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Choosing a Camera Lens For Time-Lapse

DSLR Camera Lens

Whether you’re just beginning to explore the art of time-lapse photography, or you’ve been doing it for years and are looking to take things to the next level, one of the most consistently-asked questions by our readers after they have chosen the best camera body, has to do with which camera lens for time-lapse they should use out on their shoots. In this guide, we’ll go over why your choice of lens matters, what to look for in a time-lapse lens, and ultimately, how to choose one. Let’s get straight to it, shall we?

A Note On Creative Freedom

When first approaching this guide, we wanted to make it clear right up front that for the most part, any lens will work when it comes to creating time-lapse videos. Sure, some may be better than others in specific instances (which we’ll cover below), but the classic saying “the best camera is the one you have with you” can be extended to lenses as well. If you only have a few lenses to choose from when starting out, just bring what you have and try them all. You never know which combination will end up being your favorite till you experiment!

Now, with that said, let’s take a look at some of the practical ways your choice of lens can influence your shots.

Why Lens Choice Matters

This may seem like a direct contradiction of what we just wrote above, but hear us out; though you can use any and every lens you’d like for your time-lapse work, there are situations where one lens may be better equipped to help you achieve a certain effect. For instance, if you are trying to capture an epic sunset sequence of Manhatten from the vantage point of the Brooklyn Promenade across the water, using a wide lens (something in the 12-28mm range) will help you get more of the skyline in-frame, leading to a more interesting final product.

Conversely, say you are wanting to get a tight shot of the Statue of Liberty and all of the boat traffic around it, shot from the very same spot? In this case, you’d want a big, stable telephoto lens, perhaps a 200mm, or maybe even a 300mm or 400mm if you’re feeling crazy. This will give you a far more interesting, isolated shot of Lady Liberty and her surroundings.

Hopefully, you can see where we’re going with this. In short, the lenses we choose help to inform the framing and style of the sequences we capture. Sometimes, this choice can only marginally affect a video, while other times it can completely change the “feel” of the final product itself.

Choosing Your Lens

So, now that we have a better high-level understanding of why our lens choices matter, let’s break down how to actually select the lenses you’d like to use. This process can be as simple or as in-depth as you’d like it to be, but for now, let’s briefly explore a few crucial elements that should factor into your decision.

Know Your Subject Matter

When planning out your time-lapse shoot, you should be thinking about the location that you’ll be shooting, as well as what you’d like to capture there As the saying goes, composition is everything.

In fact, many of us like to visit shoot locations in advance to scout out the situation, taking note of potential framing options ahead of time. By doing so, you can test out the lenses you own to see if they provide the type of shot you’re looking for.

Top Tip

Consider renting a lens for the day of your shoot. Obviously, this is more expensive than just using what you have, but it can be much more reasonable than going out and purchasing a new $1000+ lens every time you have a shoot idea. Just something to keep in mind!

The key takeaway here is to have a vision in place for your time-lapse video. The clearer the end result is in your mind’s eye, the better it’ll turn out in the end.

Understand What Makes a Good Time-Lapse Lens

Though any lens can work for time-lapse photography, certain ones are going to give you more freedom to tackle advanced shots and lighting situations. These lenses will be more flexible or powerful than others and can unlock new shooting opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to you otherwise.

For example, a shallow lens, say something with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 is going to allow you to capture stunning footage in very dark conditions. This would be crucial if, for instance, you were trying to capture a mountainside at night as the Milky Way rises above its peak. Try getting the same shots on a kit lens that only goes to f/3.5, and you aren’t likely to be as thrilled with the result.

To lean on an example we used earlier above, the focal length of the lens can also have a practical impact on determining which is right for your shoot. Ideally, you want the frame size to fully encompass your subject, and you want to present it from as unique an angle as possible.

All in all, it’s important to remember that while the camera you use is important, the glass you choose will actually have a more substantial impact on the final quality of your images than anything else. After all, there’s a reason you’ll see a basic kit lens listed for $150 while a dedicated Prime or high-quality zoom lens will commonly run $1500+. When it comes to lenses, you get what you pay for.

The bottom line:

Don’t overthink It, But don’t limit yourself either

When it comes to choosing a lens for time-lapse photography, it’s important to realize that in the end, even a smart phone can capture amazing images and videos. You can get as in-depth and invested in this type of art as you’d like to, and that’s one of our favorite things about photography as a whole. It’s accessible for anyone to enjoy, but deep enough to provide years and years of challenge and fun for those who want to go further.

So just jump in. Start experimenting with what you have, and if you run into any roadblocks, maybe look into renting a lens, or borrowing one from a friend. Chances, are, however, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with what’s already sitting in your gear bag.

How to Shoot Time-Lapse with a Smartphone

Smart phone filming time lapse video

If you’d like to learn how to shoot time-lapse with a smartphone, this guide should serve as an introduction and answer any questions you have.
Time-lapse photography has never been more accessible than it is right now. In fact, that’s true for any form of photography, because smartphone cameras have seamlessly transitioned from “impractical novelty” to “near DSLR-level” tool in the span of about a decade. Today, the creative possibilities using just the tools available on iOS and Android devices make it possible to craft compelling, mind-bending time-lapse videos, and by the end of this article, you’ll have everything you need to do it.

First Thing First: Android or iOS?

While both Android devices and Apple’s iPhone have a variety of apps to choose from that can help create stunning time-lapse videos, iOS gets a bit of a leg up with the inclusion of a time-lapse function directly in the native camera app (some newer Android devices do as well, but not all). Of course, compared to many of the dedicated apps available on both platforms–such as the fantastic Lapse It–Apple’s own version is fairly rudimentary. All the same, it’s worth mentioning, especially if you’re just beginning to explore time-lapse work as an art form.

Regardless of which side of the smartphone arms race you fall on, there are a ton of fantastic cameras to be had on nearly all of today’s top devices. Chances are, the phone in your pocket is more than enough to get started taking some seriously compelling sequences.

Essential Mobile Time-Lapse Accessories

One of the key components that go into making quality mobile time-lapse videos is your ability to keep the phone steady for a long period of time. Many newer models have advanced stabilization software built into them which makes your life much easier, but if you’re looking to take things to the next level, here are a few handy accessories that will change your life:

Ubeesize TripodUBeesize Tripod S

The UBeesize Tripod is a mobile imaging platform that can conform and cling to almost any surface, thanks to its flexible, octopus-style legs. This thing is so good that we consider it to be a must-have for anyone who’s serious about capturing high-quality stationary time-lapse videos with their Android or iOS phone. Try attaching your phone to a guardrail above a busy city street, or to a branch on the side of a mountain overlooking the valley below. The possibilities are limited only by your creativity.

