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Top 5 Most Impressive Time-Lapse Videos

Top Time Lapse Video

If like me you feel like you’ve watched a million and one time-lapse videos, you might think you’ve seen it all. Once you’ve captured clouds moving across the mountains or the stars twinkle across the night sky, what more can you record?

We’ve collected 5 examples of unique and captivating time-lapse videos to hopefully spark your creativity and motivate you into exploring the different facets of time-lapse.

We have credited the original authors where possible, we’d definitely recommend visiting their social channels and exploring their work some more.

 

5. Bean Time-Lapse – 25 days | Soil cross-section

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In this beautiful time-lapse video, we follow a kidney bean plant growing over the course of 25 days, but in just 4 short minutes, The plant has been planted in fresh soil in a glass container so we can see the whole life of the plant.  The camera speed was at 17280x, which means one shot was taken every 9 minutes and 36 seconds. In order to be able to see the plant’s root system, a piece of glass has been used to expose the full path of the root.

You can see from day 1 that the plant’s roots begin to grow, by day 25 the plant has planted strong, long-lasting roots and has grown to its full potential. You can see every detail of the roots growing inside the soil straight through the glass. You can even see the plant ‘shaking’ side to side as it grows towards the light. In reality, this is a very gradual leaning caused by the effect of the light on the plant’s leaves and stem.

Although this is a time-lapse video of 25 days, this actually took over 100 days to make as the first 3 attempts were a failure since the roots were hidden from the glass. The editing also takes time to achieve a smooth, flicker-free time-lapse video. Hopefully, this is a quick inside on how long it takes to make a great time-lapse video. 

 

4. Portrait of Lotte, 0 to 18 years – Age Time-Lapse

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Explore Lotte’s entire childhood growth in 5 and a half minutes. This portrait of Lotte is an incredible “coming of age” time-lapse video of a young girl aging through childhood. This footage was in fact an 18-year investment, so there was no room for any error. Her father decided to film a portrait of her every single week from birth to the age of 18. 

The “coming of age” time-lapse artwork consists of almost 1000 short videos, which have been mashed together to create this masterpiece. Turning a video into a time-lapse is slightly more complicated than turning pictures into a time-lapse, but not too difficult.

This Dutch father has made these fascinating time-lapse portraits of both Lotte and his son. It is rumored that the camera he used to film these portraits was in fact just a smartphone camera, at least for most of the footage. 

 

3. A Journey To The End of Time – Time-Lapse of The Future

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If you’re curious about what it would look like for the planet Earth we live on come to an end in a matter of minutes, then this Time-Lapse video is perfect for you. This is a picture of the future as painted by modern science. This 29-minute video shows the expectations of the earth in the next trillions of years.

The hard work and effort that has been done to put this video together is impressive to say the very least. Witnessing the future of Earth, the death of the sun, the end of all-stars, proton decay, zombie galaxies, possible future civilizations, exploding black holes, the effects of dark energy, alternate universes, the final fate of the cosmos – to name a few.

 

2. 30 Days Timelapse at Sea Though Thunderstorms – Torrential Rain & Busy Traffic

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A ship captain from America had the responsibility of delivering containers across the country. Instead of just enjoying the view for himself, he decided to share this magnificent experience with the world by building a 24K resolution 360 camera so he could design the perfect time-lapse video. He went through thunderstorms, rain, wind, in fact pretty much every weather condition was captured.

30 days of time-lapse, about 80,000 photos combined, 1500GB of project files. “Sailing in the open ocean is a unique feeling and experience. I hope to capture and share it for everyone to see. “ he stated. 

 

1. “The 3 Year Construction of my own home” – Construction Time-Lapse

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The video that took the top spot on our top 5 list is one of the most unique time-lapse videos we’ve ever seen. It’s not unique in the way you think though… It’s unique because of simply the amount of time and effort this one man has gone through to complete this project.

A family man from America decided to purchase a 42-acre piece of land and didn’t want it to go to waste. He worked day and night, for 3 entire years constructing his very own house, using his own money and resources.

The construction of this smooth time-lapse video isn’t only impressive, but very satisfying to watch too. Recording time-lapse videos over a long period of time can be very difficult, especially filming under the sun and trying to avoid any camera flicker.

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.

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.

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!