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7 Time-lapse Ideas to Inspire You

Night sky timelapse tree silhouette

The key element to a stunning time-lapse is the presentation of movement that would otherwise go unnoticed or underappreciated, but with the increase in perceived time, can be observed in splendid detail and at a pace that allows the movement to be fully understood.

Thanks to the use of a sequence of still images, the resolution, color depth and dynamic range of the time-lapse can be of a higher quality that would otherwise likely be available, meaning the final video will be down-res’d to fit the dimensions of HD, or 4k (4k is roughly the equivalent of 8MP/frame), with outstanding clarity and vibrancy if carried out correctly.

If high resolution is something you really require, you could even output in some ultra-high resolution dimensions like 5K for viewing on very large media (5K is roughly 15MP), or when zooming into the final product may be desirable. Your typical time-lapse will not warrant such capability, however, if you are doing a time-lapse to capture scientific phenomena, it may be advantageous.

If you are anxious to try out time-lapse, but you haven’t a subject determined yet, here are some ideas that often result in great successes to use as inspiration. Keep in mind that exposure times can be significant – if there is motion it may serve the time-lapse to freeze it in place, however, it is often a good idea to allow some motion blur, as it will transition between frames more fluidly.

This depends on the speed of the motion versus the number of frames per second you have, and the nature of the motion as it relates to the composition of the time-lapse, but it is something you should consider when planning and executing your time-lapse.

Flowers and plants

Flowers and plants can be beautiful to behold, but their transformation from seed to adult plant is often absolutely breathtaking. If you have an indoor plant that you are about to start to grow, you can set up a camera on a mount of a tripod at the angle with which you want to capture. As you water, groom or fertilize on a regular schedule, you can incorporate taking a photograph at the same time. You aren’t going to want to allow the camera to move, so it would be best if it weren’t touched at all. Use a remote shutter and a wall outlet to keep the camera powered and the lighting is consistent.

The Sky

Whether you choose to shoot clouds sprawling across the sky, or the awesome display of stars in the night sky, the sky can provide a whole host of phenomena that will both enlighten the observer to the complexities of the atmosphere or cosmos but will also provide a beautiful spectacle. In the daytime, the movement of clouds can be quite spell-binding, and the rolling in of rain or a thunderstorm can be particularly interesting.

At night, if the sky is clear and you are in an area dark enough, the stars in the sky can provide a beautiful time-lapse as the stars move in relation to the observer due to Earth’s rotation. Our list of top astrophotography locations may give some helpful suggestions.

Sunrise or sunset

The transition from day to night or night to day can be spectacular. Often the color changes are beautiful, but can only be appreciated in a video format, but where video often fails to capture the splendour adequately and results in a video that would ideally be increased in speed, time-lapse allows you to take high-resolution, high-bitrate and high-dynamic-range images using your DSLR or mirrorless and use each image as a frame rather than dropping frames in order to speed the motion in the video.

These are called “holy-grail” sequences in time-lapse parlance. This will result in splendid views of the sun and the transition to or from nighttime that would just not be possible with most video equipment out there. I highly suggest taking such shots in a desert, on a mountain, or on a coast in order to get the full effect of the sun’s set or rise.

Other locations which might serve well include forests, city-scapes and prairie or farmland, especially those with rolling hills. If you are considering shooting a sunrise or sunset, you should look into software and techniques to help you overcome the challenges of creating a “holy grail” time-lapse.

Urban area

Show the hustle and bustle of the city street throughout the workday. Show cars and people in motion, working like the blood cells of the city. These types of time-lapse can work especially from higher vantage points, showing a grand scheme of the movement in the city. It is a good idea to get some variation, for example, sunrise to sunset, to allow for the workday to play out and the difference in traffic to reveal itself. Often the majority of traffic will walk in one direction to start a workday and the opposite when it concludes, with less dense and less directional traffic in between and the pre and post-workday lull afterwards.

There are all sorts of patterns you may find, however, and it is very interesting to see a large volume of people moving en masse. In this case, it might be wise to use relatively longer exposures to allow for some motion blur, which will soften the movement in the frames and often results in a more fluid transition from frame to frame when you have dramatic motion during the course of the time-lapse.

Tides & Seaside

Another display of nature’s wonder is the movement of the tides. Roughly every 24 hours, the tide comes fully in and out twice. It’s hard to see tides move in real-time. Some shallow beaches mike make it noticeable with the water flooding over, but generally, you can’t see much going on in terms of tidal movement.

A time-lapse video really brings life to the movement of the sea and the magnificence of just how much water moves in and out over the course of a few hours.

The movements of boats and people playing in the sea are fun subjects in time-lapse and they add a really visually interesting extra dimension.

DIY and construction

Something that utilizes the benefits of time-lapse to the highest effect is construction, DIY, or other projects that are progressively built or taken down. This includes home improvement projects and new constructions to major urban construction but is not limited to the grandiose.

Time-lapse works for any building, assembling, disassembling or similar project. The process of building something in Legos can be well translated with time-lapse. Replacing car parts, assembling a model aircraft, anything which requires stepwise procedures to achieve a greater goal can be well-served by time-lapse. Not only can time-lapse serve as a record of the accomplishment, but it can also record the steps, how to carry them out, and when. It can serve as a valuable teaching tool when applied to projects such as these, not to mention being quite visually satisfying.

Art Project

Similar to construction and assembly projects, time-lapse really stands out as an asset to capturing the labor and evolution of art projects.

Not only can the viewer (of the final time-lapse) see the steps and transformation of the work from mere materials, they can also gain an appreciation of the craft, or discover a technique, or further their comprehension of the medium itself. This is another example of an application that would serve education well, but it isn’t a necessity. The time-lapse can be a piece of art all by itself!

Top Five Dark Sky Locations in the UK

This guide is about dark sky locations in the UK. If you’re in the USA and looking to shoot some stars, try our list of astrophotography locations in the USA.

This guide to the top dark sky locations in the UK covers some fantastic location to visit and shoot night-sky time-lapse or photos.

In order for the elements of the night sky – stars – to be prominent in your image rather than light pollution, you want it to be dark. In addition, because the stars move relative to the photographer’s perspective, longer exposures result in more relative movement; resulting in trails or simply inadequate sensor exposure to draw the celestial body from the ambient light. Star trails may be an effect you desire, but you do not want barely visible stars on a slightly darker background – you want those stars to pop – you want it dark.

Top 5 stargazing sites in the UK

1. Galloway Forest National Park, Dumfries & Galloway

With over 7000 stars visible to the naked eye, Galloway Forest National Park is considered a top destination for astrophotographers in Scotland, notable locations within the park include Clatteringshaws Visitor Centre, Bruce’s Stone and the Caldons Woodlands for excellent dark sky vies.

Galloway Forest Park is largely in Dumfries and Galloway and contains much of the Galloway Hills. Sections of the park are considered particularly dark, and places of note include Clatteringshaws visitor centre, which has views of some of the darkest sections of the park, and Carrick Forest Drive. Clatteringshaws and Kirroughtree visitor centres host star-gazing events with dark sky experts. The Scottish Dark Sky Observatory near Dalmellington also organizes events and has telescopes available for visitors.

2. South Downs National Park

This park is accessible to those in the greater London area and sprawls through sections of Hampshire, West, and East Sussex.

South down national park

The park became registered as a Dark Sky Reserve in 2016, with a large portion considered to have “bronze-level skies” (per the International Dark Sky Association), meaning the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy are visible to the naked eye. There are several locales of interest to star-gazers and astrophotographers – at least as a starting point – Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, Old Winchester Hill, Butser Hill, Iping Common, Devil’s Dyke, Ditchling Beacon, and Birling Gap. The park has a “Dark Skies” festival, which incorporates star parties, night hikes, astrophotography sessions among other activities as part of the festivities.

In 2011 South Downs became a national park, the most recent park to receive that designation. The national park covers the chalk hills along the English Channel and wooded sandstone and clay hills know as the western Weald. The South Downs Way is a trail which runs the entire length of the park

3. Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

Whether you want to spot The Plough or the Polaris (more commonly known as the North Star) both can be enjoyed at the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

Brecon beacon national park, Wales

The only Dark Sky preserve in Wales, the local authorities go to great lengths to preserve the dark sky and reduce the effects of light pollution in the Beacons.

Classes are offered by several different photographers on astrophotography at this location, and notable landscapes and regions to explore for photography include Sgwd Clun Gwyn Waterfall, Henrhyd Waterfall, Craig Y Nos, Lyn Y Fan Fawr and Pens Y Fab. Some addition notable spots are the Crai, Usk Reservoirs and the Llangorse Lakes.