Moment Lenses

Moment has long been the de facto king of mobile lens attachments, and today, their wide range of accessories are more powerful than ever before. Options like the stunning Anamorphic lens give you unparalleled cinematic potential, while the wide angle, telephoto, and macro options unlock entirely new perspectives. If you are trying to blur the lines between what’s possible with a mobile device and what isn’t, this is where you should be looking.

Smartphone Time-Lapse Tips and Tricks

If you’re setting out to explore what your phone can really do, we want to give you every advantage you can possibly have. Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned and use ourselves every single day.

Don’t neglect the basics: Regardless of what devices you use to capture time-lapse videos with, it’s important to keep in mind the essentials like exposure, framing, and subject matter. Each of these represents a crucial pillar that is needed to make your shots interesting to your viewers, which is ideally what you want.

Use an older phone if you have one–or don’t: If you have an older device laying around that you don’t use anymore, turning it into a dedicated time-lapse camera may be a great way to breathe new life into it. That said, if you upgraded to a fancy new model that features an even better camera, you may be tempted to justs stick with that, and we don’t blame you.

Get creative with your framing: By nature of their size alone, you can get a smartphone into positions and spaces that a bulky DSLR simply wouldn’t be able to go. This is especially true when you couple it with something like the UBeesize Tripod listed above, so get creative and unconventional; you never know where it’ll take you.

Experiment with hyperlapse videos: You don’t have to stand still all of the time when capturing your shots. Hyperlapse videos involve camera motion, and apps like Hyperlapse for iOS and Microsoft Hyperlapse for Android make creating these surreal, ghostly sequences easier than ever before.

The Best Camera Really is The One You Have With You

Once more, be sure to check out our guide to 5 of the most essential time-lapse apps for both iPhone and Android phones. Each of these apps will allow you to have more control over the final look of your time-lapse videos, and best of all, most of them are pretty easy to pick up and get creating with them. Now that you have all of the tools you could ever need, there’s only one thing left to do; get out there and start creating!

5 Essential Time-Lapse Apps

Smartphone time lapse app

Looking for the best Time-Lapse app? I reviewed over 50 time lapse related smartphone apps. Here are 5 that I think will be super helpful for getting awesome results.

In years past, the art of making time-lapse photography has been largely constricted to high-end cameras such as DSLR’s and mirrorless systems. That said, it’s 2018, and the cameras in our pockets are becoming more and more advanced with each passing year. Now, it’s entirely possible to capture and process mind-blowing time-lapse videos using nothing but your smartphone.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at five of the most essential time-lapse apps available for both Android and Apple iOS devices. There are loads of great time-lapse apps for Android. Most of these are available for iOS too. Each of these come with unique features and workflows that make it more accessible than ever before to jump right in and start creating, so let’s dive right in.

1. PhotoPills

PhotoPills AppThis trusty app is packed full of tools and features to assist both the amateur and professional time-lapse photographer alike. Not only does this app contain time-lapse specific features, it also contains a load of general photography and astrophotography tools that are absolutely essential to getting the best results.

Whilst this is a premium app, it is a one-off cost and worth every penny in my opinion.

Pros:

  • Packed full of tools and features
  • Powerful and accurate data

Cons:

  • Premium app costing a few dollars
  • Quite a high learning curve, but user guide is available

Lapse It Logo

2. Lapse It

We wanted to kick this list off with what we consider to be the essential time-lapse app for both iOS and Android, so here it is. It’s available on both platforms -Lapse It Android and Lapse It iPhone.  Lapse It is one of the most comprehensive, fully-featured apps dedicated to time-lapse photography that we’ve ever seen, and regular updates have kept it both fresh and highly flexible. Lapse It is a time-lapse camera app like no other. The bulk of the features that make this app shine are locked behind the “Pro” version of Lapse It, but at $3 for the Lapse In Pro app, we feel it’s a no-brainer regardless. That said, the free option still allows you to jump in and get familiar with the interface if you’d like to start slow.

Pros:

  • Full 1080p video rendering/exporting
  • Comprehensive settings panel to control variable zoom, time-lapse speed, exposure, and more
  • Tons of additional functions like reverse mode, filters, trimming, timestamps, and more
  • Incredibly fast and responsive
  • Available on both iOS and Android

Cons:

  • Can be a bit overwhelming for beginners due to the sheer number of options available
  • Best features locked behind a paywall (but again, we feel it’s a steal at the current price)

Hyperlapse App Logo

3. Hyperlapse From Instagram

Instagram is without a doubt the most popular visual social media platform in the world today. The company has been making strides in recent years in terms of the tools they provide content creators, and the Hyperlapse app is a direct reflection of this concentrated effort. Though it can easily be used to take traditional, stationary time-lapse videos, you can also use the Hyperlapse app while in motion, hence its name. The app features extraordinary stabilization abilities, allowing you to capture a bumpy run or walk with your phone and still somehow have the end result look silky smooth.

Sadly, it’s not currently available for Android as of this writing, but fear not, alternatives such as Microsoft Hyperlapse provide much of the same functionality if you fall into this camp.

Pros:

  • Insanely powerful stabilization is better than just about anything else for motion shots
  • Allows for incredibly easy uploads directly to Instagram
  • The simplistic and minimal interface is easy to pick up, and hard to put down

Cons:

  • A bit limiting in terms of settings compared to other apps on this list
  • Not available for Android devices

Sky Flow App Logo

4. SkyFlow

Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate; SkyFlow isn’t really geared for beginners who are just starting out. The app features some serious pro-level functionality, such as manual exposure, focus, and white balance control, and well as a dizzying array of other settings, effects, and modes to choose from. While not quite as intuitive as Lapse It in our opinion, the two stand neck-and-neck when it comes to pure flexibility. As with Lapse It, a free version is available, but interestingly, no features are locked when it comes to actually capturing the footage itself in this version. Instead, exporting is simply limited to 540p, which is still a very good reason to upgrade.

Pros:

  • Plenty of depth for experienced users to explore
  • Works with DJI Osmo devices
  • Excellent noise cancellation

Cons:

  • Not quite as intuitive user interface as Lapse It
  • Not available for Android
  • Potentially a bit overwhelming for beginners

Pic Pac App Logo

5. PicPac Stop Motion & TimeLapse

PicPac is a unique app, even to this list, as it is not only a fully-fledged time-lapse app, but also a stop-motion one as well. As well as the free version, there’s also PicPac Pro. While a bit more niche than time-lapse photography in general, stop-motion is still a very intriguing form of expression, and many of the techniques behind it have been used in the media world for decades. The app is Android-only, and also features a Hyperlapse mode, so for anyone feeling a bit left out by Instagram’s Hyperlapse iOS app, this may be another solid alternative. You can easily export HD video, add your own recordings or music, and trim videos in the pro version, though all of these features are restricted in the free app. (Beginning to see a trend here?)

