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An Easy to Understand Guide for Time-lapse Photography

An Easy to Understand Guide for Time-lapse Photography

Time-lapse photography is a cinematography methodology where the frame rate of the film is lower than which is used for playing back the sequence. So, when the captured film frames are played in a sequence using a normal speed, it appears to the viewer that time is moving very fast and is lapsing as well. Simply saying, time is being manipulated here. 

Since the time has been speeding up by this technique, a changing object or an event which usually takes minutes, days, hours, weeks, months or even years can be seen in just a few seconds.

The main idea is that the required numbers of photos are captured at equal intervals. They are stitched during the post-processing stage. The final outcome is that the entire sequence gets played back faster than usual. The final result is the video where basically a sequence of images is running in a fast succession just one after one another.


Time-lapse photography can be used for showing motions very fast. Time-lapse footages of a flower opening or seasons changing or building construction are great subjects where real-time long actions can be compressed.  A large number of photographers these days are using time-lapse photography to create a stunning experience.

How to choose a location?

Location or subject options for time-lapse photography are endless. Any subject or location which has some movements are ideal subjects for making a time lapse. Some of the beautiful instances or example can be landscapes with moving clouds, cities with moving cars and people, and other ideas like a germinating seed.

All such moving options are captivating and you can choose an option which is interesting to you. Following are some common subjects which can be used for time-lapse photography.

A) Landscapes.

B) Celestial motions.

C) Flowers opening or plants growing.

D) Rotting or expiring fruits.

E) A construction project evolving.

F) People moving in the city.


Types of equipment required:

Here are some of the significant accessories and equipment required for time-lapse photography.



Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!


1. Tripod – A rock solid base is a must for your camera. Invest in the best tripod which is affordable by you and one which is not affected by any bump, wind or any other movement.

2. Intervalometer- You needs to set an interval before actually starting the shooting. Some of the cameras come with a basic intervalometer inbuilt inside them, the ones which do not have will require an external one. MIOPS Smart is my personal favorite because it works well with most of the cameras and can be controlled with your smartphone.

3. Neutral Density Filter - This is a useful tool which helps to use a slow shutter speed.

4. Weather gear - You must plan for rain covers and dust covers as time-lapse photography are done outdoors in extreme temperatures or humid climatic conditions most of the time. Pack a lot of silica gel for absorbing moisture and promote condensation.

5. A spare body - Most of the professional time-lapse photographers carry a spare camera body with them. If you have multiple bodies, it’s advisable to keep one more body with lens.  Time-lapse photography required a lot of time, once you start a time-lapse, you may use your second camera body to capture other photos at the same location.

6. Extra batteries - You may run out of power if the duration of the recording time is longer so it’s better to keep some extra batteries and a portable charger. Be careful not to move your camera accidentally when you are changing the battery.

7. High-speed memory cards – Always carry multiple high-speed memory cards. If your memory card is slow, you may miss some shots. Make sure to invest in memory cards with faster speed and bigger capacity.


Camera settings:

Before doing the camera settings, you need to calculate the interval between each shot. You required two parameters to calculate it. First the time duration of the event and second the length of the final movie.

Let’s say you want to create a ten-second movie of a blooming flower and this process takes 24 hours. So, first you need to calculate the number of frames required. Movies are usually played at 24 or 30 frames per seconds so for a 10-second movie, you need 240 or 300 frames. 

We assume that you are making a 24 FPS movie and the blooming process is taking 24 hours so we need 240 shots in 24 hours which means 10 shots per hours that comes down to a 6-minute interval between each shot. Here you need to make sure that you are not missing any action in this time interval. If you think you may miss something you can reduce the interval time and make a longer movie.

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

To make it more clear, let’s work on one more example. Let’s say you want to capture one hour event and make a 10-second movie at 24 fps. In this case, the time interval would be:

1 hour / 10 seconds x 24

3600 seconds / 240 = 15 seconds

Time-Lapse Photography

Now we 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 exposure time is one second, in this case, your interval time would be 14 second instead of 15.

Now we know the interval time, let’s talk about the camera settings. You need the same focus, color and depth of field in all photographs so you need to set these manually. First fix your camera on a tripod, set your frame and focus manually. Now set white balance to daylight or any other mode according to the scene except auto.

If you are capturing frames in a short time and light is going to be same, use manual mode otherwise go with aperture priority mode. If the light is inconstant but still you want same shutter speed in all pictures, you may go with manual mode and set ISO to auto.

Now start your intervalometer and let it do the rest. Meantime you are free to read an interesting book or do something else.

Things to remember

1. Most of the camera has auto shut off feature, make sure it’s off.

2. Turn off your camera’s LCD screen, it’ll save lots of battery.

3. Always shoot in RAW, it takes lot more space than jpeg but it’ll be easy to correct exposure or color in post-processing if you made some mistake during the shoot.

Select and shop for your MIOPS products now to make magic happen!

Related Article: How to Easily Shoot Motion Time Lapse with Capsule360


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“.

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