The Brecon Beacon National Park spans Llandeilo in the west to Hay-on-Wye in the northeast and Pontypool in the southeast, including the Black Mountain, Fforest Fawr, and the Brecon Beacons, and the highest peak in South Wales at Pen y Fan and the Black Mountains, a separate range, in the East. Brecon Beacon became a Dark Sky Reserve in February 2013.

The park is also known for waterfalls, such as the 90-foot (27 m) Henrhyd Waterfall and the falls at Ystradfellte, as well as the caves at Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. A visitor center at Brecon Beacons assists travelers in their exploration of the park. The park also includes a small train which allows visitors to tour and travel the park conveniently without the use of cars. The railway is known as the Brecon Mountain Railway. Parking is available outside the park at Pant Station.

4. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

As the northernmost national park in the UK, Cairngorms is an excellent location for astrophotography. Several areas in the park are well suited for star-gazing and astrophotography, such as Tomintoul and Glenlivet, where seeing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is not uncommon as the park exists at the same latitude as parts of Norway and Alaska. Not only are these two areas particularly advantageous for astrophotography, they are also quite accessible.

The Cairngorms

There are astronomy, star-gazing and astrophotography events throughout the year at the park, geared toward familiarizing visitors with the park and the cultural significance of the dramatic night sky.

From these sites, an individual will be able to perceive the Andromeda galaxy with the unaided eye, and shooting stars are commonly seen. With an adequate zoom lens, some star clusters can be seen, as well as some of the brighter nebulae, galaxies and globular clusters.
Several tours are available for those interested in astrophotography or star-gazing as well.

5. Northumberland national park, Northumberland

This international dark sky park has the distinction of being considered a gold-tier Dark Sky Park, which means a complete array of sky phenomena can be seen, such as the northern lights, the Milky Way, zodiacal light (sunlight scattered by space dust) and meteors. There are 12 dark sky discovery sites and many local establishments that host events and Stonehaugh has a stargazing pavilion. Kielder Observatory has its own events which include full-moon parties, night sky safaris and aurora nights.

Northumberland National Park is the northernmost national park in England. It exists between the Scottish border in the north to just south of Hadrian’s Wall, and it is one of the least populated and least visited of the National Parks.

There are several different landscapes in the park, from the Cheviot Hills to areas of rolling moorland to sections of Hadrian’s Wall, an installation built during the Roman occupation. With its rich history, there are many interesting archaeological sites that have the potential to enrich a night sky photograph.

In 2013 the International Dark-Sky Association announced Northumberland and Kielder as a Dark Sky Park – the largest protected dark sky park in Europe.

For further opportunities to explore astrophotography, check out the International Dark-Sky Association’s Dark Sky Places.

https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/

Time-Lapse vs Stop Motion: What’s the Difference?

Stop frame animation

They’re similar terms, but are they the same? time-lapse vs stop motion. What is the difference?
Although both time-lapse and stop-motion involve compiling a series of still images into a video or animation, they are not the same thing. The two terms do not refer to the same technique or intended outcome, yet are also not mutually exclusive. Despite being uncommon, a time-lapse could be a stop-motion as well and vice versa – Here is what I mean…

Strictly speaking, a time-lapse is a series of photographs shot chronologically from a single position and perspective, most often taken within regular intervals, to be later used as frames for a video that illustrates the passage of time at an accelerated rate.

Stop-motion is the use of still images to construct a video or animation where the time interval between each exposure is typically not relevant, rather, between each successive exposure, manipulation of the subjects or scene is made to prepare for the next shot. This is done repeatedly, and ultimately each still image is used as a frame to generate the intended outcome.

To further distinguish the two, let’s look at how each is produced and how each is used to translate a visual concept…

Typically, when someone claims to be producing a time-lapse, they are planning to shoot successive still images with the goal of showing the passage of time. Based on the subject(s) or scene, an interval between each image will be determined. The camera will be mounted on a tripod, hi-hat or some other static, secure structure or piece of equipment. Another typical piece of equipment will be an intervalometer (some cameras have this built-in), which will determine the interval between each shot.

The use of an intervalometer pretty much indicates it’s a time-lapse, however, it does not necessarily mean it is NOT a stop-motion.

Stop motion refers to the manipulation of a successive series of still images to create a video which, more often than not, is done for stylization or to achieve otherwise difficult motion effects or animation. A stop-motion will also make use of a tripod or some other form of the mounting device, but intervalometers are not common on stop-motion. What you will find more frequently are items that assist the photographer or director in determining the position of the objects in the frame, especially those that are being manipulated. For example, if you have a human subject that is moving in some way, often their orientation to the camera will change between successive shots, which is not desirable if it is not intentional. Often you will see stop-motion photographers using markers or guides – this can be achieved through assorted means – from chalk on the ground to mounted laser-pointers to indicate how a subject is meant to be oriented or positioned.

Stop motion animation of a deer running

You could shoot a ‘stop-motion’ using an intervalometer, I can imagine doing such a thing if you had a significant element of the composition which occurred at intervals, or if you wanted to have the same effect of an accelerated timeline in the background with a foreground shot in a “stop-motion” style manner. This would most often be referred to as stop motion, but again, this would almost depend on the nature of the content itself.

Stop-motion is more likely to be narrative, whereas time-lapse merely seeks to illustrate the passage of time, usually from a static perspective. Live-action stop-motion often incorporates human subjects that develop character over the course of the piece, whereas timelapse is more often exploring natural phenomena and is unlikely to develop anything like traditional characters. Stop motion is also likely to include multiple camera angles, this is less common in time-lapse.

Stop-motion can also be used to describe a means to animate inanimate objects or allow them to interact with humans. The technique is often used to animate such things in a manner which more closely parallels animation than live-action video – as a matter of fact, the phrasing “stop-motion animation” is quite common and applies to the application of stop-motion in a non-photorealistic manner.

Although timelapse typically involves set intervals of time between each shot in order to project a smooth passage of time, this is not essential for what would be commonly referred to as “timelapse” – if varying intervals between shots are used, but the presentation translates to a perceived expedited passage of time, that would be time-lapse.

In addition, if the final product appears to be a photo-realistic accelerated passage of time, the term most commonly used to describe such a production would be time-lapse. I mention this because, although most time-lapse is shot in specific intervals, and although intervalometers are a hallmark piece of equipment for time-lapse, it is not essential that identical intervals are used. Again, the cornerstone element of a timelapse is the perception of time speeding naturally, albeit more quickly, without the intentional use of the interval between captures to stage the next image – each successive image is merely observed rather than intentionally altered.

“The cornerstone element of a timelapse is the perception of time speeding naturally, albeit more quickly”

Now, there could be acting in a time-lapse. If the time between each capture is not used to manipulate with the intention of animating, and the subject(s) merely were captured in intervals, one could have a time-lapse with actors or acting. This arguably applies to some DIY videos and how-to clips. The subjects complete a task while shots are taken showing progress. These shots are not necessarily taken at fixed intervals, and the subjects will often intentionally move or position themselves to serve the composition. This parallels stop-motion, yet it ultimately is showcasing time progression in at a speedy rate – you would call this time-lapse (or, perhaps time-lapse stop-motion).

Again, Timelapse is essentially the presentation of a sequence of still images as frames in video/film to show the passage of time more quickly than in real-time. It is most often used with intervalometers but doesn’t have to be.

“Timelapse is essentially the presentation of a sequence of still images as frames in video/film to show the passage of time more quickly than in real-time”

In the case of stop-motion, the photographer or director will take advantage of the time between the capture of each successive frame to intentionally manipulate the set, setting or subject(s). You could produce a stop-motion time-lapse.

You could have elements of stop-motion in your timelapse; an example would be using stop-motion type frame progression with a quickened perceived passage of time. For example, you may wish to produce an animation that sought to incorporate a comical use of a puppet which may represent the moon – stop-motion could manipulate this moon character from frame to frame, while the intervals from frame to frame could allow the transition from day to night to occur at a quickened pace; this would literally be a stop-motion time-lapse.

The “moon” in this example would be directed and intentionally manipulated from to frame, making use of the period between each capture, while the timelapse would show the passage of time at an accelerated rate, taking advantage of the time between each capture for the benefit of increased time between each frame.

This may also be achieved using a green screen or other matte or keying effect in post-production, which would mean a stop-motion was composited and layered over a time-lapse.
Right? Right.

To summarize;

Stop-motion is more likely to be narrative, artistic, compositional, staged. Stop-motion always implies the intentional use of the time between each capture in order to stage the following frame. It is most frequently used to animate the inanimate, but the technique could be applied to virtually anything.

Timelapse is more likely to be somewhat scientific, journalistic, observational. Timelapse always implies the use of the time between each capture to allow for the perception of time moving more quickly.

Should I Hire a Professional or Shoot Time-lapse Myself?

Photographer Walking

When you are looking to have a time-lapse video produced,  it is not necessarily important how or why the video was produced. All that matters ultimately is the end result. If the video portrays the message that you’re looking for, then it’s done it’s job.

It is for this reason that many media agencies and production companies are faced with a number of options when sourcing time-lapse footage. Should we set up a camera and capture and produce our own footage, or outsource to a professional time-lapse photographer?

The article attempts to explore and validate both options, and give you a better idea of the pro’s and con’s of each.

What is your intended purpose?

It goes without saying that if your purpose is to capture timelapse for the fun of it, perhaps you have a love of photography or cinematography and you like the experience of producing the video, then naturally you would be inclined to do all the work yourself rather than paying a professional. Unless of course, you are paying for someone to teach you.

Commercial time-lapse projects

For projects where you are focused on the final result, then the best means of achieving that result are often less obvious.

Generally for commercial projects, you probably need a high production quality. This means that you generally need high-end gear. if you intend on shooting the footage yourself. If you don’t already possess the necessary equipment, then significant costs may be involved if you intend to purchase equipment. Hiring is also an option here.

Even if production values aren’t paramount, you still may want to hire a professional for your time-lapse project, for example; If you need reliable results – if you are trying to capture a fleeting event or if you have a short window to capture and produce the final product – then you will likely want to hire this service out regardless of the final use.

If you are still unsure whether you should try your hand at your time-lapse project, continue reading for a clear appraisal of the likelihood of your success. If you have a time-lapse professional project to shoot and you haven’t shot time-lapse before and you aren’t already an enthusiast or professional photographer, definitely hire someone.

If you are a fully competent photographer, ask yourself the following…

“If you are planning to shoot a time-lapse, you will need decent equipment. You will need an “enthusiast” or “professional” camera, otherwise, you will LIKELY end up will a less-than-ideal result.”

Hobby and non-commercial time-lapse projects

As with commercial projects, it comes down to achieving the desired results, versus cost. One benefit you may have compared to commercial projects is that you are not answerable to a paying client. This doesn’t make it any easier to produce your video, sometimes quite the contrary, but it does give you flexibility and control. You may also be working to a self-imposed deadline, so you can keep costs down more effectively.

Do you have the equipment?

If you are planning to shoot a production-quality time-lapse, you will need professional equipment. This isn’t set in stone, but generally at the very least, you probably want a DSLR camera with a suitable lens.

Can’t I use a high-end smartphone?

For simple daylight time-lapse, a modern smartphone will capture great shots, but a DSLR camera will give you the ability to shoot in low light conditions due to the larger lens and higher ISO. DSLR cameras also have interchangeable lenses.

You will also want to be shooting in a RAW file format, and, in an ideal world, you would have a lens system that will accommodate static apertures to prevent flicker (an undesirable change in the perceived brightness of the successive images that produces a sort of ‘strobing’ effect when composed to video).

You will also need a fairly decent tripod. A low-end tripod would be suitable in ideal conditions, but something with a little more weight and rigidity is necessary in breezy conditions or when shooting with a long exposure (think astrophotography). Cheap tripods will often sag depending on the weight of your camera/lens and the tripod build. They will also feature clumsy controls that will move the tripod itself during adjustments, changing the camera perspective slightly, and make the framing you would like difficult. They are also substantially less stable, which can often result in some camera shake – which is almost always highly undesirable. This is especially problematic if your project will require you physically adjusting any settings on the camera during the course of the time-lapse.

You will also need an intervalometer (some cameras have this in their firmware) and/or a remote shutter. There are also other pieces of equipment you should have depending on the nature of the shoot – such as cards with the capacity and the speed to capture your time-lapse, weather protection for yourself and your camera, neutral density filters, and adequate power (which can mean a battery grip or even more extreme solutions).

Depending on what you are shooting, you may also need appropriate lighting, yet another equipment cost. You will also almost certainly want to consider all potential equipment requirements for your particular project and make sure you are adequately equipped. Our best cameras for time-lapse guide is a great place to look for more information on the subject.

Photography Equipment

You will also need the computing capacity to deal with a large number of RAW images in post-production, so this needs to be considered as an element of the equipment requirements. The software will be an element you will require as well.

So what should I do if I don’t have the equipment? Well, if you want to get into shooting time-lapse regularly, it might be advantageous to purchase the right equipment and start shooting yourself – especially if you are not on a tight timeline or need to shoot an event or phenomena which will only occur once or within a limited timeframe. That said, if you don’t have at least most of the gear and are willing to expand, hire someone. Also, even if you have the equipment, but you don’t seek to make time-lapse into a hobby or profession, hire it out.

Do you have the expertise?

Time-lapse can be pretty demanding on a photographers mastery of the art and science of creating images. You will need a good grasp of exposure, and how exposure is altered by each of the settings in your camera – shutter speed, aperture, ISO (or ASA/film speed), white balance, file format, even focus. If you aren’t VERY familiar with these terms, hire the time-lapse production out.

If you don’t have the expertise, but are looking to train ‘on the job’, bear in mind that you can often wait weeks for ideal weather conditions before you can even set up your equipment for a shoot. Then, it might be the following evening before you get to upload the images into your computer for post-processing. It might not be until this point that you realise your shutter interval was too slow or your video has flicker which could have been prevented. Then you have to repeat the whole process all over again.  It could take you all summer to get the perfect shot.

“If you are completely new to software post-production, hire the time-lapse out…Unless you are ready to do a lot of learning”

Do you have video editing skills and software?

When shooting time-lapse, there are a lot of things that can result in an undesirable final product. This may not happen, but you need to know how to fix it if it does.

Most commonly, flicker will be an issue. Some other things may occur as well – sometimes abrupt changes in color or lighting, which are parallel phenomena to flicker; some washed-out shadows or clipped highlights may appear, or some camera shake.

These issues can likely be remedied, especially if you are shooting RAW, but you will have to know or learn exactly how to do make appropriate adjustments. There is software available to download that will develop your RAW images – Adobe’s Lightroom is the industry standard and what I would highly suggest if you are considering shooting time-lapse.

“Adobe’s Lightroom is the industry standard and what I would highly suggest if you are considering shooting time-lapse”

When it comes to stitching the images together to form the final time-lapse video, again there is specialist software available, namely Adobe Premiere and the industry-specific LRTimelapse. There are Lightroom plug-ins available which you can use to achieve the same ret result, without leaving Lightroom, and these often the most seamless option, but generally it’s better to use the dedicated software named above.

You will need solid editing software to consider undertaking this task yourself. You will also need to familiarize yourself with the software. If you are already familiar with Lightroom or Photoshop, it shouldn’t be too hard – or if you have expertise in video editing programs like Premiere, Final Cut Pro, or AfterEffects.

Video Production

You may also need something to stabilize the outputted video from RAW. Just like flicker, this may not be an issue for you, but you need to be ready if it is. Most decent video editing programs have a stabilization plug-in of some kind that will satisfy this need.

It may be a good idea to shoot a somewhat wider focal distance than you want the final product to appear – for one, you will have ample resolution, and secondly, if you DO have camera shake, you will need some cropping ability to stabilize the image in post. I would suggest using Premiere or Final Cut Pro from the video output, although there are several options for this. If you are completely new to software post-production, hire the time-lapse ou – unless you are ready to do a lot of learning.

So, in conclusion, you most certainly can shoot time-lapse yourself, however if you want a professional, production-quality product, you need the equipment and expertise. There are not shortcuts or ‘cheats’.

Beyond that, each shoot can present unexpected issues that aren’t touched on in this article as each time will be different in some capacity. Wind can be an issue. Changing cloud cover can be an issue as well. A battery suddenly losing charge unexpectedly due to dropping temperature.

A lot of these issues will not be noticeable until you start working in post and will result in the issues described above. An experienced individual will be able to more effectively mitigate or prevent these potential problems – the experience you will not yet have. However, if you consider yourself a well-equipped, software savvy, enthusiast photographer, you can most likely do this yourself. I would leave myself ample time for hiccups and adjustments in post, but if you feel confident, give it a shot. If not, hire someone to shoot time-lapse for you.

Simple cost analysis

Ultimately, you have to put a value on your time and make a realistic assessment of how much each option will cost you overall. Sure, shooting your own video might save you $2000 on a professional’s fees, but if it takes you a month of work to get the result, plus you have to spend a couple of hundred on extra gear, then did you really save anything in the long run?

Time-lapse Flicker Removal Guide

Flickering Light Bulb

So you’re here because you need help with time-lapse flicker removal. Flicker is the nemesis of the time-lapse photographer which can often ruin an otherwise silky-smooth time-lapse video, so let’s look at what it is, what causes it, and how you can prevent it or repair it is necessary.

Flicker is the change in brightness or exposure – in this case, of the images taken in a time-lapse stream of photographs – which results in a perceived strobing effect when watched as a video.

There are ultimately two different reasons you could experience flicker – either due to changing light or changing exposure settings. A lot of the time you might not be able to control the light source – outdoor scenes/landscapes – which may introduce flicker which is difficult or even impossible to PREVENT, however, preventing flicker is preferable to having to FIX it.

First, you are going to want to manually set as many of the exposure settings as possible. Automatic shooting will likely result in variations in exposure settings, most notably, aperture, which will easily contribute to flicker.

It is best to shoot in full manual – to set your aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, file format, and focus.

The following assumes you are shooting using a lens with electronic aperture control. If you are shooting on a lens with an aperture ring, then this really won’t apply, as the aperture will remain consistent throughout the shoot.

For aperture, it is a good idea to shoot wide open on your lens if possible, (or, a second choice, at minimum aperture) as mild variations in how the lens and camera will set the aperture between each shot may increase flicker effects. If the lens is at maximum aperture, this can not happen.

Another option is to use lenses without electronic aperture control because these lenses mechanically change the aperture, and because they will not be reset to wide open (for the benefit of the brightness in the viewfinder/autofocus), instead, they will stay consistent. Some suggest unlocking your lens on the mount (giving it a slight turn to disengage the switch), however, the lens will have to be set at the desired aperture first – so you will have to fire a shot; so the camera stops the aperture down, then disconnect the lens DURING the shot, so it would be wise to set a long exposure.

“In an ideal situation, you would shoot with manually set apertures – there are many lenses available with aperture rings”

I have used scotch tape to interrupt the electronic contacts, however, neither is ideal and can sometimes result in the camera resetting the aperture to wide open… Again, not an ideal solution. In an ideal situation, you would shoot with manually set apertures – there are many lenses available with aperture rings – and any lens with a longer flange focal distance than the system your body uses can typically be easily converted to fit your camera mount. There are even aperture adjustment rings that can be added or included into such a scheme if the lens DOES NOT have an aperture ring built into the construction of the lens. For more advice on selecting the ideal lens, see our guide to choosing a lens.

Regarding the image file type, when shooting a time-lapse sequence, it is best to be shooting in RAW. The RAW file format is vastly superior due to the substantially greater amount of detail – especially if you need to push the exposure – allowing the final image to become appropriately exposed. In other words, If you do end up with flicker in your images, RAW will let you adjust the images adequately to allow for appropriate brightness and white balance to a degree which will often cause clipping or other lost color information to reveal itself when the adjustments are applied to JPEGs.

It is a wise decision to use manual focus when shooting time-lapse – not necessarily to prevent the flicker effect, but more to prevent the focus from shifting during the exposure. In addition, if the point of focus is setting the exposure (if the exposure settings are not on manual), then that point becomes shadowed or more illuminated, then the greater scene may change in overall brightness – which will be undesirable if you want to avoid flicker.

It will be preferable to set the white balance yourself – this will prevent the auto white balance setting from changing during the course of shooting and altering the color profile of the final image – this will result in something that will be much like flicker – not in brightness per-se, but rather, in the color shift caused by the changing color temperature.

It is nice to have a static ISO sensitivity, as a varying ISO number will change the sensor sensitivity, which will change the dynamic range, may lead to highlight clipping, ultimately giving reducing shadow detail, and changing levels of shadow noise, which may give a somewhat similar effect – that said, in changing light conditions, this may be necessary in order to achieve a decent exposure.

Setting the shutter speed manually will also help decrease the appearance of flicker, although, with all of the other settings on manual, this may be utilized to adjust to a proper exposure. On a side note, for the purposes of achieving motion blur, which often results in a more smooth motion transition from image to image, it is often suitable to use relatively long exposure times.

In order to off-set long shutter speeds and wide lens apertures, an ND filter may help you achieve the exposure you want. An ND filter, or neutral density filter, is a means to reduce exposure without shifting the color in the resulting image. This is used specifically for outdoor scenes where the light conditions do not allow for the exposure settings you would prefer to use to be possible. It also will help with highlight clipping.

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

But what if the light is changing in your scene?

If you are experiencing changing lighting, then you may need to adjust your exposure settings throughout the shoot. Par exam; a sunset scene – if you begin shooting as the sun is setting, the amount of light entering the lens will decrease through the period of the time-lapse shoot. If this is the case, you could change shutter speeds or even ISO manually, or you could shoot in Aperture Priority (often abbreviated Av) instead of full manual. This will keep the aperture consistent while changing other settings such as the shutter speed and the ISO setting in order to get the right exposure. In this mode, you can set the aperture you want and let the camera adjust other settings in order to get the right exposure.

Still have flicker?

Well, sometimes it is essentially unavoidable – scenes with changing lighting conditions will often result in perceivable flicker even with solid exposures the whole way through, if this is the case, the best solution is de-flickering software. There are several programs available, some free, some come in trial versions, some as plug-ins to Adobe suite applications such as Lightroom, and some as standalone applications.

“There are several programs available, some free, some come in trial versions, some as plug-ins to Adobe suite applications such as Lightroom, and some as standalone applications”

Regardless of whether you are having problems with flicker or not, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these programs if you are shooting timelapse – it will likely become an issue at some point, and many of these programs will vastly improve the fluidity of the final presentation of your time-lapse video – and many of them do more than just de-flicker!

RAW vs JPG – File Formats Explained

Raw Jpg File Format

If you’re not sure of the difference between raw vs jpg file formats, or you may be new to the raw file format. Read on to have your questions answered.
Raw or JPEG? If you are serious about taking photographs, the choice between these file types is a topic you need to be aware of and educated about. Whether shooting a mirrorless or DSLR – even some digital point-and-shoot cameras – the option to shoot in either file format is there. But why? Which is better? Well, let’s start off by establishing what RAW and JPEG actually are before comparing.

What is the difference between JPG and JPEG

I just want to clear this up; JPEG and JPG are the same file type. The extension .JPG was a shortened form of .JPEG used in Windows operating systems before four-character extensions were supported. The terms “JPG” and “JPEG” are used interchangeably and refer to the same image compression scheme.

JPEGs are a type of compression for digital images. JPEG is actually an acronym for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”, a committee that started developing the means for transferring and displaying digital images in a standardized way back in the early 1990s.

JPEG uses “lossy” compression, meaning that information is lost each time the file is compressed or manipulated. When you save a JPEG, or create one in your camera, you are compressing the image. It is designed to be most effective at compressing images depicting smooth tonal transitions – graphics, or photographs – but, due to the means by which it compresses the image data, it is not particularly good at hard lines.

JPEG has become popular due to the relative high fidelity and viewability of the images despite great reductions in file size thanks to the compression. This is especially valuable in sharing images over the internet, where the quickest presentation times are often the most desirable. JPEGs are able to achieve this first by compressing color information and luminance, then compressing each of these channels further into a minimum of 8×8 blocks. Without getting excessively technical, JPEG compression uses formulas to get a sort of average color of the 8×8 (4.2.2) or 8×16 (4.2.0), etc, reducing file size – it will also compress some luma detail, especially as the “quality” gets lower. JPEG gives data preference to the luminance channel, separating the RGB color space and converting to YCbCr, where the Y is luminance. Because the human eye can perceive small changes in brightness more keenly than color, luma is given priority over color.

What is the average JPG file size?

This depends mostly on the megapixel rating of your camera and the level of compression. The file size between individual photos can vary a lot too, depending on the colours and shapes within the images, due to how compression works.

For a Canon 700D DSLR camera with 18 Mega-pixels, set to ‘fine’ mode (maximum image quality), JPEG images are around 5MB-10MB.

What is the average RAW file size?

As with JPEG mages, RAW image file sizes depend on the megapixels of the camera. Which makes sense; more pixels means more information from the sensor.

Since they have no compression, RAW images have much more consistent file sizes. For a Canon 700D DSLR camera with 18MP, file size is around 11-12MB.

RAW file type

Raw is a term used for a collection of different file formats which seek to successfully record an uncompressed and lossless file from the camera sensor. RAW files will record color at the bit-depth which the sensor has recorded, and will contain no elements of pixel averaging or color compression. Most major camera manufacturers use proprietary RAW file formats, although some use more standardized formats such as DNG.

RAW is often referred to as a ‘digital negative’ – despite being a positive image – as it has a parallel function to a film negative. Digital negatives require “development” to be usable and viewable on most devices and software. The RAW file also will remain unchanged despite editing – edits will either be saved to the metadata or a separate file. Although some camera manufacturers and firmware versions do more, RAW typically does not compress or remove any information, with the exception of “defective pixels” (pixels generated through sensor noise).

“Due to the uncompressed nature of the format, RAW files are many times larger than their JPG equivalents – and contain much more detail.”

Due to the uncompressed nature of the format, RAW files are many times larger than their JPG equivalents – and contain much more detail.

RAW versus JPEG

RAW files are superior to JPEGs in sheer terms of quality, integrity, and value of information. They are always going to be as they come uncompressed and without preset sharpening, brightness adjustments or contrast adjustments your camera will automatically assign to JPEG. Now, despite the advantages of RAW over JPEG, there are occasions where it will be ultimately more advantageous to shoot JPEG or, as I personally prefer, RAW+JPEG.

JPEGs come ready to view out of the camera and do not require digital development, which can be extremely time-consuming if you are shooting a large number of photographs, In which case, it is nice to have JPEGs created immediately in the camera for sharing, especially over web. JPEGs are often usable if you get the right exposure, especially over the web.

JPEGs are also sometimes preferable when you need to shoot large, rapid bursts – because of the smaller size of the JPEG images, most cameras will allow you to fire off more shots in continuous shooting mode before the buffer on the camera is exhausted and a pause is required in order to begin shooting again. In this mode, obviously, one would shoot JPEG and not RAW+JPEG, as the total amount of data created is usually the limiting factor.

Also, if you are shooting images more casually, where tonal depth or exposure aren’t necessarily important, or if you are particularly low on storage media, JPEG can be the solution. Having said that, if you would like better results and you have limited space, I would suggest shooting in RAW, then setting the brightness, sharpness, etc for each individual photograph in the camera to compress to JPEG, then deleting the RAW, as it will give you more control over the final compressed image.

If you are shooting directly to JPEG, as previously stated, your camera will automatically sharpen and add brightness and contrast to your image when compressing. Some cameras allow this to be set by the user but usually comes standard with around 25% increase in sharpening, brightness and contrast. I prefer to have that control myself over each image individually if possible.

Outside of the obvious advantage in more bit depth with RAW – JPEGs only can save a maximum of 8-bit; your camera likely records 12 or 14 bit – the more gradual tonal elements and the ability to avoid clipping (in most shooting situations if the exposure is correct or near to it) are very valuable. You may shoot in JPEG for months and never have an issue until you come across a poorly lit room or an overexposed image.

Highlight clipping is very common and frustrating in JPEG, which gets especially bad when you consider the default brightness and contrast settings your camera probably uses. Also, under-exposed images, which do not have the advantage of the wealth of data a RAW image has, will reveal incomplete color information and excessive noise if you try to push the exposure. These issues may not have happened to you yet, but the more aware you become of your image’s integrity, and the more you shoot, the more likely you will have that shot you WISH you could save, but the JPEG just won’t let you.

“My advice is, shoot in RAW unless you CAN’T. You can always make JPEGs from the RAW files, but not vice-versa”

In addition, if you intend on editing the photographs, you will have successive compressions with each edit. This will cause the image to lose fidelity and compression artefacts will degrade the quality of the image. My advice is, shoot in RAW unless you CAN’T. You can always make JPEGs from the RAW files, but not vice-versa.

Top 10 Astrophotography Locations in the USA

Night Sky Time-Lapse

If you have taken photos of the stars before, you will have seen for yourself how magical the night sky can be. On a new moon event, when the sky is at it’s darkest, the sky can be teaming with bright stars. However, if you’re near any sort of civilisation, one of the biggest challenges of astrophotography is light pollution.

There’s not much you can do about light pollution, other than go to an area free from sources of light pollution, such as street lighting and residential areas. This means finding a dark sky location.

This guide to the top 10 astrophotography locations in the USA covers the best stargazing locations for night sky photography.

This is our list of USA locations. Check out our UK guide for a list of top astrophotography locations in the UK

Darkness is essential.

In order for the night sky to truly showcase the beauty it possesses, darkness is essential. In addition, because the stars move relative to the photographer’s perspective, longer exposures result in more relative movement; resulting in trails or simply inadequate sensor exposure to draw the celestial body from the ambient light. Star trails may be an effect you desire, but if you do not want barely visible stars on a slightly darker background – you want those stars to pop – darkness is essential.

“f you do not want barely visible stars on a slightly darker background – you want those stars to pop – darkness is essential”

Below are the official top ten astrophotography locations In the United States (in no particular order).

Headlands, Michigan

One of the early designated Dark Sky Parks, Headlands includes old growth forest and rests along 2 miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline adjacent to the Straits of Mackinac. The skies here are particularly dark and light pollution is suppressed in cooperation with the International Dark Sky Association. Complete with loads of classes, events, astronomers and 24/7/365 access, this is an excellent place to see and photograph the night sky.

Throughout the summer, the richest part of the Milky Way spreads itself across the sky, where the constellations of the Scorpion and Sagittarius join across the horizon from the perspective of the Headlands. In late summer through early winter, meteor showers appear – starting with the Perseids, followed by the Draconids and Orionids, then the Leonids in November, and the Geminids in early December, and at end of year, the Ursid Meteor Shower, originating near Ursa Major and Minor, two constellations that are always overhead in our region. The Aurora Borealis is also viewable from the Headlands – most commonly during the periods around the equinoxes, but the Aurora may appear at any time!

In the same area are other excellent spots to explore both the night sky and the natural beauty of the region – check out Sleeping Bear Dunes, Brockway Mountain, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Porcupine Mountains, Tahquamenon Falls, and Isle Royale National Park.

https://www.midarkskypark.org/

Cherry Springs State Park

Named after the black cherry trees, this park in Potter County, Pennsylvania, is popular amongst amateur and professional astronomers, photographers as well as stargazers. It sits at an elevation of 2300ft (701m) existing between plateaus in the Allegheny Mountains and is among the darkest places east of the Mississippi and considered a “place of exceptional nighttime beauty” by the International Dark-Sky Association. Night viewing is available 24 hours.

Cherry Springs State Park

Cherry Springs State Park was named a dark sky park in 2007 by the International Dark-Sky Association and the adjacent and now-defunct local airport was incorporated into the park in order to expand its stargazing area. The park hosts two star parties each year, there are regular stargazing and educational programs, and the state park on which the Dark Sky Park exists has a diversity of interesting flora and fauna. Cherry Springs offers a great view of the nucleus of the Milky Way Galaxy, the park has an astronomy field with a 360 degree view of the night sky, and all lighting in the park is shielded, red light to reduce light pollution.

Check out the Night Sky Viewing area where a shield exists to prevent passing cars from disrupting a view or image. The park also has Wi-Fi and power outlets for guests taking advantage of their Overnight Astronomy Observation Field – which does require registration. Tripod and telescope pads are also available on the site.

https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/CherrySpringsStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

Cosmic Campground, Gila Wilderness

Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary is the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary located on National Forest System lands and also in North America. There are only three precious International Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world, which makes Cosmic Campground a truly special place. Visit this super-remote, 3.5-acre site in the Gila National Forest of western New Mexico and you’ll find exceptional night skies (the nearest significant source of electric light is more than 40 miles away) and observation pads are available for setting-up telescopes and tripods.

The Cosmic Campground offers a 360-degree, unobstructed view of the night sky, and often hosts “star parties” in cooperation with the partner group “Friends of the Cosmic Campground.” This site is located in an area with little development and light pollution.

The Gila National Forest is a protected national forest with natural features such as rugged mountains, deep canyons, mesas and semi-desert, it even features several hot springs. Due to the harsh terrain, the region is largely unspoiled.

Also in NM, Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Chaco is a “natural darkness zone” with no permanent outdoor lighting. It has its own observatory, offering deep-space viewing and a digital imaging system that lets visitors see nebulas, supernovas, and distant galaxies. There are also guided stargazing tours with history on the local culture’s deification of the heavens.

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/gila/recarea/?recid=82479

Denali National Park

Denali National Park is located in Interior Alaska and includes Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America. The park is vast – over 6 million acres – and the weather is daunting if one would like to catch a truly dark night sky. Because of the high northern latitude, there is no darkness during the summer months, so astrophotography is not viable in June and July as well as most of August and May. With glaciers, forests and tundra, Denali has a multitude of dramatic landscapes and, being remarkably remote, almost no light pollution. The northern lights can be profound at this location. In the fall, winter and much of the spring, long hours of darkness allow for some outstanding views as opportunities for photographs at the national park.

“With glaciers, forests and tundra, Denali has a multitude of dramatic landscapes and, being remarkably remote, almost no light pollution.”

This will be an excellent option for someone willing to make the trip and trek, especially if you are looking to include the northern lights in your images. You also must be prepared for some wicked weather as the summer months are not an option for astrophotographers. If you are willing and want to, it will be a fantastic place to take those photos of the night sky.

https://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano in Hawaii and the highest peak in Hawaii.
The elevation and climate make Mauna Kea a prime spot for astronomical observation and astrophotography.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Very dark skies above Mauna Kea are thanks to the distance from city lights and enhanced by legislation that seeks to minimize light pollution from the area. The darkness and atmospheric conditions make it an especially good vantage for spotting and shooting faint objects in the heavens. These contributors have made Mauna Kea an outstanding location for stargazing, astronomy and the area provides some interesting inspiration for foregrounds in astrophotography.

http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis/visiting-mauna-kea.html

Big Bend

Big Bend National Park includes large sections of the Chihuahuan Desert, with an excellent selection of plants and animals as well as geological features, fossils and volcanic dikes. The park includes the banks of the Rio Grande and Rio Bravo and borders Mexico

Big Bend National has some of the darkest skies in the country, existing in a remote part of western Texas. Including desert landscapes, mountains, the river, and corresponding valleys, with its size and remoteness, this area is considered a gold-tier dark sky by the International Dark-Sky Association.

The sky is dedicated to keeping the night sky clear and dark and has taken measures to limit light pollution in the park – prohibiting campfires and converting park lighting to be conducive to the nighttime observation of the stars.

For stargazing and astrophotography opportunities, check out Hot Springs Canyon Trail, the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail is good for accessibility, the and McDonald Observatory, are all good places to start your astrophotography journey in Big Bend. The park also hosts events around stargazing and astronomical events.

https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake is a lake filling the caldera of Mount Mazama and is known for its deep blue color and water clarity. Nearly 2,000 feet deep, it is among the deepest in the world and features some interesting curiosities such as “The Old Man of the Lake, a log that has been bobbing vertically in the lake for more than 100 years as well as two small islands, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship.

Crater Lake National Park is especially suited for astrophotography thanks to the lack of light pollution and the wide open sky and the very aesthetic scenery – North Junction is particularly nice – the Milky Way stretches from one edge of the horizon to the other, and often can be captured in such a way to be reflected off of off the still lake.

https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

Big Pine Key/Scout Key, Florida

Big Pine Key is 100 miles from Miami and has lighting restrictions in place for the benefit of nesting sea turtles. In the Winter, it is unique in that it is one of the very few places where the Southern Cross constellation can be seen in the United States. The SCAS (Southern Cross Astronomical Society) sponsors a Winter Star Party in February on Scout Key, where local astronomers view and take photographs of the constellation. The area is also a key location for outstanding views of the planets Jupiter, Venus and Mars, Southern Hemisphere specials such as Carina and Vela, and objects like Omega Centauri and Eta Carinae many more. Thousands of amateur astronomers and astrophotographers consider this area one of the best places on the planet to gaze at the stars and planets. The atmospheric conditions are also suited for astrophotography – having low atmospheric turbulence, stars shine consistently and steadily from this viewing point. Combine this with the pleasant climate of Florida, and it’s clear why these keys are desirable!

On the keys, there are occasional lectures on astronomy technology featuring some astronauts and NASA employees as speakers. Education is available for hobbyist astronomers, especially during the Winter Star Party.

https://www.bigpinekey.com/island-information/

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is in Maine and the only National Park in the Northeast US. Being a good distance from city lights, and air pollution, the night sky over Acadia is dark and crisp. It serves as an excellent location for night photographers. The park takes efforts to keep light pollution low such as down-facing campground lighting. The unique rock formations and the Atlantic shoreline are special treats.

Acadia also features the “Acadia Night Sky Festival”, a celebration of the stars and the unique, special view of them from Acadia. The Night Sky Festival includes evening telescope tours of the constellations and planets, night kayaking tours and more. Acadia is considered by many astrophotographers to be the prime Atlantic location to practice their craft. Check out Cadillac Mountain and Sand Beach for nice foreground.

https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm

Southeastern Utah

This region of Utah is rich in National Parks and popular for astrophotographers and general landscape photographers. The dry air means the sky is often clear and there are stunning geological features that can populate the foreground of your next star-shot. There are many popular locations in Utah, all spread across the Southern and Eastern border of the state, so I’ve included them as one entry.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

With three unique and marvellous natural bridges, this 7,500-acre area in southern Utah was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2008. At a high elevation, 40 miles from the nearest town, surrounded by plateaus, the park is one of the best locales for observing the night sky in the United States. Educational programs are available during the summer months on topics of stargazing and astronomy.

https://www.nps.gov/nabr/index.htm

Arches National Park, Utah

With unique rock formations, landscapes, textures and coloration, and boasting over 2,000 natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, and giant balanced rocks, this red-rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, and outstanding views of the night sky.

https://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

With the richest collection of Hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) and situated along a high plateau, the park’s high elevations feature fantastic dark skies and beautiful geological wonders.

https://www.nps.gov/brca/index.htm

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

With innumerable canyons and unique features carved into the desert by the rivers, this is yet another interesting Utah location with dark skies and unique vistas.

https://www.nps.gov/cany/index.htm

Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey, Utah

Torrey is an IDA “dark Sky community”, using practices intended to reduce light pollution, and the nearby Capitol Reef National Park, it is an excellent spot to explore astrophotography given its dark skies, cliffs, canyons, domes and more.

https://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

7 Essential Items For Time-Lapse Shooting

Photography Equipment

This guide covers a handful of essential items for time-lapse, if you’re just getting started, use this as a checklist of things you’ll need.

Read on to find out what gear you will need to add to your birthday wishlist this year!

What equipment do I need to film a time-lapse video?

Whilst the exact equipment you need will vary depending on the specific project you are working on, there are some general pieces of kit that are essential.

A DSLR Camera Body

The very first thing you will need to shoot a time-lapse is a camera body. Whilst these days you can achieve a surprisingly high quality using smartphones, if you are looking to shoot time-lapse at the top level, a smartphone just isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to want a DSLR, ideally with a full-frame.

For more information on choosing the right camera body, check our our dedicated guide.

If a DSLR camera is out of your budget range, there is nothing wrong with using your smartphone if it’s fairly modern. You can also download dedicated time-lapse camera apps that include an intervalometer. A really convenient way to get into time-lapse on a tight budget!

A Camera Lens

For more time-lapse shooting, the kit lens that came with your camera body is probably more than adequate for most projects.

When you yearn for something more, a wide-angle lens is usually a good purchase. Something with an aperture around 14 to 22mm. If you want to shoot in low light, particularly night-sky shooting, then something with a large aperture from f/1.2 to f/2.4 will really let in the light.

An Intervalometer

In order to trigger the camera shutter at a regular interval, you will need an intervalometer, also known as a controller.

This is another piece of kit that beginners often go cheap on. After all, it just triggers the shutter, right? WRONG!

Many photographers have made the mistake of thinking that since an intervalometer just triggers the camera to take pictures at specified intervals, then it’s not important and a cheap unit will suit the purpose. Well, I can speak from experience when I say that when you are up a mountain in the middle of nowhere at 2am setting up for a time-lapse of the night sky, after waiting two months for a new moon with a clear sky, then you want to make absolutely sure that your intervalometer does not let you down! Buy a trusted brand that is relied upon by professional photographers, not some cheap no-brand knock-off. It’s simply not worth the initial cost saving.

IntervalometerA Tripod

The next essential item you will need is a tripod or some other form of stable mounting equipment such as a hi-hat for lower angles, or a fixed enclosure for longer-term time-lapse.