Pros:

  • Stop motion and time-lapse combined into one convenient app
  • Clean interface makes navigating the various functions quite easy
  • Easily add custom text to your finished videos in-app

Cons:

  • Not as many settings to choose from as Lapse It
  • Not available for iOS

Other Apps and Tools

Whilst researching the best time-lapse applications, we found a huge number of great apps and tools that didn’t make it into our top 5.
Perhaps the most versatile and powerful is our time-lapse calculator. This is actually three tools in one, and can run in any web browser so there is no app to install to your device.

Latest Time-Lapse Apps

New apps are being launched all the time, so it is worth having a look in the Google Play store or the Apple app store to see what’s the latest and greatest apps available. A lot can change in a very small amount of time when it comes to technology and especially software.

If you’re of at least a slightly technical nature (let’s be honest, you have to be with photography!), then you may find that Magic Lantern is worth checking out. It runs on your Canon camera, adding a load of extra features and tools. including a few really nifty time-lapse related features.

The best bit about Magic Lantern is that it’s open-source and totally free, with quite a big community built around it.

What is Time-Lapse Photography?

Time lapse of passageway of people

So what is time-lapse photography and why should I care?

Well, if you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet at all, chances are you’ve seen some pretty amazing nature videos. Particularly, you may have been drawn to videos of beautiful landscapes where time seems to be “fast-forwarded” like an old VHS tape, often to dramatic effect. These videos utilize the technique known as time-lapse photography, and today, we’ll explore the basics of this exciting and unique visual trend that has exploded over the last 15 years. So what is time-lapse photography? Let’s start from the beginning…

How Does Time-Lapse Work?

At its core, time-lapse photography simply involves taking a series of images in sequence over an extended period of time, and then displaying them at a rapid frame rate, giving the appearance that the world (and time itself) is “lapsing” before your eyes. This often produces moody, ethereal results, giving many of these videos their trademark awe-inspiring feel. Wikipedia has a great introductory page on the subject.

Making a time-lapse video requires patience and a great amount of care. To make a three-minute-long video, for instance, you may need to capture several hours worth of footage, and this process can be a slow, painstaking labor of love. There are a number of special, purpose-built pieces of equipment often used to help photographers capture cinematic time-lapse footage, but today, even something as simple as your smartphone has the capability to produce exciting results. We’ll explore the equipment that goes into making these videos in greater depth below.

Is Time-Lapse One Word?

There are a number of ways to write it. Time-Lapse, Time Lapse or Timelapse. The most commonly used name is hyphenated (Time-Lapse) which is the way we write it, but really it seems that there is no one correct spelling.

Write it however you want, it all means the same thing!

Examples of Time-Lapse Photography in Action

There are countless examples of incredible time-lapse photography around the web, and we thought it would be a good idea to include a few of our favorites here, for reference.

NORWAY – By Morten Rustad
This incredible collection of stunning vistas showcases exactly what makes this sort of photography so special.

30 Days At Sea – By JeffHK
In one of the more unique applications of the technique, videographer JeffHK shows us what life on the open sea is like on one of the world’s largest megaships.

History of Time-Lapse Photography

The very first examples of time-lapse photography date back to Eadweard Muybridge (yes, that is how he spelled it). Muybridge was hired by the then-governor of California to prove that his racehorse had tripped several wires attached to still cameras. Though the governor was wrong and ultimately lost a bet because of it, Muybridge is often credited with creating the base technique still used today in time-lapse footage all over the world.

The first commercial use of this photographic method was by Alan Fanck, in a series of motion pictures he called Bergfilms. Over the next several decades, the technique would be applied to a number of subjects, from plant life to city development and beyond. Today, just about anyone has access to some form of time-lapse-capable equipment, making the barrier to entry lower than at any other point in history. The same can be said of photography in general, actually.

Basic Equipment Needed

The barrier to entry with time-lapse photography has been shrinking for over a decade, and though some special equipment is still required if you’re looking to get serious, it’s now possible to capture basic time-lapses on something as simple as your smartphone. Moreover, advanced gear that used to cost thousands and thousands of dollars can now be found for a fraction of that, allowing you to truly unlock your creativity in more ways than ever before.

So, here’s a list of the three basic components that we feel are essential to capturing a quality time-lapse video:

Camera

Chances are, you probably already have a decent DSLR camera if you’re reading this guide. If you don’t there’s more good news; there are literally hundreds of models variable to choose from today, all at varying price points, and all compatible with a full range of time-lapse equipment. We’d recommend something with a high ISO range, especially if you’re planning on doing any night-sky time-lapse photography.

Camera Tripod

Tripod

A quality, sturdy tripod is a foundational piece of your new time-lapse arsenal. This is how you will steady your footage and ensure that each shot is precisely framed. While many entry-level options are available, we’d recommend buying the best tripod your budget will allow, with enough weight to steady your camera even on uneven, rocky terrain, especially if you’re interested in taking time-lapse shots out in remote areas where conditions can be constantly changing.

Don’t assume that all tripods are the same and a cheap one will be suitable. A cheap tripod can wobble, which will be particularly apparent over the course of a full time-lapse sequence, ruining your footage. This is particularly important when shooting night sky (astro) time-lapse, when you have shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds or more. With astro work, your camera has to be perfectly steagy to capture the stars as sharp as possible. There really is no margin for error. The last thing you want is to go to a remote location at midnight, sit in the cold until 3am, then it’s all for nothing because your tripod wobbled slightly in the breeze. Get the best quality tripod you can afford, you won’t regret it.

IntervalometerIntervalometer

An intervalometer acts as the beating heart to your time-lapse setup, helping you take hundreds of photos with precision timing by automating the task of triggering your shutter every x seconds. Some of these devices can be quite expensive, while other, more basic models can be found for much less. In fact, many modern cameras have much of this functionality built directly into the camera body. Regardless of which model you choose, the intervalometer plays an essential role in helping you put together a compelling time-lapse reel.

There are many other, more advanced pieces of gear that go into the art of capturing time-lapse footage, and we’ll be getting into these in much greater depth in future posts, so be sure to stick around. In the meantime, if you have any questions about time-lapse photography in general, be sure to leave a comment below, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

What Is The Best Time-Lapse Interval?

The ideal interval, or ‘frames per second’ for taking time-lapse pictures depends on the individual project. The more frequent the interval, the faster the motion will appear in the final video. To find the ideal interval, check out our time-lapse calculator.

As a rough guide, here are some example intervals:

  • People walking/crowds: 2 second interval.
  • Clouds moving across the sky: 5-10 second interval.
  • Night sky stars: 30 second interval.

The key to getting the right interval is to experiment and get a feel for different values. It’s all about artistic effect at the end of the day and telling a story. You can’t beat hands-on experience for getting the right settings.

Night Sky Time-lapse Photography Guide

Night sky star trails

We’ve compiled this night sky time-lapse photography guide to help you learn how to create the most awe-inspiring time-lapse videos there are – the night sky. Few natural phenomena can instill the same sense of wonder and awe that the night sky can. For hundreds of years, our ancestors believed that when they looked up at night they were gazing into the heavens themselves, and today, we know that the truth is even more mysterious than we could have imagined.

Our Milky Way galaxy is a sight to behold, and for several decades now, an entirely new way of observing its intricacies has been possible, thanks to advances in modern camera equipment. This style of imaging is commonly referred to as night sky photography, or astrophotography. Today, we’re going to be looking at a particular style that involves capturing the stars as they appear to move through the sky. By the end of it, you’ll know how to capture your very own night sky time-lapse sequences, much like this one below.

Excited? You should be. Let’s begin.

Intro To Night Sky Lime-Lapse

Night sky time-lapse photography involves much of the same equipment and techniques that traditional time-lapse work does. We’ve covered these extensively before, but today, we’ll be taking a much closer look at the specific skills and equipment used to capture a more challenging subject.

In general, you’re going to need a bit more specialized equipment to be truly successful at night sky photography than just about any other form of the craft. As opposed to shooting a busy city center or a sun-swept mountainside, shooting in absolute darkness will require a high-powered camera system that is capable of pulling light seemingly out of thin air. Let’s take a closer peek at everything you’ll need to capture successful night sky photography below. From there, we’ll jump into specific techniques you can use to capture the night sky sequence of a lifetime.

What You’ll Need

Unlike traditional time-lapse photography, you probably won’t have much luck using something like your iPhone for night sky work. One of the main requirements for viewing the Milky Way in all of its glory is to be somewhere with very little light pollution, which is the ambient light given off by cities and larger towns across the world.

Because of this, you’ll need an image sensor that is capable of capturing even the faintest amount of light and recreating it in vivid detail. In our opinion, because this is a more advanced time-lapse technique, we recommend making use of a full-frame camera. These allow much more light into the image sensor than point-and-shoot and crop-sensor camera bodies, and also tend to have a wider selection of high-quality lenses to choose from.

Here’s a basic list of equipment you should bring with you to your first night sky shoot:

  • Backpack: You’ll potentially need to hike out a bit in order to find the perfect spot, so it pays to have a quality pack to hold your gear, food and water.
  • Camera body: Again, we recommend a full-frame system like the Sony a7s or the Canon 5d Mkiii, but a decent crop sensor body can work if you’re just getting started. Just know that you will be somewhat limited with this setup.
  • Wide-Angle lens: Since we’re trying to capture the enormity of the night sky, a wide, open lens is necessary. The shallower the better, so we’d recommend going for a camera lense with aperature that stops down to f/2.8 or lower.
  • A sturdy tripod: Your tripod is a vital support platform for capturing your images. Withit, you’d have no way to ensure that no unwanted motion was caught in the image sequence, especially since we’ll be shooting at low shutter speeds. Don’t settle for the cheapest tripod thinking it isn’t important. The slightest bit of movement will ruin all of your hard work. Get the best tripod you can afford otherwise you will regret it, trust me.
  • An intervalometer: This device acts as a control center for your camera, dictating how frequently it captures images in sequence. Some camera systems even have a built-in intervalometer function, but for most folks, you’re better off using a standalone device.
  • A high-speed, high-capacity SD card: We’d recommend a 32-64 GB card if possible, with at least 50mb/s processing speed.
  • A large amount of patience: Night sky photography isn’t exactly a thrill-seeker’s paradise; capturing emotive and awe-inspiring images of the heavens is almost always a slow, deliberate process. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun!

Planning Out Your Shoot

Now that you have all of your gear in-hand, it’s time to start getting a plan together for your shoot! This is an exciting step, but there are a few things to keep in mind when mapping out your next moves.

Sky Conditions

If you live in or near to a major city, such as Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, or Seattle, we have some bad news; the immense light pollution these hubs of urban life give off make any attempt at stellar photography pretty much a no-go. Remember, we’re using highly sensitive camera settings to pull in even the faintest light source, so these areas will quickly result in blown-out, unusable photos. In order to make this work, you’re going to need to get 60-90 minutes outside of any major sign of civilization.

Beyond this, you’ll also want to account for both the weather and the phase of the moon when planning your shoot. Cloudy skies are obviously detrimental to being able to capture the stars beyond. Similarly, a big, full moon will wash out any hope of seeing the inner workings of the Milky Way. It’s important to keep close tabs on these conditions leading up to your planned shoot so that you avoid disappointment when you arrive at your destination.

As a final note, the Milky Way’s position in the night sky is not constant. In the Northern Hemisphere, for instance, the core shifts from being visible in the southeastern skies in Spring to due south in Summer, and finally southwest in the Fall. For the Southern Hemisphere, it’ll be the southwest in the Spring, and southeast in the Summer and Fall.

Finding A Dark Sky

To help you find a good site to capture your night sky time-lapse, we’d recommend using tools like the excellent Dark Site Finder. These will help provide you with a visual aid so that you can gauge the level of light pollution in your area, and also help you find just how far out you’ll need to go to see truly dark skies.

For some suggestions check out our guide to the best dark sky locations in the USA. Or you’re in the UK, we have a guide for there too.

For obvious regions, National Parks such as Yosemite and Big Bend are popular choices for astrophotography in general, due to their beautiful landscapes and lack of polluting light nearby. It’s important to consider this carefully, as it will determine how the finished product looks when everything is said and done.

Setting Up To Capture Your Images

Now is the time to put your new knowledge into practice. With your gear packed and destination mapped out, you’re ready to head out into the field and gather your images. Take a moment and appreciate that you’ve put in the effort to get this far; the key to progressing in any skill is to acknowledge the progress you make, however big or small.

When you arrive at your chosen dark sky site, here’s what you should do.

Composition & Framing

You’ll want to first begin scouting the immediate area for potential points of interest. This will obviously be much easier during the daytime, so we’d highly recommend arriving at or before the late afternoon in order to get the lay of the land around you. Remember, you’re looking for a spot that not only has a fantastic view of the section of the sky that the core of the Milky Way will be visible in, but also one that features some interesting foreground elements as well. For instance, in the video below, notice how the people around the campfire, the still waters of the lake, and the imposing majesty of Mt. Hood are all on full display:

Each of these elements brings interest to the composition, giving it a unique feeling that helps it stand out amongst a slew of other videos that just show the sky and nothing else. Try and keep this in mind when framing out your shots; perhaps there’s a particularly interesting broken tree that might look interesting from underneath, or maybe a nearby valley offers picturesque views of the countryside. In this regard, you are really only limited by your surroundings and your own creativity, so give some thought to this and take all the time you need to compose a fantastic shot. Your video will be better for it in the end.

General Camera Settings

Once you feel happy with your framing, it’s time to dial in the appropriate settings. It’s important to note here that there is no “golden rule” of astrophotography, which is to say that there is no group of settings or features that will reliably churn out incredible images in any spot around the globe. Finding the right exposure for your scene is a very specific, detailed process that will change depending upon a variety of factors.

With that said, there are some general guidelines that you can use as a frame of reference when dialing in your settings. Let’s look at a few of them below:

Shooting Mode: For starters, you’re going to want to put your camera into “Manual” mode when shooting time-lapse photography. The reason for this is simple; we don’t want the camera to be changing the focus between images in our sequence, because doing so would result in a poor-quality final video once everything is lined up. Manual mode gives us full control over what changes are made, and when.

Focus: Speaking of focus, it is very important to set it up properly for the first photo, as it will not be changing throughout the night. Of course, this can present a challenge during the night, as you’ll be pointing your camera into complete darkness. In order to ensure the scene is sharp, we’d recommend using your camera’s LIVE mode and zooming in on the brightest star in the sky. Once you have it isolated, turn the focus ring until it appears to be sharp. With this set, you can zoom back out, but be mindful not to bump the focus wheel again.

Shutter Speed: Because we need to let as much light spill into the sensor as possible, it is best to use a very slow shutter speed of around 20-30 seconds. Keep in mind that this will greatly exaggerate any bright source of light, so car headlights, streetlights, and even the moon can thwart your best efforts if you aren’t careful. Hopefully, you’ve taken care of that in the planning phase, and your scene is devoid of any such obstructions.

Aperture: Again, we need to let as much light into the sensor as possible, so when it comes to aperture, we want to use the widest opening your lens can muster. This can make all of the difference, so once again, we highly recommend using a lens that is capable of shooting at f/2.8 or “faster”. This will allow you to truly bring out the details in your scene.

ISO: In simple terms, ISO represents the amount of sensitivity the camera sensor itself has. The higher this number is, the more sensitive it will be to light. Sounds great, right? The key thing to keep in mind here is that with more sensitivity comes more noise in an image. Noise decreases the overall quality of the image, so you want to use just enough ISO to get the job done, and that’s it. In addition, this should be the first setting you turn down if you find that your images are overexposed at all.

Image Type: Every full-frame camera (and most crop-sensor bodies) will have the option to choose between JPEG and RAW files for your images. JPEG files will be compressed, and since we’re looking to preserve all of the data the sensor takes in, it’s best to instead choose RAW in just about any situation where you are shooting the night sky. Not only will this give you more flexibility during the editing phase, but it will also help you capture as much detail as possible, resulting in a more interesting, vivid final sequence.

That’s it; now that you have the basics down, there’s nothing left to do but start shooting! Relax, enjoy yourself, and remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. You will make mistakes, you will have images that you aren’t fully happy with. It’s all part of the process; don’t let it discourage you from continuing along your path.

After The Shoot: Processing Your Images

When you’re back home with your collection of images, it’s now time to organize, edit, and bounce them down into a sequence to be played back like a video. This is its own topic altogether, so if you’re ready for the next step, be sure to read Part Two of our night sky time-lapse guide right here.

Happy Shooting!

Best Cameras for Time-Lapse In 2021

What are the best cameras for time-lapse? Whether you’re just beginning to explore the art of time-lapse photography or you are a seasoned professional looking to make a commitment, you’re likely asking yourself the same question; what is the best time-lapse-friendly camera I can buy for the money?

First of all, if you’re already set on getting a compact camera, then we have a dedicated guide to compact cameras just for you. If you’re not at that stage yet, then read on.

We’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best beginner and advanced camera bodies you can buy for this style of photography, ranking each of them in terms of their features, quality, flexibility, and price. Before that, though, let’s briefly zero in on what to look for in a time-lapse-capable camera system.

What To Look For In a Time-Lapse Camera

In general, when searching for a time-lapse camera, the main features to focus on are the ability to capture high-resolution images in RAW format, low-light performance, and lens selection. Of course, there are various types of time-lapse photography out there, and what you need will depend on what you’re looking to accomplish. For instance, if you’re set on shooting astrophotography time-lapses of the night sky, you’ll need to really invest in a camera that produces incredible images in almost complete darkness.

That said, if you’re only interested in shooting traffic time-lapses on the streets of New York, this obviously isn’t as much of a concern. Regardless of what you’re looking to do, you’ll also need some basic gear, like a tripod, a high-capacity SD card or two, and an intervalometer. For a more detailed breakdown of the gear essentials, you’ll need, check out our beginner’s guide to time-lapse photography.

Best Beginner Time-Lapse Cameras

If you’re just starting out, the world of time-lapse photography can often feel a bit overwhelming. With so many different options out there to choose from, it can make your head spin, but don’t worry. The truth is, even your iPhone or Android can be a fantastic camera to start with, so don’t overthink this too much. That said, here are our picks for the best beginner time-lapse camera bodies in 2018:

[amazon text=Nikon D5300&asin=B01MQGO8V6]

The Nikon d5300 represents the upper end of the manufacturer’s entry-level DSLR systems, and they pack quite a large amount of features into a very affordable price tag. The 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor is capable of capturing beautiful, high-resolution images, despite it not being a full-frame body (full-frame meaning roughly equivalent to a 35mm film camera). Features like built-in WIFI and an extra-large swivel LCD display make it an ideal platform to launch your time-lapse endeavors.

[amazon text=Canon EOS 80D&asin=B01BUYJXMA]

Like the Nikon D5300, the 80D not only features a 24.2 megapixel CMOS image sensor and image stabilization, but it also includes a native time-lapse mode, making it one of the easiest camera systems to get started with right out of the box. It doesn’t hurt that using the camera is an absolute joy, as Canon really knows how to cater to the beginner market at this point with intuitive control systems.

[amazon text=Sony 6000&asin=B00IE9XHE0]

Sony has long been an underdog when it comes to dedicated mirrorless and DSLR cameras, but all that has changed over the last few years. The company’s a-Series of mirrorless bodies has exploded in popularity, mainly due to their uncompromising performance stuffed into tiny, compact shells. At 24 megapixels, it holds its own against the two larger bodies above, and features built-in WIFI and Bluetooth as well. If you’re looking to get something small and light enough for frequent travel, Sony might be for you.

Best Advanced Time-Lapse Cameras

If you’re ready to step up to the big leagues, these camera’s will get you there. Featuring some of the absolute best image quality in the consumer industry, each of these DSLR and mirrorless systems has proven to be well worth the cost of entry.

