Bring Your Drone Photos to Life – Drone Cinemagraph Tutorial



Animations can add flare and interest to your photos, and bring your still drone photos to life. Cinemagraphs can be used to capture user interest on Instagram or Twitter, or for other marketing purposes including residential and commercial real estate listings.


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What Exactly is a Cinemagraph?

Cinemagraphs are a cross between a still photo and a video. They are animations in which some elements are moving and some elements are stationary. They transition seamlessly, and repeat on an infinite loop.

The first thing you have to do is go out and get some drone footage. Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to shoot:

  • Some elements need to be moving, but some elements need to be still. Plan in advance which parts you would like to be in motion, rather than trying to figure it out in post-production.
  • Because the motion needs to transition seamlessly, try to pick something subtle and smooth. Drastic movements can make it harder to loop smoothly. For example, running water, steam or smoke, or rustling trees make subtle, organic movements that blend well.
  • To be sure you have a few seconds of usable drone footage, record for at least 10-15 seconds without touching the controls at all. You won’t use it all, but it’s always better to have too much footage than too little.


What Not To Do

  • Don’t choose an object that ends up far from where it began. Try to choose something that returns to its original position at the end of the video.
  • Don’t move or shake the camera at all. The best way to do this is with a tripod, but drones do a pretty good job staying still while in the air, as long as you avoid shooting on a windy day.
    **To fix this, try using the Warp Stabilizer in Adobe Premiere Pro. If you set the Result to “No Motion,” this will imitate a tripod, making it much easier to loop your video smoothly.



Once you feel that you have some usable footage, go ahead and open it up in Photoshop. This is where things can get tricky, so I’ll break it down into 7 steps:

  1. Trim the video to the exact clip that you want to repeat. Make sure you trim at least a second or two off of the beginning and end of the clip. The overall length should be about 2-3 seconds. You can zoom in on the clip by using the slider at the bottom. Play the clip a few times to see how well it loops.
  2. Duplicate the clip. To duplicate the clip, drag the layer down to the New Layer icon in the bottom right.
  3. Align the two layers. Drag the beginning of the bottom layer to the end of the top layer. This way the clip will start and end on the exact same frame. Expand the bottom layer to overlap the top layer by at least 1-2 seconds. Then crop the extra off the end.  
  4. Fade the top layer using keyframes. Where the new clip begins, start to fade out the top layer. It should fade out to 0% by the end of the video. Now when you play the video, the clip fades into itself, making a smoother transition.
  5. Stamp the still image of the first frame on top of the whole thing by pressing Command + ALT + Shift + E. Drag it to the top of the layers if it does not paste there automatically. Crop off the extra.
  6. Mask out the parts that you want to animate. Create a layer mask of the layer by clicking the icon in the bottom right corner, and use the brush tool erase the elements that you want to be in motion.
  7. Export the clip as either a GIF or a video. To save as a GIF, which are good for Twitter, or websites, click File, Export for web. In the dialog box, make sure it is set to loop forever instead of only once, and hit save. To save as a video, which can be posted on instagram, click File, Render video.


And that’s it! For a more detailed step-by-step cinemagraph tutorial, watch the video that goes along with this post.

If you’d like to learn more, please check out some of our other drone photography tutorials, or simply follow dronegenuity on our social media channels: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates.