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Lightroom Time-Lapse Video Production

Lightroom Time-Lapse

This guide to Lightroom time-lapse video production was put together to teach you how to produce time-lapse videos from the images in the camera to a fully produced video using just Lightroom. We have also put together some advanced tips and tricks for the more seasoned time-lapse videographers out there.

Editing a Time-lapse with Lightroom is something you should definitely consider if you are serious about producing time-lapse videos in a smooth and efficient way.

This page is more than just a Lightroom tutorial. There’s plenty of those already. It’s more of an ultimate guide to Lightroom time-lapse.

It wouldn’t be an ultimate guide if it didn’t have something to teach to new players, so let’s start from the basics for the uninitiated:

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is a mature and widely used software application, which has been actively developed since around 1999 by the creator of Photoshop, Adobe. It’s used by most photographers and time-lapse videographers, since it is widely considered to be one of the best all-round photo editing applications for Windows and Mac computers.

“Lightroom is a mature and widely used software application, which has been actively developed since around 1999 by the creator of Photoshop, Adobe. It’s used by most photographers and time-lapse videographers, since it is widely considered to be one of the best all-round photo editing applications for Windows and Mac computers.”

Lightroom Features

Lightroom has all of the features you want from a photo processing suite, plus more. The ability to edit images in bulk makes it ideal for producing time-lapse videos.

Some of the main features used when processing photos for time-lapse include:

Photo library management

Lightroom let’s you manage your photos with a range of intuitive features including collections and smart collections. This lets you group photos like folders on a drive.

Bulk processing of photos

You can copy modifications from a photo and apply (sync) it to all of the other photos you’re working with. You can even select a group of modifications and just apply those to the other images.

Filters

All of the expected exposure and color correction tweaks are here, adjustable by dragging a slider or editing a number.

Non-destructive editing

When you edit a photo in Lightroom, the changes that you make to the image are saved to a separate file, leaving the original photo unchanged. This allows you to revert all edits at any point in time.

RAW file support

Import RAW images directly from your camera and edit them like any other. You can fully and easily adjust light exposure in Lightroom, allowing you to correct under- or over-exposed images as if it was taken right first time!

Creative adjustment tools

Tools such as the graduated filter, adjustment brush and post-crop vignette allow you to get even more creative with your time-lapse video production.

Export images

You can export to all popular image formats 

Lightroom time-lapse presets

Presets in Lightroom are a great way to apply a bunch of commonly used settings in a fast and repeatable way. Just click on the desired preset and all of the settings are applied to your selected image.

If you’re serious about time-lapse production and  looking to speed up your workflow, then you need to consider using Lightroom presets.

You can buy Lightroom preset packs online in a number of places. When researching this article, I discovered a trove of professional looking preset packs on Etsy. Whilst I couldn’t find any packs specifically targeted at time-lapse photographers, there is no reason why you couldn’t apply any of them to your time-lapse videos for a fast way of achieving a unique and creative style.

How to install a Lightroom preset

More often than not, you will probably be creating your presets within Lightroom itself, rather than importing them from files. However for whatever reason you may find yourself with a preset that you want to import into Lightroom.

If you have some preset files that you would like to import into Lightroom, then follow the steps below to install and enable your presets.

Method 1: From within Lightroom

  1. Download the preset file to your computer. If it’s compressed in a zip archive, then decompress all files to a folder on your computer.
  2. Open up Lightroom and go into the ‘Develop’ section (Click on  the ‘Develop’ tab to the top right of the main Lightroom window (arrow 1 in the screenshot below).

The presets should show in a list within a pane to the left of the screen (Green box in the screenshot)

  1. Next at the top-right corner of the Presets pane (arrow 2 in the screenshot) there should be a ‘+’ button. Click it and select ‘Import Presets…’ (arrow 3).
  2. In the file browser window that pops up, locate the folder where your preset file was saved. Select it, then click on the ‘Import’ button to import the preset.
  3. Select the preset in the ‘Presets’ list and it will be applied to your image(s). 