It is important that you get a well-built, solid tripod (or other supporting device) with solid locking mechanisms as you don’t want the camera to sag during the shoot. Lighter, cheaper tripods also tend to shake in wind, even if apparently stable and on a solid, even surface. This is a particular problem for time lapse shoots as any movement over time will be exaggerated when the clips are sped up to final video speed in post-production.

To prevent tripod movement, in addition to a well constructed tripod, it may be wise to bring along something to weigh down the tripod itself, to prevent vibrations or movement caused by wind or other elements. Do not skimp on your tripod, you will regret it. Also, if you get a quality tripod it will serve you well after you replace your current camera body.

A Power Source

Next would be a sufficient source of power. If you are shooting for a longer period of time especially. The last thing you want is for the power to run out in the middle of your planned time-lapse shoot. Often for shorter (Up to 1hr) shoots, a battery grip will be sufficient, essentially doubling the power capacity of the camera body. Remember, use higher capacity batteries from trusted manufacturers. If you have longer periods for which you plan to shoot, or intend on taking a large number of exposures, plugging the camera into an external source may be a good idea. You can get DC power adapters and an external battery or even use a small generator – there are even solar options if you have longer shooting times which can be coordinated with a weather-sealed mount.

An SD Card

Since you will be taking lots of pictures, you will need somewhere for your camera to store them of course.

Most DSLR cameras take a standard SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) card. High-speed, high capacity cards are a necessity for anyone serious about time-lapse. Especially if you are capturing at a quicker rate, the speed of the media can be an issue.

SD Card

If you are taking more shots, capacity can be an issue. Cheaper cards typically only write at low speeds – around 30mbs. If you are shooting RAW (which you ought to be) at a quicker rate, this can exceed the write-speed of the media, meaning you will have issues. Tragic issues. Make sure your cards are fast enough. Also, RAW images can be quite large, but it is wise to shoot in the format. This will allow you to have a lot of control in post-production. For this reason, and the fact that time-lapse often requires a large number of captures, larger media capacities are highly suggested.

Due to the low prices of storage these days, it is worth taking at least 1 or 2 spare SD cards with you on your shoot. For the sake of a few tens of dollars, you don’t want to have to cut your trip short and ruin a time-lapse shooting session due to a failing SD card.

Neutral Density Filter

Neutral density filters. They will reduce the amount of light that will hit your sensor without altering color. This will allow you to use larger apertures and longer exposures and/or get good color in circumstances which otherwise might result in some highlight clipping. Variable neutral density filters are nice and versatile, however, beware – they can impose their own artefacts into your images. I would suggest owning a couple of solid neutral density filters of different strengths – a 3 & 6 would be a good place to start. They can be stacked atop one another, so you would have 3 possible ND strengths with these two filters. Alternatively, you could merely get a variable filter. Remember, you don’t want to cheap out, and make sure you take good care of them; any flaw in the filter will reveal itself in the image!

Weather Protection

Rain and weather protection is always a good idea to protect your camera from the elements. You never know when the weather could turn and a nice spring day can turn into a downpour.

Even in sunny weather, some sort of protective cover is often necessary as direct sun can damage your camera if the body gets too hot.

Moisture is also a serious issue. Even on weather-sealed camera bodies, rain and moisture can get on the lens, or even compromise the weather-sealing.

Weather Protection

Some people even have housings built for their camera during their time-lapse shoot. It is important that, regardless of the length of your shoot, that your camera is stable and protected from the elements – the last thing you want is to turn an expensive camera into a paperweight, and ruin the shoot in the process! You also want to protect yourself – if you are uncomfortable, you will not be performing your best and may cut corners. Make sure you are well dressed and prepared for whatever the elements may bring.

Optional Items

If your budget can spare it, it would be a good idea to have another wide-angle lens on a spare camera body. This is a luxury, but one that has sure advantages. For one, with the extra resolution, you will almost certainly have in your stills, if you shoot a wider angle, even if you need to crop you will have plenty of resolution to work with. Also, if you start having issues one camera body, you can quickly switch to the second camera and keep going. If both shoots go well, you can compare the two timelapses and go with whichever is more pleasing, or you could even use the second camera for a transition to a second angle if it suits your project!

Certainly, this is not a complete list, as each shoot will have it’s own challenges, but this is definitely a good place to start. Remember to consider the environment you are shooting, how long you are likely to be shooting for, and try to think of everything that might go wrong or any challenges that could crop up. When you are dealing with nature and the outdoors, things can change quickly and being prepared for the unexpected is a good way to go.

Time-Lapse Intervalometer Buying Guide

Stopwatch chronograph

What is a Time-Lapse Intervalometer?

On your journey to time-lapse video stardom, you will inevitably come across the need for a time-lapse intervalometer unit, otherwise known as a time-lapse controller. This small but essential piece of kit acts as the brain for your time-lapse platform as a whole, telling your camera how frequently it should fire the shutter, amongst a host of other functions. Some cameras even include this functionality in-body, but for the most part, dedicated Intervalometers are going to offer better flexibility and functionality overall.

In this shopping guide, we’ll break down what to look for in a quality intervalometer, as well as walk you through some of our favourite products for beginners and experts alike. By the end, you should have a firm grasp on which model will work best for you.

What To Look For In a Quality Time-Lapse Intervalometer

Let’s face it; time-lapse Intervalometers are not the sexiest products out there. Because of that, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to understand what to look for in a good one. They all sort of look the same, and product descriptions are often just a jumbled mess of stats, figures, and granular features. To help cut through the noise, we thought it’d be helpful to detail what to look for when searching for the perfect Intervalometer to match your needs. Here are a few things to consider when starting your research:

Compatibility

Not all intervalometers are compatible with all camera systems. You should be used to this by now, as just about everything in the photography world is locked to a certain manufacturer or another. You’ll want to be sure that any Intervalometer unit you are looking at will work with your specific brand of camera. The good news is, many modern Intervalometers work with all of the major brands, such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon.

Features

For the most part, every Intervalometer unit that you see is going to be able to, at a bare minimum, control the frequency of your camera’s shutter actualizations using a few different interval parameters. That said, more advanced units can include things like speed ramp-ups (and ramp-downs), HDR support, mirror-up delays, and more. If you’re just getting started, it can be easy to feel as though you need all of the features, but the truth is that you really don’t. Even the most basic intervalometers are capable of producing stunning videos in the end, so it’s just a matter of growing your flexibility over time.

Build Quality

The may not be as important as, say, the build quality of your camera or tripod, but you need to remember that you’ll be using your Intervalometer out in the field, often in situations where it could quite easily take a tumble. It’s important to consider what this may mean, and focus on Intervalometers that use high-quality materials in their construction. Unfortunately, like with most things, there’s a bit of “you get what you pay for” at play here, but there is still a lot of value to be had with some of the higher-quality entry-level Intervalometers out there. You just have to know where to find them (hint hint, keep reading below).

Types of Time-Lapse Intervalometers

There are several specific categories of intervalometers on the market today. Let’s take a look at each of them, breaking down their unique strengths, as well as any potential limitations.

Off-Brands

Off-brand Intervalometers have been around for years and years, like with just about any other industry. These Intervalometers are often made for specific manufacturers, but there are several that will work with most of the major brands. Best of all, these are usually quite a bit cheaper than the name brand variety, and many of them include much of the same functionality and quality to boot.

Our Off-Brand Suggestions:

[amazon text=For Nikon: Remote Wireless Intervalometer&asin=B07TLN64Q6]

Works with: D90 D600 D610 D3100 D3200 D3300 D5000 D5100 D5200 D5300 D7000 Digital SLR Cameras

[amazon text=For Canon: Neewer LCD Timer Shutter Release Remote Control&asin=B016W3KFA8]

Works with: EOS 30, 33, 50E, 300, 300V, 3000, 50, 300D (Digital Rebel), 350D (Digital Rebel XT), 400D (Digital Rebel XTi), 450D (Digital Rebel XSi), 500D, 1000D

[amazon text=For Sony: Pholsy N10 Wired/Wireless Intervalometer&asin=B01N133BI6]

Works with: a7RII/ILCE-7RM2 a7II/ILCE-7M2K a7SII/ILCE-7SM2 a7R/ILCE-7R a7/ILCE-7 a7s/ILCE-7S a6000/ILCE-6000L a3000/ILCE-3000 a58/SLT-A58 NEX-3NL DSC-RX100M3 DSC-RX100M4 DSC-RX10M3

Name Brands

Name brand intervalometers are going to cost you a bit more than the off-brand ones above, but if you’re willing to invest in something for the long haul, they can provide some amazing value overall. On the whole, these will be more compatible with one major camera manufacturer and will be fully tailored to that specific system. As such, you will often find that they simply work better than their off-branded brethren, but this isn’t a strict rule.