[amazon text=Sony a7R III&asin=B076TGDHPT]

Featuring a massive 42.4-megapixel full-frame sensor and up to 10 frames per second shooting speeds, the Sony a7riii is an absolute powerhouse, regardless of what type of photography you are looking to do. With a massive lens selection to choose from (when using several first-party adaptors), this is truly a platform worth investing in if you’re looking for the best of the best in the palm of your hand.

[amazon text=Canon 5D Mk IV&asin=B01LVZBXRP]

Canon’s 5D series of full-frame camera bodies have long been considered to be the workhorses of the professional photography industry. With years of field-tested experience to draw on the new Mkiii version of this storied system is the most elegant and powerful solution yet, featuring a 30.4 megapixel sensor, 6 frames per second shooting, and an ISO range that expands up to 102,400.

[amazon text=Nikon D850&asin=B076BXDX5F]

The Nikon d850 is a feat of modern engineering. It includes 45.7 megapixels worth of stunning image-capturing potential, 9 FPS continuous shooting, and in an in-camera time-lapse system capable of shooting natively in 4K resolutions. Need we say more? This thing comes at a pretty penny, but if you’re looking to craft some of the sharpest, cleanest time-lapse videos out there, it may be worth the steep asking price.

Bonus: Best Night Sky Time-lapse Cameras

If you want to take things to the next level with your time-lapse photography, then night sky astrophotography is the big league. In order to get the sharpest, brightest, clearest shots of the dim night sky, you really have to invest in the right gear. To zero in on the best cameras for shooting in low-light, we’ve got you covered.

[amazon text=Sony a7SII&asin=B0158SRJVQ]

When it first debuted, the original Sony a7s wowed consumers and critics alike with its almost paranormal ability to see in the dark. Now, the a7sii is outdoing itself once again, providing a stunning ISO range of up to 4,096,004 (4 million!). The 12.2 megapixel sensor uses a smaller amount of larger-sized pixels to help reduce noise, and in our experience, very few cameras at its price range can match the a7sii’s capabilities when the light is low.

[amazon text=Nikon D500&asin=B01AUBSY38]

The Nikon D500 is a happy medium between affordable price and performance grade. It boast a great range of features along with a decent 20.2 megapixels. If you currently own a more entry level DSLR camera and you’re looking to take your time-lapse to the next level, then the D500 is a great candidate.

[amazon text=Nikon D7500&asin=B06ZYCS62R]

Lastly, we didn’t want to exclude budget shoppers looking for some serious low-light performance, and apparently, neither did Nikon. Despite its modest asking price, the D7500 was designed from the ground up with low-light performance in mind, featuring a maximum ISO of 102,400. That’s higher than any other crop sensor camera on the market, and though it won’t be able to compete with the gargantuan D5, it is also a fraction of the cost.

So there you have it. Any one of the cameras on this list should be capable of taking professional level HD time-lapse photos, regardless of the price. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for, so get the most powerful, capable camera body that your budget can afford. As long as you stick to the big trusted brands, you will probably get something that you will be happy with, and something that will allow you to produce great time-lapse videos for years to come. Or at least until you upgrade to the next model up!

Getting Started with Hyperlapse Photography

Slow shutter speed fairground ride

What is Hyperlapse Photography? Well, if you spend much time watching timelapse videos online, you may have noticed certain videos that seem to incorporate a substantial amount of motion shots, giving the final product a very surreal feeling. This type of time-lapse technique is commonly referred to as a hyperlapse photography, and today, we’re going to learn how to make them.

Hyperlapse vs Time-lapse: What’s The Difference?

So, what exactly is the difference between a time-lapse and a hyperlapse? Put as simply as possible, time-lapse videos usually involve a static shot, or one in which the camera body itself does not move. Now, this isn’t completely accurate, as many “traditional” time-lapse videos still involve some sort of movement, often in the form of a subtle tilt or pan. By contrast, however, a hyperlapse video tends to make heavy use of motion, with the camera physically being moved from point to point.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a quick look at a regular time-lapse video like this one here:

Now, watch this hyperlapse video and compare the two:

Notice how in the second video, the camera seems to be in motion for many of the shots, and the action appears to be sped up considerably? This creates the feeling that you are almost “warping” through a scene in hyperspeed, giving the effect its name.

Now that you understand the basic differences between the two, it’s time to get down to business.

Making Your Own Hyperlapse Videos

Making hyperlapse videos is actually quite a bit easier than it may at first appear. Like regular time-lapse photography, all you are really doing is capturing a sequence of images and editing them together in rapid succession to create the visual effect. If you have a few basic pieces of photography gear, an open mind, and a dash of patience, then don’t worry; you’ve got this.

So, what exactly do you need to make a hyperlapse video? Well, now it’s easier than ever thanks to the ‘Hyperlapse’ mode built into the camera app on the latest versions of Android. Simply open the app, select ‘Hyperlapse’ mode and begin shooting. All the hard work will be done automatically by the app itself. Once rendered, your footage will be turned into glorious hyperlapse video!

To take your haperlapse videos to the next level and unlock all of the benefits that come with controlling the whole process, you may want to create your own videos using a standard camera. The rest of this guide will be devoted to making that happen.

Let’s briefly review what you need to get started.

Essential Gear Checklist

  • Camera: This can be a DSLR, mirrorless, point and shoot, or even a cell phone. Almost any camera will do!
  • Lens: If using an interchangeable lens system, you’ll need something that is ideally no wider than 24mm on a full frame camera, but also not so zoomed that you can’t see the full scene you have in your mind
  • Your Arms and Legs: You’ll need these to hold the camera steady and move around! We’d call that essential.
  • An Open Mind: This is as much an art form as it is a technical application of skills. Go into it ready to make mistakes and learn from them.

Once you have all of the above, you’re ready to go! Next up, let’s define the two main types of hyperlapse techniques in use today, and how and when you should use them.

Fixed Point vs Pan Hyperlapse

Though hyperlapse photography can take on nearly unlimited forms, there are two primary “style” categories that most videos fall under. These are fixed point and pan hyperlapes. Fixed point videos always involve some sort of fixed subject that never leaves the frame. As an example, look at the shot starting at 0:47 in the hyperlapse example video above. The famous rounded customer service booth is the point the camera is “fixed” on in this scene, so all of the motion literally revolves around it.

By comparison, a pan hyperlapse doesn’t necessarily have a fixed subject, and often involves a sweeping shot of a large scene. This is much less common than the fixed point technique, which is why we’ll be focused on that one in this guide, but it’s at least important to know that both exist.