Method 2: Using Windows Explorer or Mac Finder

  1. Download the preset file to your computer. If it’s compressed in a zip archive, then decompress all files to a folder on your computer.
  2. Open another file manager window and navigate to the Lightroom Presets folder. The location of this folder depends on your operating system.
Windows 7/8/10

On Microsoft Windows systems, you can find the Presets folder at the following location:

C:\Users\[user name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Develop Presets

Mac OSX

On Apple Mac systems, you can find the presets folder here:

/Users/[user name]/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Develop Presets

Lightroom Time-Lapse Plugin

You don’t need a plug-in to produce a time-lapse in Lightroom, but a plug-in can certainly speed up your workflow and give you more creative tools.

I you are ready to take your time-lapse to the next level, then you can add extra functionality and features to Lightroom with a Time-lapse Lightroom plugin.

Jeffrey Friedl’s ‘Timelapse Support’ Lightroom Plugin

Developed by Jeffrey Friedl, a dedicated photographer, author, blogger and Lightroom plugin developer, the Timelapse support plugin is handy tool for fading settings in the Develop workflow.

Jeffrey has been actively developing the plugin since 2014 and offers it for free on his website. If you find the plugin useful, then it’s advisable to give a donation to Jeffrey to support development. You can choose how much to donate when registering the plugin. 

More information on the plugin, including a download link and installation instructions can be found on the Timelapse Support plugin page of Jeffrey’s site.

Jeffrey has also developed a selection of other Lightroom plugins. Some of these export to various online platforms, others offer features to enhance you workflow and organisation in Lightroom. You can see the full list of plugins here.

LRTimelapse

Another popular and very powerful piece of time-lapse software, LRTimelapse is considered by many as one of the best available.

It integrates with Lightroom, however it also functions as a standalone application and is stuffed full of features that will help you up your time-lapse video production game.

I wrote a detailed review of LRTimelapse so I will save repeating myself here, but it’s something I can recommend personally as I use it quite regularly.

LRTimelapse features

Here are some of the main LRTimelapse features:

Keyframe and grade time-lapse sequences of RAW images

Add keyframes to selected photos so that you can transition settings across images between them.

Animate and keyframe over 400 Lightroom tools

Adjust almost any Lightroom setting between keyframes to account for lighting variations and to add creative effects

Holy Grail Wizard

Allows you to create night-to-day (sunrise) and day-to-night (sunset) sequences

Visual deflicker and LRT motion blur

These tools allow you to remove flickering and add realistic blur effects.

H.264 support

Export to a number of video formats including MP4 H264, with support for up to 8k rendering

TimelapsePlus Studio

Timelapse Plus Studio software

This plugin was developed by Timelapse+, a company that already produces a popular hardware intervalometer called the VIEW intervalometer.

Whilst I haven’t used it personally, from what I read on the official website, it appears to offer much of the same features as LRTimelapse, but for a smaller license fee and a couple of extra features such as auto-keyframe and auto-grouping of time-lapse sequence images.

The author admits that it is not a direct competitor to LRTimelapse as it does not actually support rendering of video, but instead aims to “simplify support for postprocessing in Lightroom so that there would be a quick and easy solution that gets great results for the common use-cases rather than a comprehensive application for every situation”.

TimelapsePlus Studio Features

The plugin has loads of time-lapse specific features which aim to speed up and enhance your workflow. Some of these features include:

Auto grouping of time-lapse sequences

Detects and groups time-lapse sequences within the Library view into collections.

Auto identity keyframes

Intelligently recognises transitions in your time-lapse sequences and marks them with a star, so that you can apply transitions more quickly and effectively.

Blend keyframes & animate transitions

Once keyframes have been marked with stars, this feature allows you to blend settings between keyframes, resulting in professional and creative time-lapse productions. This is perfect for achieving the holy-grail effect. 

Preview timelapse in Lightroom

You can play through a preview of your time-lapse within Lightroom, to get a feel for the settings effects without having to render a full video.

How much does Lightroom cost?

Adobe used to let you buy Lightroom outright, as a one-off purchase. Sadly, this is no longer the case, you have to pay an ongoing subscription fee to use the software.

At the time of writing, you can access Lightroom for $9.99 per month. This includes 1TB of available cloud storage. Whilst I personally prefer to purchase software outright, for industry-leading software, $9.99 does represent excellent value for money in my opinion.

