Want to Make Beautiful Food Cinemagraphs? Read On.

It all starts with a recipe, according to Daria Khoroshavina of Kitchen Ghosts. Finding the right recipe, she says, is the very important first step she and co-collaborator, Olya Kolesnikova, take in pursuit of creating one of their delicious food cinemagraphs. Both based outside of Moscow, Khoroshavina is the photographer in the food cinema graphic collaboration, and Kolesnikova is the chef and stylist.

Cinemagraphs are like GIFs, except they are still photographs in which one, often-subtle movement is repeated in a loop. They have gained enormous popularity in recent years, especially in the realm of food photography. With it’s mesmerizing capabilities, if you are a food blogger, it’s what will set you apart and get your noticed on Tumblr.

Making Pear and Walnut Strudle.  ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY DARIA KHOROSHAVINA AND OLYA KOLESNIKOVA.

Making Pear and Walnut Strudel. PHOTOGRAPH BY DARIA KHOROSHAVINA AND OLYA KOLESNIKOVA

I caught up with Khoroshavina, the English speaker of the pair, to learn her secrets on how she makes her tantalizing food cinemagraphs. Here is what I learned:

The Equipment:

Khoroshavina uses a Canon 6D and a tripod to shoot her cinemagraphs.  With these tools, her method is simple.  Shoot a video, loop it in After Effects, (which is a digital visual effects application used in the post-production process of filmmaking and television production) retouch it in Photoshop, and export it in every possible format.

Which Foods Work Best?

In her opinion, liquids are key to making a good cinemagraph, especially if they are thick and translucent.  Some of her favorites to use are honey, maple syrup, marshmallow sauce, and caramel. “They pour beautifully and look yummy,” she says. Khoroshavina also likes how tea or coffee with milk look poured over ice; swirling and dissolving the ice cubes. With still foods, she suggests adding movement to the frame such as a hand or wind; candles or sparklers.

Morning Coffee.   PHOTOGRAPH BY DARIA KHOROSHAVINA AND OLYA KOLESNIKOVA.

Morning Coffee. PHOTOGRAPH BY DARIA KHOROSHAVINA AND OLYA KOLESNIKOVA

Step-by-Step Staging:

When planning a step-by-step cinematographic cooking or baking tutorial, such as her recent one on Honeysuckle Cheesecake, Khoroshavina begins with a recipe, “I read many of them before cooking to understand the process of making some particular food, and create a list of shots that can work well as cinemagraphs.”

She then collaborates with her stylist and co-collaborator, Olya Kolesnikova, and together they collect props and ingredients, put them all in a pile on her studio floor, and brainstorm compositions for each shot. Next step: cook, arrange, shoot.  After the shoot, she uploads all the footage and spends another hour reviewing what she shot. She searches for good 2-3 second sections that will loop well. After she has finished processing the final product in After Affects and PhotoShop, she analyses her work.  “I show it to someone, to test the calming and hypnotizing effect.”

Tips and Ticks:

Khoroshavina further advises that you need to know your recipe. “Don’t try to shoot something you’ve never cooked before. You will ruin it. Practice first,” she says.  While shooting, don’t let anyone walk on the floor, it will ruin everything! You need to keep your tripod steady, and the background needs to remain very still. For a beautiful steam shoot, Khoroshavina suggests shooting outside, or using dry ice. She has also learned that reversing the movement looks best in the final product, especially for hands (think: cutting, washing, and stirring).

Favorite Cinemagraph She’s Made?

“Hands down it’s the pancakes,” says Khoroshavina. Every time she sees it, it makes her hungry, regardless of the fact that she does not have a sweet tooth. Another reason she loves it? The hilarious comments it gets on their Tumblr page.  “Every time I go there, I die laughing.  It really makes a strong impression on people.”

Here are some of her favorite comments from Tumblr:

what is this sorcery

OMG I just want pancakes now. All the pancakes. And then some. And a banana on the side and a pancake on the side of the…

This is oddly calming

Is it bad I’ve been watching this for 1 hour straight

Why is this so satisfying to watch

Really not safe for work.

Want to see more of Kitchen Ghosts’ work, including the famous pancake cinemagraph? See Mouthwatering Food–In Motion on our photography blog, Proof.

Jenna Turner has a love for all things visual and a lot of things food. She is an Assistant Photo Editor at National Geographic magazine.  Follow her on Instagram @jennamarieturner.

 

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