Setting Up The Shot

Now that we have a good understanding of the common techniques used in hyperlapse photography, we’re ready to dig into the real reason you’re reading this; how to capture and make one your very own video! The first thing that you’ll need to do is map out and plan your shot as thoroughly as you possibly can. The more thought you put into what you want your video to look like, the better it will come out once you execute, trust us on this one.

With this in mind, let’s take this one step at a time and go through the process of setting up your hyperlapse shot.

Choosing a Subject

Your central subject is arguably the most important component in your entire video. This is the person, place or thing that you want your audience to focus in on, so the idea here is to make it as interesting as possible. See a particularly interesting building, or perhaps an awesome mountaintop? Make this the centerpiece of your video to give your viewers an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

In some cases, your subject can be more abstract, such as a crowded city street. If you wanted to “warp” down the street, you could simply walk forward in a straight line while snapping photos, and the crowd and surrounding buildings will all be part of your “subject”. You can see how the rules are very bendable, and when you have enough experience under your belt, breaking them outright is where the real fun begins.

Basic Camera Settings

So, if you’ve chosen a subject to base your shots around, that’s great! Now, how should you dial in your settings to ensure that you get the best shots you can? In general, you want to adjust your settings like you usually would when taking a single, still exposure. The real trick here is ensuring that each image looks relatively the same as the last in terms of exposure, white balance and framing.

You can adjust things in minor increments as you go along to ensure an even exposure, which you likely will need to do given that you are physically moving the camera from place to place. Just remember that you’ll need to put each of these frames back-to-back to create the final video, so try not to do anything jarring.

Mapping Out Your Route

This is one of the most important steps in properly executing your sequence of images, and it’s also the point where most newbies get stuck. It is extremely important that each and every frame be taken from not only the same height, but the same position relative to the subject as well. For instance, if you are walking down a street, you need to keep the camera pointed dead ahead, not letting it drift to one side or the other.

Pro Tip: Try looking for tiles or other patterns on the ground to follow. These can make for excellent pacing and positioning guides, helping you to stay on course as you move through your scene.

You may find it helpful to do a test run or two of your “track” to get comfortable with the motion. It can be a bit tricky staying so steady and consistent when moving, so don’t fret if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Once you feel more confident with the task at hand, you’re ready to rock.

Grabbing Your Photos

It’s time to start shooting. Keep your framing in mind as you guide yourself through your images one step at a time. It is crucial to the finished product that each step you take and each shutter you capture are as consistently spaced as humanly possible. A good rule of thumb to follow here is that the further you are away from your subject, the faster you can move in between shots. If you are only 5-25 feet away, however, you need to be capturing more images consistently as you move to really “sell” and represent the motion as it happens. Take it as slowly as you need to, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you didn’t have any shoulder muscles before now, get ready to build some!

Once you’ve completed your sequence of shots, relax and give yourself a pat on the back. Review your images while you rest for a bit, making sure that each one looks level and even. If something is glaringly off, don’t sweat it. You can either live with the imperfection or redo all the shots entirely. Either way, they’ll be plenty of opportunities to improve your form as you go, so remember to not judge yourself too harshly (this goes for everything you do in life).

Next Up: Editing Your Footage Together

In our next guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to process and edit your hyperlapse videos. For now, however, if you’re looking to get started, here are the basic steps to follow:

  • Collect and organize your photo sequence within a single folder on your hard drive.
  • Import all of the photos to Adobe Lightroom or your preferred editing software.
  • Feel free to make basic corrections to the images if you’d like, but don’t do anything crazy, and keep them consistent.
  • Once done, import the entire photo folder to After Effects or Premiere Pro.
  • If done right, both programs should automatically lay them out on the timeline in the proper order. Create a composition by highlighting and right-clicking them all.
  • Apply the effect “Warp Stabilizer” to the newly created clip. Set smoothness to around 10% to start, but feel free to experiment.
  • That’s basically it! Again, we’ll get much more in-depth soon, but for now, this should get you up and running.

For some more information on the subject of Hyperlapse, check out Wikipedia’s very informative article.

A Beginner’s Guide to Time Lapse Photography, Part 1

Personified Cameras in a Classroom

This beginner’s guide to time-lapse photography is all you need to begin producing your very own time-lapse videos. In part one of our time-lapse guide, we’ll walk you through everything from what gear you need to have to how to frame, setup, and capture your shots.

No time-lapse photography guide would be complete with the basics, so let’s begin!

What Exactly Is Time-Lapse Photography?

Put incredibly simply, time-lapse photography is the subtle art of manipulating the progression of time. By taking hundreds, sometimes thousands of images and stitching them together, you’re able to trick the eye into seeing motion played back much faster than it happens in reality. This effect is exactly what we’re talking about today, but why talk about when you can see it in action?

The Motivation: This is what you’ll be able to create after learning the techniques described in this guide:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgMpKsp23yY&t=78s

Recommended Gear

While time-lapses can be taken on just about any camera nowadays (even your smartphone!), we recommend having a few essential pieces of time-lapse photography equipment if you’re looking to get even moderately serious about the craft.

Camera Body

Your camera body is one of the most vital components in your time-lapse gear bag. Not only is it going to affect what settings and features you have access to, it will also contribute to determining the final quality of the video as a whole. Obviously we’d recommend finding the best camera for time-lapse photography, however if you are working to a budget, then pretty much any camera can be used to shoot great time-lapse. A full-frame camera, for example, is going to give you much better low-light performance and detail, which is crucial for something like astrophotography and other low-light scenarios.

The bottom line:

The Bottom Line: Your camera body is the beating heart of your time-lapse system. Consider a full-frame sensor if possible, but almost anything will do to start with.

Lenses

Your choice of lenses will dramatically alter both the quality and composition of your shots. You have a few things to consider when selecting the right lens for the job; shot composition, lighting, distance from your subject(s), and more. All of this can quickly start to feel overwhelming, but remember to start slow. Any lens that you currently own is more than capable of taking time-lapse shots.

The bottom line:

Bring the lenses you have. Shallow depth-of-field glass is helpful for low-light situations, but not required.

Tripod

Your tripod will act as your support platform over the entire time you are capturing shots for your video. Its job is to keep the camera in the exact same spot from shutter to shutter, ensuring that there is no jarring, unnatural motion in the frame once you line everything up. A cheaper tripod can still work, but we’d recommend investing in something decent here to avoid frustrations, especially if you’d like to shoot in windy weather.

The bottom line:

Your tripod is essential to capturing stable time-lapse shots. Get the highest build quality you can afford.

Intervalometer

Also known as a “controller”, these devices act as a command center of sorts, communicating with your camera and telling it how frequently to take photos during the shoot. There are many different brands available online, though you have to be sure to choose one that is compatible with your specific camera body. There are tons of extra features found in the more expensive controllers that really aren’t necessary when getting started, so you don’t need to go all out at first.

