just trying to spot the seam in the video loop (that is what I find myself doing).

    Animated GIFs are a disaster, I will adjust my browser window just to get the damn thing out of eyeshot so I can concentrate on the copy!

  • by Robert Lendvai Fri Feb 2, 2018 via web

    Hi Chad. Robert from Flixel here. Thanks for the mention in your post.

    While cinemagraphs created with Flixel apps are generally done using HD and 4K quality video, the final file sizes can actually be much smaller than poor quality animated GIFs.

    One of the problems we solve with our apps and web services is "how do I easily embed my cinemagraph on a website or blog and make it autoloop and autoplay?" The examples you show have video controls which completely destroys the cinemagraph effect. Flixel developed our own embed technology that ensure that every cinemagraph loops and plays perfectly on all browsers and devices -- including mobile. The embed detects the device and sends an optimized version of the cinemagraph video. In many cases the video file that is send can only a few 100kb in size.

    Feel free to try embed any of the cinemagraphs in the galleries on You'll find a few thousand examples.

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