You can also get a software license for Lightroom and Photoshop together for a slight discount, or the whole Creative Cloud suite if you want it all. Check out the Adobe plans & pricing page for more details and up-to-date prices.

How to produce a time-lapse in Lightroom

Since Lightroom doesn’t support video rendering, you cannot fully produce a time-lapse video within Lightroom alone. However by combining Lightroom with Photoshop, you can indeed produce a full time-lapse video from start to finish.

You might not be able to adjust settings using keyframes, as you can using a plugin, but you can buy a combined Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom subscription for a reduced licence fee which is nice.

If you’re not familiar with Photoshop, or if you’d have more features beyond what Photoshop provides, then you might consider LRTimelapse instead. For the purpose of this guide, we are using Lightroom with Photoshop.

Let’s get into it and start producing a time-lapse in Lightroom.  I’m assuming that by now you at least know your way around Lightroom and know how to import, filter and process photos.

Import your photos into Lightroom

If you have already imported your photos, then skip this step. Otherwise, click on ‘File’ then ‘Import Photos & Video’ to open the image file importer window.

From here, you can navigate to the folder on your computer where the RAW (or JPG) images are stored. Select all images you would like to import. It doesn’t have to be just images from a single sequence – you can import them all together and group them into collections later in Lightroom.

At the top centre of the file importer, you will see a row of buttons labelled “Copy as DNG | Copy | Move | Add”. This is what you want the importer to do with all your image files during import. Select the one you want and finally click the “Import” button at the bottom right. Your image files will now be imported into Lightroom.

Retouch your photos

From within the “Library” tab of Lightroom, select the sequence of photos you’d like to include in your video and click on the ‘Develop’ tab. 

Select the first image of your sequence from the image thumbnails along the bottom of the window, then proceed to tweak the image tools in the right-hand panel until you get a result that you’re totally happy with.

If you’re new to this, you can find a brief description of the various develop module tools on the official Adobe website.

Export sequence image files to disk

Next you need to take your retouched photos and export the sequence to jpeg (.jpg) files. Take care to ensure that the file names are numbered in order. The screenshot below shows the Lightroom export screen. Make sure the “File Renaming” section is configured to rename files to include a number sequence.

Import images into Photoshop

Start up Adobe Photoshop and select ‘File’ then ‘Open’. When the ‘Open’ dialog opens, browse to the folder containing the photos you exported from Lightroom and highlight the first image of the sequence. Not all of them, just the first one.

Check the ‘Image sequence’ checkbox and then click on the ‘Open’ button. Photoshop will now import all of your images.

Photoshop will now ask you to provide a Frame rate. Videos are commonly 24 or 25fps (frames per second), but if you’d like to slow your video down, generally I would recommend 30fps (bit slower) or even 60fps (much slower).

Your photos will now be imported into Photoshop as a video. Once it’s done, look for the ‘Timeline’ panel at the bottom of the main Photoshop window. If the ‘Timeline’ panel isn’t visible, select ‘Window’ then ‘Timeline’ from the main menu bar.

You can use the Timeline panel to trim the video, adjust playback speed and join together multiple sequences. You can also add keyframes to the timeline for simple transitions and animations.

Render your final video

When you are happy with your timelapse sequence, click on the export button (found at the bottom of the timeline panel).

You will now see the ‘Render video’ dialog, which allows you to customise the video format filename, dimensions and encoding.

If you’re not sure what settings to choose, then click on the ‘Presets’ dropdown to choose the option most relevant to what you want to do with your video and some settings will be automatically selected to meet the intended use.

Taking it to the next level

You can further enhance your time-lapse videos with features such as flicker removal and animation of exposure and other settings, with software such as LRTimelapse or one of the other Lightroom plugins listed earlier in this article. 

In Summary

Adobe Lightroom is considered by most time-lapse photographers as the industry standard photo editing software. By learning how to use Lightroom, you are gaining a valuable set of skills that will be useful for the rest of your time-lapse videography career (or hobby).

The bottom line:

Adobe Lightroom is considered by most time-lapse photographers as the industry standard photo editing software. By learning how to use Lightroom, you are gaining a valuable set of skills that will be useful for the rest of your time-lapse videography career (or hobby).