The bottom line:

Intervalometers allow you to dictate how frequently your camera captures an exposure, and as such, they are essential to your time-lapse kit. That said, you don’t need anything too fancy to start.

Neutral Density Filter

A neutral density filter lowers the exposure of your camera by anywhere from 1-10+ stops, depending upon which model you choose. While these aren’t technically required, they will allow you to shoot in lower shutter speeds during the day than would otherwise be possible. This will help you achieve, the smooth, dreamy blur that so many time-lapses are known for.

The bottom line:

Neutral density filters aren’t 100% necessary, but they will give you much more flexibility when planning your shot, and they aren’t terribly expensive.

A Step-by-Step Time-Lapse Photography Field Guide

So, this is it. You’ve got your gear-bag packed, and you’re ready to head out into the wild to tackle your first time-lapse project. Using this step-by-step field guide, you should be armed with everything you’ll need to capture something extraordinary. Ready to dive in? Let’s do it.

1. Setting Up The Shot

This is a crucial, often-overlooked part of the process when capturing your time-lapse shots. Is the final product going to be captivating for those watching? Nowadays, there are literally thousands of different time-lapse videos available online, so how will yours be different? Most of this will hinge on a few creative considerations:

  • The framing and composition of your shots
  • The settings you use to take them
  • How you edit the video in post-production

Right now, we’re focused on that first point. When you’re afield, you should consider the framing of your shots in much the same way if you were taking a single photograph. This means taking into account basic compositional techniques such as the Rule of Thirds, while also taking into account how the scene may ebb and flow throughout the day.

As an example, one of the most striking elements in any time-lapse video is the motion of your subjects themselves–this could be clouds passing by over a gorgeous, mountain-laden scene, or perhaps the cars and pedestrians making their way through a busy city center. Playing these images back at roughly 25 frames per second produces the ethereal, detached, dream-like feeling that so many videos in this realm of photography are known for. It’s up to you to harness your inner creativity to innovate on this well-established convention.

Once you’ve found a shot that you’re inspired by, you’ll need to ensure that you’re good to setup there for the long haul. Making a time-lapse film often involves hours upon hours of, well, sitting still, listening to your camera snap shutter after shutter. An optimal spot to setup should be as comfortable and safe as possible. With all of this take into consideration, you’re ready to move onto the next step; establishing your exposure settings.

2. Dialing In Your Settings

The exposure settings you choose for your time-lapse photos will have a significant effect on the outcome of the finished product. For instance, many time-lapse photographers prefer using slower shutter speeds, due to the inherent “smoothness” they add to the video once all of the shots are lined up. In addition, you’ll also find dozens of different recommendations when it comes to how frequently you should take the photos themselves, otherwise known as shutter interval.

“Many time-lapse photographers prefer using slower shutter speeds, due to the inherent “smoothness” they add to the video”

It’s vitally important to keep in mind, however, that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this style of photography. As with any creative endeavor, the rules are put in place in order to act as guidelines, primarily for those just starting out. Just as a highly experienced composer does not always stick to the foundational principles of music theory, so too are you not bound by any “recommended” settings when capturing your shots. All the same, they play a valuable part in helping familiarize yourself with the common practices used to achieve the result you’re looking for.

So, back to your shot. You should aim to expose your photos like you normally would, balancing them so that the highlights are not blown out, while also ensuring that shadow details are preserved. When shooting in direct daylight, many photographers make use of neutral density filters, sometimes referred to simply as ND filters. These lower the exposure of the entire frame by anywhere from 1 to 10+ stops, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without completely overexposing the scene.

Top Tip

Consider shooting your photos in RAW instead of JPG, if you have the storage capacity for it. You’ll need to ensure that you don’t run out of storage space halfway through, so a high-capacity card is a must, but the additional detail and flexibility you get with RAW is well-worth it, if you ask us.

Next up is your shutter interval. As mentioned above, there isn’t really a go-to number that will work for every video, but as a good rule of thumb, consider the fact that most content online plays back at about 25 frames per second, or FPS. Logically, this would mean that for every second of footage you hope to create, you’ll need 25 different images. Here’s a quick visual guide to reference for length:

  • 30 Seconds: 750 photos
  • 1 Minute: 1,500 photos
  • 3 Minutes: 4,500 photos

Once you’ve determined how many photos you’ll need in total, you can then decide how to set your intervalometer based on how long you’d like to capture the scene for. For instance, if you’re going to stay for 2 hours total, and you hope to make a 1-minute-long video, you’ll need 1440 photos, and your interval should be set to 5 seconds.

Now, if all this math seems unnecessary, that’s because it is. The easiest way to work out your shutter interval is to use our time lapse calculator.

Typical Settings At-A-Glance:

Shutter Speed: Slower, around 1” to 3” to produce a smooth, dream-like effect. Use ND filters.
Aputure: Whatever is needed to keep your subjects in focus. Usually f/7.1 or greater.
ISO: 100-500, or as low as possible. Keep in mind that higher ISO = more noise, and less sharpness. May need to be updated as conditions change.
Image Format: JPG = smaller file sizes but less detail. RAW = the best choice overall, but more crowded SD cards.
White Balance: Whatever is required to produce a natural-looking scene. May need to be updated as conditions change.
Shutter Interval: See the calculator above, or download the PhotoPills app.

3. Capturing The Scene

Your framing is impeccable. Your settings are rock-solid. It’s time to start the machine! This is the part where you get to relax, take a load off, and enjoy the scene laid out before you. Remember to glance at your exposure settings every now and then, especially if you’re shooting in changing lighting conditions (golden hour, for instance). You may even need to switch things up as you go, but don’t make significant changes to what you already have dialed in. This will produce unnatural, jarring results. Instead, simply lower your shutter speed or raise your ISO by just one stop every few minutes. This way, the effects will be much less noticeable once all is said and done.

Once you feel that you’ve captured the number of photos you need, you can go ahead and pack things up. Be sure to grab everything you brought with you, including any trash or other debris you happened to pack in.

What’s Next: Producing Your Time-Lapse Film

Next up, you’ll need to organize, edit, and sequence your photos down into their final form. You’ll then need to stitch time-lapse photos together to produce a video. This is a whole article in itself, which we will cover in a later guide. For now though, I would recommend looking into LRTimelapse and Adobe Aftereffects. There are some great tutorials online for producing time-lapse videos with these.

What should I shoot?

If you’re stuck for ideas of what to shoot in a time-lapse video, check out our article titles 7 Time-lapse ideas to inspire you.

Another popular and easy first project is a time-lapse of the construction of a LEGO set. The great thing is that you get to fill your time with the joys of building a LEGO set!