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How to Shoot Time Lapse Photography

Time lapse photography is a time-lapse technique that captures images at time intervals and records them as video. The resulting time-lapsed sequence will show the events that happened over those time intervals as they happen, instead of as individual frames. This article will provide you with information on what time lapse photography is, how to shoot it, and how to edit your footage for maximum impact.

What Is Time Lapse Photography? 

Time lapse photography is a time-lapse technique that captures images at time intervals and records them as video. The resulting time-lapsed sequence will show the events that happened over those time intervals as they happen, instead of as individual frames.

Making Videos From Still Images

You may be wondering what time lapse footage looks like, how much time it will take to shoot a time-lapse video, and whether your camera can even capture time lapse videos. If you have ever taken multiple photos in rapid succession – kind of like the photo burst setting on most cameras or smartphones – time lapse is very similar except that instead of taking individual pictures every few seconds or minutes, an entire sequence of images are captured over a longer period for playback at normal speed, like in diptych and triptych photography.

In terms of time required to complete a project with this type of photography, if you’re capturing 240 frames per second across two hours then that’s 480 shots total. That means there could potentially be four times as many stills from one scene than actual time elapsed. This means time lapse is perfect for capturing something over an extended period of time, or recording a scene that moves very slowly or has subtle changes in action. And since your camera doesn’t have to focus between each shot you’ll use up less time while shooting and can easily change positions if needed – so you won’t miss any key moments during the time lapse process!

Time Lapse Photography Equipment

Below we’ll walk through the photography equipment you’ll need to shoot time lapse photos.

DSLR or CSC Camera

The most important thing you’ll need is a way to capture time-lapse videos. While some point and shoot cameras have time lapses settings, DSLRs are the best option if you want more manual control over your camera’s exposure during time lapse photography.

14mm to 200mm Camera Lens

Shooting time lapses with your DSLR or CSC camera will require a powerful lens. Keep in mind that for time lapse photography you’ll need to shoot long exposures, so the shorter the focal length of your lens is – meaning how wide it can take in a scene – the better off you are when trying to capture something over an extended period of time.

Tripod and/or time lapse slider

Because you’ll be shooting long exposures, it’s important to keep your camera as still as possible. A tripod is the best way to accomplish this and time lapses sliders help you create panning time-lapse videos by moving your DSLR or CSC from one place to another with a controlled movement over time.

Intervalometer

An intervalometer is what you’ll use to time lapse capture your photos. It’s a small device that hooks up between your DSLR or CSC and the tripod so it can trigger the shutter at specific time intervals, allowing for extended time-lapse videos to be created.

Setting Up Your Shots

  1. Set up your tripod and secure everything down. The camera should not move at all while taking photographs unless you’re using a motorized slider. Attach an intervalometer to your camera (some cameras have one built in) and set the parameters for the intervals. It’s entirely up to you, as long as it falls within the scope of what’s happening on screen and what lens you’re utilizing. I usually opt for 1 and 5 seconds.
  2. Place your digital camera in Manual mode since you don’t want it to determine the exposure for you. If you used Aperture Priority, there’s a good chance your video will flicker. Check your exposure and make sure no highlights are blown. Also, make sure the lens is manually focused to ensure that the final image is sharp.
  3. If you’re using a DSLR, make sure to cover the viewfinder in order to avoid changing exposure between frames (and causing flicker). Take a test shot to assess your exposure, composition, and focus.
  4. Consider how many photographs you’ll want to take. The standard frame rate in the UK is 25fps, so to capture 10 seconds of footage, you’ll need to take 250 photos. I usually shoot around 400-600 images since this gives me more editing room. Click ‘Start’ on the intervalometer (or the equivalent option on your camera) after you’re happy and leave it alone for the remainder of the shots.

Shooting A Time-Lapse Video

  1. Take a walk around your area to see what you have to work with. Time-lapse photography is a long commitment, so before you arrive and start shooting, make sure the location is suitable. Consider how you want to frame your subject, how much light there is in the region, and whether or not anything unforeseen might occur.
  2. Pack carefully. You should think about the sort of atmosphere you’ll be working in while packing your camera equipment—whether it will be hot and sunny, or cold and cloudy—and pack a hat and sunscreen accordingly. If it’s chilly, bring a coat and gloves. Bring water and food with you wherever you go.
  3. Set up your camera and tripod. Make sure you have a solid foundation for your camera and tripod; otherwise, the frames will be uneven, causing your time-lapse to appear wobbly.

Other Tips

  1. When shooting in Raw, you’ll get a wider dynamic range and more editing options. When using the Manual exposure mode on your camera, remember to change both the white balance and ISO.
  2. Batteries drain quickly, so always have backups on hand. I prefer using a battery grip on my camera; it lets me use two batteries at once. You want the footage to appear smooth and with some motion blur, which is why 1/50s is a good shutter speed for time-lapse.
  3. Clean the camera’s sensor and lens element just before taking your first frame, in case there are any rain droplets on the front element. Your memory cards should be big and quick. You’ll be shooting a lot of photos, so make sure your camera’s buffer can process them fast enough before the next shot. Anything with a write speed of 50MB/s or greater is ideal.
  4. Turn off the Auto Power Off and Review Image options in your camera to save battery life.

Editing Time Lapse Photos

  1. Import the images into Adobe Lightroom and make sure to keep them apart from all of your other photos taken that day. Edit one of the photographs. I usually choose an image in the middle of the sequence and, once I’ve finished editing it, copy all of my settings to the other images. Make sure to crop it at a ratio of 16×9 since this is the standard aspect ratio for most movies.
  2. Select Save As from the drop-down menu of the Export option, and choose JPEGs. Choose Full HD (this would be a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels) as the resolution of your images. Open Photoshop with Motion Workspace selected. Now click File > Open to begin. Find the folder where you’ve stored the exported pictures and select the first file. Make sure Image Sequence is selected before clicking Open.
  3. Set the frame rate for your desired video. Because I’m in the United Kingdom, I usually use 25fps. The video will display at the bottom of the screen in the timeline. You may preview how it looks by playing a preview. It’s possible that it won’t play smoothly at first since it’s still generating files. Once you’re satisfied, choose File > Export > Video Render.
  4. You can name the video file and select the video format (H.264 is best for general use). Because this was imported, the frame rate and resolution will be calculated based on how you entered it; therefore, they will not need to be changed. Click Export now to begin exporting your video.

Conclusion

Time-lapse photography is a time and energy intensive process. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you enjoy your time there because even the shortest time will feel like an eternity when shooting time-lapses.