Our Name-Brand Suggestions:

[amazon text=For Nikon: 2.4GHz Wireless Shutter Release&asin=B076H46W5S]

Works with: Nikon D4, D800, D700, D300

[amazon text=For Canon: Pholsy Remote Intervalometer&asin=B01MTC2IAH]

Works with: EOS 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 7D, 6D, 5D, 1D, 1Ds, D30, D60, 1V & 3 SLR Cameras

Advanced Units

For those who are looking to push the envelope, there are a number of more advanced, experimental intervalometers on the market today. These are going to cost you a pretty penny, but they are also going to include more functionality than just about any other class of Intervalometer. This commonly includes things like advanced timing settings, full HDR support for bracketing, mirror-up delay (which increases sharpness), and time-ramping functionality. That last one is key, as it’s all but a requirement to create what many believe to be one of the most challenging sequences in time-lapse photography; a day to night (or night to day) transition.

[amazon text=Our Advanced Pick: PHOLSY Wireless Timer Remote Control&asin=B01NAW947S]

Works with: Versions available for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus/Panasonic, and Fujifilm!

DIY

If there’s one corner of the internet that has consistently surprised and delighted us over the years, its the DIY community. This group of tinkerers, innovators, and people with lots of time on their hands have come up with a homebrew solution for just about everything under the sun, and as it turns out, time-lapse Intervalometer units are no exception. Here are a few of our favorite projects we’ve seen across the web:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Time-Lapse-Intervalometer-for-SLRs-with-555-timer-/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Turn-a-TI-Graphing-Calculator-into-an-Intervalomet/
http://www.hdrlabs.com/occ/index.html

2022 edit: This one recently became unavailable, will leave here in case it comes back online: http://cms.diodenring.de/en/electronic/mikroIntervalometer/82-intervalltimerv2

The bottom line:

As you can no doubt tell for yourself above, there is an abundance of options available when it comes to time-lapse Intervalometers today. Just about every camera manufacturer under the sun has multiple to choose from, and best of all, they are available at virtually every price point to boot. Put a budget together, make your choice, and get out there and get to shooting!

If you’re looking to invest is new gear, or if you’re just interested in learning more about the available hardware, check out tripod buyer’s guide. or our guide to selecting the best camera for time-lapse.

What’s The Best Tripod for Time-Lapse?

Photographer using camera tripod

What’s the best tripod for time-lapse? Looking for a tripod for shooting time-lapse with, but not sure which one’s right for you? let’s explore some of the features of a tripod to determine which is the best time-lapse tripod for you.

When it comes to crafting eye-popping, smooth time-lapse videos, you’d be surprised what you can do with the bare minimum equipment. With that said, if you’re really looking to get serious with the art form, there are a few essential pieces of kit that you will quickly learn to categorize as “essential”. Perhaps none of these is more practical or useful than the humble tripod. In today’s guide, we’ll break down what to look for if you’re ready to take the plunge. This guide mostly targets the best tripod for DSLR cameras, but the same tripods can be used for all kinds of cameras. Even smart phones!

Do I Even Need a Tripod?

We hear this question pretty often from beginners, and the truth is, a tripod isn’t a 100% necessity when you’re just getting started with time-lapse photography. What is necessary, however, is holding your camera (or phone) perfectly still during the capturing of your sequence of photos, so you can see how the device that literally holds your camera perfectly steady might be incredibly useful.

A tripod is a stabilization platform; it is designed to ensure that each of your photos are captured with minimal amounts of camera shake while the shutter is open. This eliminates blurriness in pictures, making them clearer and more professional looking. From a time-lapse maker’s perspective, it also ensures that every frame in your sequence is shot from the exact same vantage point. This is somewhat difficult to describe, but once you see the difference it makes in the finished product, you’ll know that there’s no going back.

Understanding What Makes a Quality Tripod

So, at this point, we’ve hopefully sold you on the merits of a tripod for your time-lapse work. Now, the question is simple: how can you decide which one is right for you? Let’s briefly take a look at a few key aspects to look for in your ideal tripod system before getting into our specific product recommendations.

Build Quality

Perhaps above all else, the build quality of a particular tripod will determine how effective you can expect it to be out in the field. Cheap out here, and you’ll find that your super entry-level tripod simply doesn’t do a good job of removing all traces of camera shake, or worse yet, collapses on you, potentially damaging your camera in the process.

Seeing as time-lapses are often captured in potentially hazardous areas, such as a busy city center or a rocky mountainside, having a quality, stable platform you can trust is essential. In general, we recommend carbon fiber tripods, especially for frequent travelers, as they are lightweight while still providing excellent stability. Aluminum is another, more classic choice, though it will be heavier, as well as more susceptible to hot and cold temperatures.

Head Style

Another critical component, the way your camera actually attaches to the tripod can vary from tripod to tripod. This affects more than the initial attachment, though; it’ll also affect how easily you can adjust things like the position, balance, and tilt of your camera itself. In general, there are four main types of head styles in use today; 3-way pan-tilt, ball, gimbal, and fluid head.

Each of these has their own unique strengths and weaknesses that we won’t be getting into here, but for time-lapse purposes, just know that any of them will work. That said, if you want to get into advanced motion shots down the road, a fluid head may be ideal, as it allows for the smoothest pans and tilts of all of the various styles.

Flexibility

For the most part, tripod legs are fixed, dedicated poles that are designed to work best on semi-flat, even terrain. That said, there are a number of specialty tripods like the popular Gorilla brand which use a more fluid design, allowing the legs to actually “grip” onto surfaces. These can be used to attach your camera to places you might not expect, such as a tree limb, traffic pole, or some other unique location. Obviously, these will give you the potential to get non-conventional shots which may add an air of intrigue to your work. You just need to know when it makes sense to use them, and when it makes more sense to go with something traditional.

Load Capacity

Every tripod has a specific max load capacity that it is capable of handling. Exceed this load, and you run the risk of the legs becoming unstable in the wind or on uneven, rocky terrain, which would obviously be bad news for the (likely highly expensive) imaging gear mounted to the top of your tripod. For this reason, it is crucial to match your camera and lens weight to a tripod that can support them, ideally with some room to grow on.

Size

Tripods come in virtually all sizes, from compact, flexible designs to towering, crane-like monstrosities. If you are someone who travels often, something small and light will probably be more useful for you, but if you are operating lots of heavy equipment in a fixed spot for an extended period of time, it may make sense to go with something a bit bulkier. Determining which is right for you will really boil down to asking yourself what you’re most interested in shooting for your time-lapse work, and matching the right gear to suit that style.

Our Top Tripods For Time-Lapse Photography

[amazon text=Entry level: Dolica GX600B200 Proline GX Series 60-Inch Aluminum Tripod&asin=B004XC3GWU]

This excellent starter platform features a ball head, a sturdy, all-aluminum design, flip-lock legs, and as a maximum weight of 15 pounds. Best of all, it is available online at an extremely beginner-friendly price. Thankfully, unlike other “entry-level” tripods on the market, Dolica doesn’t seem to be skimping out on the build quality here, with hundreds of reviewers noting that they felt they were getting more than their money’s worth with the GX Proline series.

[amazon text=Mid Range: Neewer Carbon Fiber 66 inches Camera Tripod&asin=B00NSEKEMO]

Neewer has long made high-quality, mid-range tripods, and their new carbon fiber lineup is no exception to this rule. Featuring a 360-degree ball head, a clever monopod mode, and an 8-layer carbon fiber tubing system for added stability, very few tripods at this price range can claim to offer the same level of value found here. Featuring a maximum weight of 26.5 pounds, this should be more than enough for just about any camera/lens combo with room to spare.

[amazon text=The professional choice: Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH Befree Carbon Fiber&asin=B07M6HMZTB]

Manfrotto is one of the most popular manufacturer’s of high-end camera accessories on the market, and their carbon fibre line of tripods is a perfect example of their legendary build quality. The Manfrotto tripod uses ultra-high-quality carbon fibre supports that are extremely stable and yet incredibly light, making it an excellent choice for hikers and frequent travellers. While the maximum safe weight is listed at 8.6 pounds, most people in the reviews section on Amazon noted that it can easily handle far more than that. If you are looking to really invest in your time-lapse arsenal, you can’t go wrong with Manfrotto.