By extending Lightroom with plugins and secondary software, you will be acquiring the tools you will need to produce professional level, production quality time-lapse videos that live up to your creative ambitions.

How To Shoot a Lego Time-Lapse Video

How to shoot a LEGO time-lapse

Lego Time-lapse is a fun area of videography that combines two of my favourite things. Time-lapse photography and, of course, LEGO!

Actually, before we begin I just want to clarify something. If you’re looking to create an animation using LEGO, moving the characters to tell a story or adventure, then you actually want to shoot a stop-frame animation. Here’s a great article on shooting LEGO stop-frame.

Aren’t time-lapse photography and stop-frame animation the same thing?

Technically, pretty much. Both require a camera and tripod and involve capturing photos and stitching them together to form a video.
The main difference being that time-lapse captures something slow like the construction of a LEGO set, by taking photos at a specific timed interval, whereas stop-motion or stop-frame animation creates the illusion of motion where there was none. Also with stop-motion, the interval between photos doesn’t matter.

For a full answer to this question, check out our full Time-Lapse vs Stop Motion, What’s the Difference? article.

Why would you shoot a LEGO time-lapse?

If you’ve ever constructed a medium to large LEGO set, you’ll know the challenge it faces you with, along with the growing sense of accomplishment you get from completing it. A LEGO set can easily take 3 hours to put together. Some can even take as much as 10 hours or more!
Imagine capturing the whole process, as the model you’re working on slowly comes to life over the course of 60 seconds or so. It’s great to see and is the perfect way of keeping a little memento of your achievement which you can show off to friends.

What equipment do I need?

A Camera

If you own a DSLR camera and you’d like to use it, then great, go for it.
For everyone else, if you’ve got a fairly decent smartphone then I’d recommend using that instead. Modern smartphone cameras are more than capable of shooting great quality photos and are really convenient to use. You might also like to read our guide on shooting time-lapse on a smartphone

A Tripod

You don’t need anything special. Even a cheap tripod should be fine as it’s indoors and not subject to wind etc.

An Intervalometer

If you’re using a DSLR camera, then you’ll probably want an external intervalometer. Check out our intervalometer guide if you don’t already have one.

For smartphone users, you can just use an intervalometer app. I’m using an app called Lapse-It for Android which is also available on IOS if you happen to be an iPhone user.

Artificial Lighting

To ensure that the resulting video is consistently well lit, it is a good idea to film in a room with good lighting and no windows (or with curtains closed at least). This is especially important if your recording session is likely to span a few hours – you don’t want the level of daylight changing through the video. Even passing clouds can cause flickering in the final video. This can ruin an otherwise professional-looking video.

The lighting you choose isn’t hugely important as long as the subject area is well lit. I recommend a couple of soft boxes for this. You don’t need anything fancy, you can pick up a pair including bulbs for [amazon text=less+than+you+might+think&asin=B07FNMHPBJ].

LEGO Time Lapse Equipment

A LEGO Set

This one is obvious. I recommend getting a brand new set and unboxing it as part of the video. Not only does this add an interesting start to the video, but it also guarantees against any missing pieces. Imagine being midway through a 3hr build session, only to discover missing pieces!

The type of set you choose isn’t too important, just make sure the set is big enough to be a challenge – and to produce an interesting video that isn’t over as soon as it starts.

Preperation

Before you turn on the camera, you need to have everything in place. The last thing you want is to shoot a full time-lapse sequence only to find out you missed something – potentially ruining all your hard work.

Charge your batteries

Make sure the battery in your camera is fully charged. If you have a DC power supply for your camera, even better. Then you don’t have to worry about a dead battery if your shoot runs on too long

If your intervalometer has a battery, make sure that has plenty of power too.

Set up your equipment

Position your camera on the tripod, in front of your desk or table. Typically you’ll want to shoot from the opposite side than the side where you’re sat. Looking down slightly is a good bet, whatever achieves the look you’re after. Adjust the zoom (if your lens has one) so that not only is the build area in shot, but also the area where the pile of new LEGO pieces will be tipped each time you open a bag.

