Bringing Photos to Life with Flixel

Sometimes it is staggering how many images I see in a single day. I probably see 200 images before I leave bed in the morning as I check Facebook, Instagram and the news. I see dozens more on the walls of the subway and subway train on the way to the studio. Dozens more in the store windows I pass, on the top of taxis and the sides of a bus. Driving through NYC is another sensory overload all together as I see 20-story high images wiz pass. Dozens more if I pick up a magazine to admire or use for inspiration. Thats assuming I never visit Pinterest that day for inspiration. Counting the images I see each time I check social media, I’d be really surprised if I didn’t see 1,000 images a day between digital and physical media.

As a photographer, this can be perplexing. How the heck do we get your work to stand our through this constant barrage of images? I believe this is one reason why some publications and advertisements have leaned toward sexual content or shock-tactics— they are just seeking some way to push through the constant visual noise. Part of me believes this competition for visual attention constantly pushes me to be a better photographer. I endlessly receive visual stimulation for inspiration and am inspired by just how striking the art of photography can be. It also pushes me to be creative, refine my craft and seek ways to differentiate myself visually.

Years ago I had seen a new approach to pushing through visual noise. It was neither still frame nor video, but a hybrid between the two. Referred to as cinemagraphs, many of you have probably come across a few at this point. They are moving images— still images with part of the frame in motion. I was in love with them when I first saw them, they seemed surreal and engaging. A cross between photo and video, but neither at the same time. They reminded me of how I envisioned the future— kind of like the 3D advertisements in Back to the Future crossed with the newspaper images in Harry Potter. I scoured the internet and figured out how to create these ‘living photos, yet unfortunately they were somewhat cumbersome to create in Photoshop. Since I first came across cinemagraphs, they have grown in popularity and they have been covers of digital issues of major print magazines (like Marie Claire), online advertisements (recently seen several for luxury hotels), and featured on programs like America’s Next Top Model.

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Late last year a company called Flixel came on my radar. Their company provides a simplistic way of creating these wondrous moving images, making it incredibly easy and intuitive.  In fact, when I tried the software called Flixel Cinemagraph Pro (without tutorial, etc) it probably only took me about 10-15 minutes to figure out the essentials. Basically, you import a video clip, select a still frame you want to be the main image, and then mask out areas in the photo/video that you want to have motion. From there you can export the cinemagraph as a movie or to the Flixel server which provides you embed codes to share them your blog, Facebook, website or other social media outlets.

I was lucky enough to have Flixel invite me to collaborate with them in creation of 3 images that they would then share with the photographic community at WPPI Las Vegas. This show begins at the end of this week (the trade show next week), and two of my cinemagraphs will appear MASSIVE on 65in 4K monitors at the show.

I wanted to share the images we created here, as well as a bit of the inspiration behind the images and the creative team involved. You will definitely want to check out the BTS video filmed by my good friend Dave Geffin and edited by the Flixel team— its beautiful and gives you a look behind the scenes of the process!

I began the creative process my putting together several inspiration boards of images that I thought could look beautiful if animated. I gathered my own images, images of other photographers, and created a brief description of what I would have ‘living’ in each photograph. We finally settled on three images we would shoot in a single day. Each image was captured with the Panasonic Lumix GH4 to allow us to shoot in 4K video (and therefore have much larger still frames we could select and more detail to the video for the final living image).

“Floating in a Dream”

One of the images I presented the Flixel team was a surreal bridal image I had created the year before as part of one of my intensive workshops. I had the entire room filled with balloons, the entire scene backlit, glowing and ethereal. They wanted me to basically recreate this image, yet incorporate movement into the balloons. In the commercial world this is exactly what you want to happen—you create an image for pleasure and then are asked to create something similar for an advertisement or other project.

The idea was to have the bride appear as if she were dancing or floating in a cloud of balloons. The balloons could subtly sway around her and take us further into this surreal dream world.

Behind the scenes with Lindsay Adler and Flixel creating a cinemgraph


I collaborated with my good friend and set designer Ivie Joy Flowers to hang the see-through fabric in front of two large windows and then build a set of translucent and white balloons. To create movement in the scene, we used fans as well as balloons attached to long strings to create the desired twirl and sway of the balloons (that would later be animated in the cinemagraphs). All of the light in the scene was from the light streaming through the windows behind the model, giving us that wrapping and dream-like look.


