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The Beginners Guide to Bulb Ramping Timelapse

The Beginners Guide to Bulb Ramping Timelapse

Most of you already heard about timelapse photography and I am sure some of you already tried it. Basically, in timelapse, we click lots of shots is a specific time interval and make a movie out of it. The final movie seems like time is moving very fast. With timelapse, you can show the movement of a few hours in a few seconds of the movie.

In time-lapse, usually exposure is constant and you need not change exposure in between. But when you are trying to capture a timelapse during sunrise or sunset, the light changes dramatically from golden hour to blue hour to complete dark with artificial lights and you can’t take entire sequence with the same exposure. You need to change the exposure either manually or using some external device.

If you are trying to change the exposure manually, there are two problems. First, you need to do all the calculations and change settings after every shot. Second, on the camera you can make changes only in one-third (1/3) stops at a time. If your time-lapse shoot time is one hour and the light changes a total of three stops in between, and you are taking a picture every five seconds, let’s do the math.

In one hour, you’ll take 720 shots and you need to change the exposure only 3 stop. At camera limitation of one-third stop, you can change exposure value only 9 times but actually you need to do it 720 times for a smooth transition. The solution to this problem is to use some external device to control the exposure.

MIOPS Smart+ is such a device that can do it for you. We set our camera to bulb mode and let MIOPS Smart+ to control the exposure, that’s why this technique is called “Bulb Ramping Timelapse”. So, let’s learn about how to shoot bulb ramping timelapse.

1. Find the perfect location:

The first step is to find a perfect location to create time-lapse. The best time to shoot bulb ramping timelapse is either sunrise or sunset because that time light changes and show different hues of colors. So, find a place where you can add the sun and sky in your video. You can use Google Earth to find the location. An app like “PhotoPills” can show you exactly where the sun will set and also the time of the golden hour, blue hour and complete dark.

If you are shooting at a beach, sometimes it’s hard to reach the location so pack light. Take only required gears like a camera body, a wide lens, lightweight but sturdy tripod, extra batteries and MIOPS Smart. Wear comfortable clothes and sports shoes.

2. Camera Setup:

Fix your camera on a tripod, compose your frame and focus manually.

3. Camera settings:

Set the camera in bulb mode, set ISO to 200, aperture to around f/8 for deeper depth of field. Make sure your camera is on single drive mode and you are shooting in RAW. Shooting in RAW is important because if you need to change exposure in post-processing, you can do it easily.

Here you need to remember one thing. If you have moving subjects like water or moving clouds or vehicles in your frame, you need to keep high shutter speed​,​ so increase the ISO accordingly.

4. MIOPS Smart+ settings:

Now connect MIOPS Smart with your camera and open MIOPS Mobile App and tap on Bulb Ramping Timelapse. Here you need to set only four parameters. First the interval between each shot, Second initial exposure, third final exposure and at last number of shots. You can set the Interval value from 13 milliseconds to 100 hours, also You can set the frame number up to 99999. If you set the frame number to 0, the time-lapse will continue until you stop it.

To know the interval time and number of frames, let’s do the math. Let’s assume that you want to make a 10 seconds movie at 24 frames per seconds. So you need a total of 240 frames (24 fps x 10 seconds). Now use the “PhotoPills” app to find out the duration of your shoot. Let’s say you’ll need to shoot for the one-hour duration.

Time Interval = Event or Recording Time in seconds / (Length of movie x frame per seconds)


1 hour / 10 seconds x 24

3600 seconds / 240 = 15 seconds


So you need to set a 15-second interval between each shot. If your exposure time is long, you need to consider that in this calculation too. Let’s say your initial exposure time is one second and final time is 5 seconds, in this case, the average is 3 seconds and your interval time would be 12 second instead of 15.

The Beginners Guide to Bulb Ramping Timelapse - MIOPS

It’s better to check the initial and final exposure values on the previous day of the shoot so you don’t need to do the guesswork on shoot day.

Things to remember:

1. Camera clicks in 3:2 aspect ratio but videos have 16:9 ratio. So a little bit of frame will be cut from the top and the bottom in the final movie. Make sure you don’t have any important elements there.

The Beginners Guide to Bulb Ramping Timelapse

2. Make sure you don’t place the horizon in the center of the frame. Horizon should be at top one-third or bottom one-third of the frame. If your horizon is at the top one-third, make sure you have some interesting elements in the foreground.

3. Take the shots one stop underexposed so you won't have blown highlights. You can recover shadows in post processing easily.

4. Check your camera screen regularly, if the photo is coming too dark or too bright, change camera setting accordingly. You can change only ISO because the shutter speed is controlled by MIOPS Smart and if you change aperture, it’ll affect depth of field. That’s why we set ISO to 200 initially.

5. If you want to take timelapse with motion, use MIPOS Capsule360.  It not only gives you the option to create rotating timelapse​​ but also control your camera for bulb ramping.

So let’s create some bulb ramping timelapse and add a new gem in your portfolio.

Related Article:  10 Timelapse Photography Tips Every Photographer Should Know


About the Author

Ramakant Sharda is an authoriOS App publisherpassionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.