Set up your lighting on either side of the camera, covering the work area as evenly as possible. Again, it’s a matter of personal preference, but I like to ensure the whole area is bright and well-lit.

Set up your camera

Make sure your camera is configured ready for the shoot. Some key settings I like to adjust are:

  • File Format – I recommend shooting in RAW so that you have full control of exposure in post-production, but this isn’t strictly necessary if you’re just getting started
  • White Balance – Make sure it’s set to anything other than Auto, otherwise it could change between shots
  • Focus – I recommend setting your camera to Manual focus and then manually adjusting the focus ring to get the centre of your work area in focus.
  • Auto Review – disable this to save power.

Make sure you have an SD card in your camera and that it has sufficient storage space to capture your photos.

Set up the intervalometer

Next you’ll want to configure the intervalometer to capture shots at the right rate.

First, you need to answer these questions:

  1. How long is your video shoot likely to last? (how long will it take to build the set?)
  2. How long would you like the final time-lapse video to be? (I recommend 30 or 60 seconds)
  3. What frame rate would you like your final video to be? (Usually 25 or 30fps)

Armed with that information, head over to our time-lapse calculator and select ‘Shutter Interval’. Then enter your desired recording time and output video options. Click the ‘Calculate’ button to find out the shot interval you need to plug into your intervalometer.

Test, test, test

Take a couple of test shots to make sure everything is configured correctly and the pictures are correctly exposed and in focus. It’s worth even running the intervalometer and capturing a sequence of shots with you in position and moving your hands around in frame. Turn on your camera’s preview screen to get a feel for what’s in shot or out of shot. Better to find out now while you have chance to correct issues.

Start shooting!

Turn on your intervalometer to start the shoot and pull out your LEGO set. It’s time to build!
Now, try not to think about the time-lapse footage. LEGO is about having fun and getting creative. Enjoy the process.

Top Tips

Take a break

You can stop for a break if you like and come back to it. Just turn off your intervalometer before you start your break and back on when you’re ready to get cracking again. Be careful not to disturb the set during your break!

Watch out for disruptions

Children love playing with LEGO and can’t resist having a go. It would make sense to get your children involved in the build process, as long as they keep away from the recording equipment. Alternatively, shoot when there are no children around.

Have fun!

When you’ve placed your final piece, why not gradually rotate the completed set and zoom it around, really show it off. You can basically do some stop-frame animation as part of your video!

Post Production

When you have captured your shots, it’s time to get out the laptop and produce your video using your favourite post-production software.
We’re working on a guide to post-production, watch this space!

Editing Timelapse On iPhone

There are a lot of choices when it comes to creating and editing timelapse on iOS devices. Many programs are designed to capture and compile a timelapse, but with limited editing functions – some will simply allow you to adjust playback speeds, while others will give a large latitude of control. Check these apps out.

Options For Capturing and Editing Your time-lapse:

First Option, shoot in Built-In time-lapse mode

If you open the camera, and swipe through the shooting modes, there is a time-lapse mode on the iPhone. Open the Camera app, then select the Time Lapse shooting mode. Adjust exposure to how you would prefer, and set the focus like a still image. You are likely going to want to tap and hold in order to lock the focus and exposure for time-lapse. Once you have these things set, tap the red shutter button.

Once you are finished shooting your time-lapse, push the shutter button again. Your time-lapse will save in the Photos app on the phone.

Built-in time-lapse functionality has the benefit of simplicity – it’s already there, installed and ready to use. No messing about installing apps and transferring/importing photos.

The downside with this is that you don’t have much control. You can not change frame-rate or playback speed. The program determines the number of frames captured each second. You can however, edit the video in iMovie on iPhone, which I will go into later…

Second Option, A time-lapse-specific App

You will be able to take advantage of a wealth of added features and functionality by installing an app to your smartphone.

Hyperlapse From Instagram

The key feature of Hyperlapse from Instagram is the built-in stabilization. The app does allow control over the speed of playback varying from 1-12x the capture duration. There aren’t many more features here, but if you want to create a timelapse quickly and simply, this is something you should consider. Stabilization is something that can be very helpful.

Lapse-It

Lapse-It is a time-lapse specific program that offers the user control over framerates in capture as well as playback. It has some video filters that can be applied to your time-lapses as well. It is simple, and the ability to set frame rates is valuable, and it also allows you to import video or photos to be compiled and edited in Lapse-it. It does allow some pretty dramatic control over playback speeds as well.

More Advanced Options

iMotion

iMotion is another time-lapse capture app for iOS. It gives control over exposure, white balance, orientation and more. There is a manual mode to allow more control over focus and the app can be used as a wireless remote (when paired with Apple Watch).

You can shoot time-lapses at up to 10FPS – meaning the camera will take up to 10 photographs a second. The framerate of playback can be set as well, giving you more freedom when creating your time-lapses. iMotion also allows you to reverse your time-lapse sequence. iMotion also has the ability to export to 4k.

iMotion can import photos to be compiled or incorporated into a time-lapse or stop-motion, so you can use iMotion to do basic editing of a time-lapse series of photographs that weren’t created within iMotion. You can also export your time-lapse as a video, series of photographs or an animated GIF. This is a well-featured time-lapse editing and capture app.

Timelapse for iOS

Timelapse is another time-lapse capture app, but with dedicated editing tools exceeding any of the apps mentioned previously. It offers controls like saturation, brightness, contrast and exposure. It also allows you to capture frames in RAW and export/record in 4k. The RAW support is quite useful, as is the 4k support. The program allows virtually any frame rate for capture and playback, and also offers speed adjustments.

Time-lapse for iOS also has deflicker capabilities to keep even brightness throughout the video, something unique to this software. Adjustments can be made to a degree which simply isn’t available in competing software. Tilt-shift simulation is available. Frame by frame editing is possible. The sequencer and editor in the app allows you to import images you have already taken to compile a professional-looking time-lapse. This truly is a time-lapse editor and an app to capture time-lapse stills. One issue with this program is the fact that there hasn’t been an update in several years. Despite this, it is still the most feature-rich iOS time-lapse app available.

Additional Editing

iMovie for iOS

Once you have your time-lapse, you may want to add titles, transitions, additional or new audio or filters. You may want to stabilize the video. If you are working with an iPhone, iMovie for iOS is a good option. You could add multiple time-lapses together with transitions between them, voice over your time-lapse, add music, titles, etc.

There are other options as well for editing video on iOS, but iMovie is very well-featured and stands out as the best solution to add any finishing touches to your time-lapse video.

 

Can I Slow Down Time-Lapse on an iPhone?

This is a common question. If you have a time-lapse video in your iPhone, but it plays too fast, then you might want to ‘stretch it out’ so that the footage doesn’t flash past too quickly.

The software we recommended above may help you do this to an extent, causing the video to play over a longer timeframe, however it cannot add in new frames that weren’t there before. What you will end up with is duplicated frames, causing each frame to stay longer on the screen.  This may or may not be what you are after, so my recommendation would be to give it a go and see how it turns out!

Can I Change The Time-Lapse Speed On iPhone?

Depending on the amount you’d like to change the speed of a time-lapse video, you can stretch or compress it using smartphone apps. You’re not going to get as good a result as if the video was shot correctly in the first place, however this may not matter in practice. When compressing a video, the framerate will increase as a result. However if you set the correct framerate during rendering, then this should be corrected.

When stretching a time-lapse video, the framerate will decrease. Setting the framerate when rendering won’t have the same effect as frames will be repeated.

The best thing to do is give it a go and see if the results you get are good enough for your needs.

How to produce smooth timelapse videos.

Smooth Waterfall

When shooting a time-lapse, sometimes the footage can come off jerky or jumpy – it is often referred to as the staccato effect. This is when the exposure times for each image in the time-lapse are too short to incorporate enough motion blur to allow the moving elements of the scene to smoothly transition frame to frame. Because there is little to no motion blur, these moving elements in your scene seem to jerk or jump around.

The staccato effect is not to be confused with camera shake, which is when the camera moves during your time-lapse. In order to make sure your time-lapse appears smooth, make sure there is no camera shake. First, make sure you’re using the best time-lapse camera you can afford. Any decent DSLR should have image stabilisation and decent optics.

Place the camera on a solid and secure tripod and avoid moving or jostling the camera while you are capturing your time-lapse. If the camera does get jostled, camera shake will require video stabilization in port production. Don’t jostle the camera and make sure it is securely mounted and this will not be an issue for you.

Exposure Time

The first step to producing smooth time-lapse videos is to make sure that the exposure time will take into consideration the movement between each frame. You want a degree of motion blur to work as a segue from one image to the next. This can be achieved by using relatively long shutter speeds.

Although using smaller apertures is a common way to extend the exposure time for single stills, it is not the best solution for time-lapse. Depending on the lens, it may introduce flicker into your time-lapse. This should not be an issue if you are using lenses with a manual aperture ring, however, if your lens does not have a manual aperture ring, consider using ND filters. Even if you are using a manual aperture lens, ND filters are often an ideal solution to extend the exposure times. They will limit the amount of light coming through your lens, stopping the exposure down. This can allow you to have more control over the exposure times during bright time-lapse shots.

Another means by which you can extend the exposure time is to use the lower ISO numbers available on your camera. This will reduce the sensor sensitivity to light, thereby allowing longer exposures. Often you will be using low ISO numbers and applying ND filters to further extend the exposure times. Low ISO numbers also have generally higher dynamic range – if you can, find out what ISO gives your camera it’s highest dynamic range (the native ISO), and use ND filters with this ISO setting for the best results.

You may also use the aperture but beware. Between each shot, the aperture will automatically reopen to its widest to allow more light to hit the sensor or mirror to make metering and focusing more easy on the user and camera. This often results in each shot having a slight difference in aperture as the blades are opening and then re-closing for each successive exposure, and they often will not produce the exact same aperture size. This is not an issue if you are using the maximum aperture of the lens. Again, if you want to use apertures other than the maximum of the lens, this problem can be solved with a manual aperture lens. Either way, keep in mind that using very high apertures can also produce artefacts in your images. Even small pieces of dust on the lens or sensor are more visible in the higher apertures (around 18 and above), so keep that in mind.

Post Production

If the time-lapse you have already shot is riddled with the staccato effect, then there are some solutions in post-production.

The first thing you’re going to want to do is to reduce flicker. Fir this, the best time-lapse software for the job would probably be LRTimelapse.

For starters, the simplest option would be to create your video, then open that video in a program like Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro, and add motion blur. There are two simple ways of doing this in FCP, one would be downloading this motion blur plug-in. This will generate motion blur, however, I think it takes the dropped frames from a sped-up video and makes use of those, so I don’t know how effective it will be when you aren’t speeding the footage. However, if you did speed your time-lapse video, you could apply this effectively, I am sure. Another option is the trails effect in final cut pro. I would give these a try first, as they are simple and quick. There are similar options for Premiere. The echo effect works similarly to the trails effect in FCPX. There is also Pixel Motion Blur available for Premiere.

“The simplest option would be to create your video, then open that video in a program like Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro, and add motion blur”

Yet another option will work regardless of the non-linear editor you are using, so long as it supports multiple video tracks and has the ability to manipulate opacity. The idea is to stack multiple video tracks atop one another off-set by one or more frames, with varying opacity. This will create a sort of motion blur by having the previous and following frames composited over the current frame at a lower opacity. You may also use all of these technics together – using multiple video tracks with slightly off-set timing, and including the above-described effects on some of the video channels. There is a good overview of fixing the staccato problem using the Adobe programs Premiere and AfterEffects here. A similar protocol can be followed on Apple programs as well.

Lastly, if you do end up with camera shake, Final Cut Pro and Premiere have tools to remedy these issues as well. Though there are limitations, you will find mild shake can be dealt with using the video stabilization tools in either program. Due to the stabilization filter having to change the position of the image in the video in order to stabilize it, you will likely have to crop the image somewhat after applying the stabilization. This will be true for a large number of other video editing suites in addition to FCP and Premiere.

Time-lapse Flicker Removal Guide

Flickering Light Bulb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neutral Density (ND) Filter

But what if the light is changing in your scene?

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

Still have flicker?

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

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

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

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!

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.