“Sleeping Beauty Awakens”

The second image that the Flixel team was drawn to was a photograph of a girl leaning against a wall of purple hanging flowers. The model was pale, and holding a fan. The coolness of the scene and wall of flowers was beautiful and surreal, and I knew I could take it one step further for an even more powerful image.

We decided that subtle movement in this scene would help create a really captivating cinemagraph, and that we would use fans to gently have flowers sway around the subject. I decided that I wanted the model to recline in a mix of stunning purple flowers, as if a princess surrounded by beauty. We selected dream-like silver hair, stunning princess bridal gown, and fairytale purple makeup to set the scene.

Ivie Joy Flowers constructed the stunning set of flowers for this cinemagraph. We discuss flowers carefully ensuring we could have long stems and delicate flowers that would sway in a subtle breeze. I wanted to have the model reclining in the flowers, and as she lay there it became evident that she looked very much like Sleeping Beauty. We had her slowly open and close her eyes, as if awakening from a long slumber by love’s true kiss. This fit our bridal/love theme perfectly. I stood high atop a ladder with the tripod zip-tied to the ladder to give me the perfect perspective.

For this setup I used Profoto Pro Daylight to give me glowing constantly light. This is a fantastic HMI light source that gives me daylight balanced constant light that is not only adjustable but also gives me the ability to use all of my Profoto modifiers. Since I would be filming video, I would definitely need constant light but wanted the comfort of using modifiers I was used to. This is the strength of the Pro Daylights— all of my Profoto modifiers fit on this powerful constant light, allowing me to shape my light the same way as I would shape my strobes. The modifier I chose was the Westcott Zeppelin 47in (deep umbrella) to give us a stunning glow to the photograph, including soft light fitting of the dream we had created.

What was great about using Cinemagraph Pro is that I was able to quickly download my footage and test to see if I had captured what I needed to achieve my vision. In the past when I shot cinemagraphs I would have to cross my fingers and play around in Photoshop or After Effects, hoping I had gotten the ideal footage. With this new software it would take me just a couple minutes to ensure I have gotten exactly what I needed. 

Behind the scenes with Lindsay Adler and Flixel creating a cinemgraph

Love’s Spark

 This last setup was a ‘bonus’ we decided to capture since we were all gathering for the shoot. We had seen another cinemagraph involving sparklers, and decided to do our own take on the concepts but with a bride. Before the shoot I went online and ordered sparklers that are usually used for wedding cake tops— they spelled out “LOVE”. For this living image we would shoot two frames. One still frame of the model, and another moving frame (video) with the sparklers (stuck in foam) that we would super impose to give us this sparkling image. We decided to combine two frames by matching the height of the sparklers behind the model so they would appear like they were on her head, but without any safety risks.

By looping the image (with a bounce loop) we would give the sparklers an endless twinkle. This created a playful and celebratory look to this bridal image! Again the photograph was lit with the Profoto Pro Daylight and Westcott Zeppelin 47in to give me beautiful light. I decided to keep the lighting simple to allow the eye to focus on the movement of the sparklers and the beauty of the model.

I wanted to give a special thanks to everyone that helped make these beautiful images possible. Thanks to my creative team, Profoto and K&M rentals for the Pro Daylights, Flixel for considering me for this project, and the hard work of all involved.

I’m excited to start incorporating these moving images even more into my work as a form of differentiation. Ideally I will not only help my clients differentiate their brands and grab the attention of ever-distracted audiences, but hopefully these living photographs can help differentiate my own brand. Maybe someday one of my cinemagraphs will be in Times Square (goal setting....)!

Definitely check out my Flixel profile to see as I add more living photographs to my portfolio! If you are attending WPPI, be sure to check out the images on large monitors too!

Behind the scenes with Lindsay Adler and Flixel creating a cinemgraph Behind the scenes with Lindsay Adler and Flixel creating a cinemgraph

My creative team:

Photography and Flixel: Lindsay Adler -   

Wardrobe: LSC for 4 Season Style Management - 

Hair and Makeup: Johnny Gonzalez - 

Model: Aurianna Joy -

Set Design: Ivie Joy Flowers -

BTS Video: Dave Geffin -

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