Time-lapse photography is the art of taking single images and combining them to create a video that shows the movement of the environment around you. Making a good time lapse video does not happen by simply putting your DSLR on a tripod, facing your subject, and leaving the rest to the intervalometer. Like an artist who makes sure every portion of his/her painting is well planned, a photographer is responsible for directing both the shooting and the post-production processes. You need to make sure that you have planned everything to come up with the best time lapse video.
What do you need to start shooting time lapse videos?
A Sturdy Tripod
Controlling the position of the camera is crucial to achieving consistent results. To ensure stability, you may have to fit a geared head on a standard tripod. For creating time lapses or hyper-lapses, use a tripod to line up each shot as you move. It stabilizes the camera and helps you achieve smooth results.
Remote Shutter Release or an Intervalometer
This devices trigger your camera to take photos at regular intervals for an extended period of time. You’ll find this useful if your camera doesn’t have a built-in time-lapse feature.
If your camera doesn’t have a built-in intervalometer, consider getting an external option like MIOPS Remote Plus or Smart+ to trigger your camera from a distance. Interval Ramping, Bulb Ramping or Long Exposure time lapse features of these triggers will facilitate your time lapse processes.
You can program a MIOPS Remote Trigger to shoot photos at certain intervals. It will then send commands to your camera from your smartphone to start taking pictures.
The intervalometer is only a timing mechanism. You still have to edit the pictures in post-production to complete your time-lapse photography.
Take impossible photos by turning your camera into a high-speed capture device!
A DSLR or mirrorless camera will bring you more control and quality of images. However, you can also use some other alternatives, such as GoPro, point and shoot cameras, or your smartphone when being creative on your time lapse videos.
Capturing time-lapse videos:
- Put your camera on a secure tripod and lock everything down. The camera shouldn’t move at all while it’s taking images unless you're using a motorized Slider.
- Attach a Remote Trigger to your camera (some cameras have an intervalometer built into them) and dial in your interval settings from your phone. The interval can be whatever you want and should depend on the scene and what lens you’re using.
You can control all functions from your smartphone.
- Put your camera in manual mode as you don’t want your camera to judge the exposure for you at each image.
- Check your exposure and make sure there are no blown highlights. Also, make sure to manually focus the lens to make sure the final image will be sharp.
- If you’re using a DSLR, make sure to cover the viewfinder as stray of light leaking through could change the exposure between frames (and would result in flickering). If you are using a mirrorless camera, you do not have to worry about this issue.
- Take a test shot to see if you’re satisfied with the exposure, composition, and focus.
- Think about how many shots you want to take. In Europe, the standard frame rate is 25fps, so to get 10 seconds of footage you will need to take 250 images.
Once everything is ready, click 'start' on the intervalometer or on the phone screen if you are using a MIOPS trigger (or the equivalent option on your camera) and leave it alone for the duration of the shots that you will capture in total.
Creating time-lapses isn’t as intimidating as you think. For the most part, all it takes is pressing the shutter and being patient, after having all the correct settings.
You can start with simple ones such as capturing skylines or moving clouds. As you become more comfortable, you can start experimenting with more creative motives such as more complicated nature time lapses or busy city streets at night.
Manuel Delgado is an award-winning photographer with a specialization in travel and documentary photography. He writes for Contrastly and is a Mentor for NGO Photographers Alliance, having led workshops in Africa with a focus on ethical and humanitarian photography. His work has been exhibited in Europe and the Americas.
Driven by an innate curiosity for his surroundings, Manuel´s process is mainly focused on capturing people in their natural environment; translating through his lens the subtle threads of daily life that are shared across cultures, borders, and races. Depicting people from diverse backgrounds, his work is united by a shared aesthetic that serves to tell each individual’s story. Manuel is currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany.