“Still photos are so old fashioned.”
This was the incredible statement made by a highly-regarded photographer with over 30 years of experience at a recent Flixel Cinemagraph meetup I attended in London.
For those of you who don’t know, a cinemagraph is what Facebook refers to as a moving image and Flixel is the software company making it possible for everyone to create these captivating images via their iOS app. You can see some of our examples by clicking here.
As you can imagine I was fairly shocked to hear someone who’s had a successful 30 year career in photography and cinematography say that standard still images will soon be a thing of the past. As I travelled back from London I suddenly noticed the huge amount of digital advertising boards that surround us these days. Before we know it every advert we see outside of a laptop or smart-phone screen will be on a nicely lit digital display. This change is happening right now, and over the next decade we are going to forget that images used to be completely still. Flixel Cinemagraph is helping to shape that change.
We asked our very own cinemagraph expert Mario Sahe-Lacheante what it takes to get the most out of this exciting new medium, and also what impact his own commissions have had for his customers.
RUSSELL: For the benefit of people reading this, can you summarise your background and how you came to be an expert in making cinemagraphs?
MARIO: My background is in 14 years of working as cameraman and, later, director of photography in the production industry, where setting up shots with cameras and lights are at the core of my work. So, by extension, photography was something I’d always had an interest in and when I discovered cinemagraphs 15 months ago, it felt like the most natural progression for me between the two forms of media. I fell in love with the medium from the first one I created. I think, within the first three days, I created more than 50 different cinemagraphs from old archive footage as I was experimenting and trying to learn as much as possible about this new medium and harnessing its full potential. It wasn’t long before I started creating cinemagraphs from scratch, and I just haven’t stopped since. I had my first commission from Shell within a couple of months, and have been working away at bringing this medium to as many clients as possible ever since.
RUSSELL: How do you explain the benefits cinemagraph can bring to companies that might be looking for a new innovative way to promote their brand?
MARIO: Cinemagraphs are a premium medium. They can have all the style and finesse of still photographs, but have the added sophistication of smart movement that engages viewers on an incredibly exciting new level. Various brands, including Holden, Mercedes Benz, Microsoft and Pepsico have all run independent case studies with A/B tests that have shown some really exciting results. Cinemagraphs have proven to have far higher engagement, greater ad retention, a huge increase in click-through rates, and consequently greater ROI. This all means that, while cinemagraphs are a premium medium, they turn out to be cheaper over the course of their run with the results that they yield, compared to static and often ‘bland’ still images. It’s my view that cinemagraphs are the perfect social medium. They don’t need to take up minutes of a viewer’s time, or for the sound to be turned up as with videos, and they’re far more interesting than stills. They carry a sense of style, finesse, relevance and confidence that shows that the brands using them are out to stay ahead of the curve of the ever evolving digital space.
RUSSELL: Can anyone make a cinemagraph?
MARIO: Absolutely. Much like anyone can take photos or videos, cinemagraphs are also available to everyone. Apps, like Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro allows users to make cinemagraphs on a computer, or even on iOS, where it even has features like exporting a cinemagraph to Snapchat, or to Facebook – where a cinemagraph can now also be used as a profile video. More experienced professionals might rely on a more complex workflow, which may include the use of other programs, like Adobe’s After Effects or Photoshop, but anyone can start and have a go and take it from there!
RUSSELL: What has been your most successful commissioned cinemagraph?
MARIO: Unfortunately, with some really big clients, the scope of deployment for cinemagraph assets are often hidden from plain sight within their extensive marketing teams and distribution channels, so I can’t speak for all my work at this stage. However, one cinemagraph (link: https://flixel.com/cinemagraph/cykq295wat7zdgg0mlje/) that I captured for Shell at the Goodwood Revival in 2015, ended up being extremely popular, and was used again by them in an Instagram advert for the 2016 Goodwood Revival. Across the board, it gained tens of thousands of views and comments from their audience, and proved highly effective as an ad for Shell’s events.
RUSSELL: What tips would you give for people making the transition from still to moving images?
MARIO: For photographers, there’s a few things to keep in mind for cinemagraphs.
A). It’s all about a locked-off shot. Photographers are often used to moving around (this goes for video shooters too), but with cinemagraphs it’s absolutely critical that the camera is mounted on a tripod. Any movement on the camera’s part will disrupt the effectiveness of the cinemagraph, or even make it impossible to get a workable shot.
B). Think about consistent light – photographers are used to shooting with strobe lights, but when working with video, they need to look into using constant light sources, if they’re shooting in a studio setup. Otherwise, daylight still works just as well.
c). It’s about video now. Photography still very much has a place in creating cinemagraphs, but photographers not familiar with video would need to learn some of the basics, optimal video settings (like the correct shutter speed), using the right video format, etc.
Fortunately, most cameras used by photographers have capabilities for video, along with plenty of tutorials online, so it’s a matter of little bit of reading and experimenting, and they’d be ready to go.
RUSSELL: All of your work seems to tell its own story. Do you plan for that or does it just happen naturally?
MARIO: This is a tricky one to answer. I love telling stories, and using cinemagraphs to do so, but don’t always plan a specific story before setting out on getting the shot(s). By nature, I guess I try to find a story anyway, and it eventually finds its way into my work, but I’m really glad if my work reads that way, as it’s not always intentional.
RUSSELL: Do you think that every ad we see in future will use moving imagery of some kind? Will we see cinemagraphs everywhere?
MARIO: As far as adoption is available, I definitely think so. We’re already seeing the turnaround in London’s Underground advertising screens turning from paper to digital, and they’re all churning through dynamic adverts of one kind or another – whether they’re animations or, in some early cases, cinemagraphs. So I think that as far as digital screens will continue to get deployed around us, digital newspapers or magazines become popular, smart devices get optimised and digital distribution channels, like social media, become more extensive, dynamic adverts like cinemagraphs have a vast and bright future.
RUSSELL: Where can people see all of your amazing work?
MARIO: I have a portfolio online at www.cinepix.london with some of my work samples, along with my gallery on flixel.com/mariosl. I also manage two cinemagraph Instagram accounts. @Cine.pix is a place where I post most of my regular cinemagraphs, from commissions to shots of London, all in cinemagraph format. @TheMiracleStories is another account where I post portraits of people in cinemagraph format, with a bit of a story on each.
Here at The Prezenter we are all about helping companies tell better stories. If you want more info or a demonstration of how cinemagraphs could work for your business, then get in touch today on email@example.com