Time-lapse Photography: A Complete Guide for Beginners
All of us have seen at least a few time-lapse videos and, chances are, we were delighted with them. A sequence of photos taken over a period of hours or days compressed into a short video allows us to witness some rather dramatic changes at an amazing pace and enjoy photography at its best.
Basically, creating such a video means simply taking hundreds of photos and creating a sequence using one of many available pieces of software. What makes some time-lapse videos stand out, however, involves much more than just clicking and editing.
So, if you’re interested in creating stunning videos, you might be interested in the following tips and information for those about to take the plunge into the world of time lapse photography.
To begin with, you need equipment that should be reasonably easy to use, but still able to produce high-quality images. Investing in an intervalometer is a wise move, since this nice tool manages the amount of time between two images. You can how long the delay between each exposure is, which prevents your video from appearing choppy. Of course, if you already have a modern SLR, there is already a built-in intervalometer. Alternatively, you can hook your camera to your laptop and use one of many pieces of software that do the work of the intervalometer.
Another piece of equipment you need is a tripod, since you want your camera to be stable for a period of several hours and a tripod doesn’t let your camera move between frames. Last but not least, you most certainly need a good quality time lapse camera, preferably an SLR (single-lens reflex) or a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) one. Optionally, you might invest in ND (neutral density) filters, which lower the intensity of light while at the same time preserving its color.
If you have the right equipment, you may start planning all the details important for the shooting. Make sure you’ve carefully selected the subject and analyzed all the relevant elements, such as sunsets and sunrises, the moon, tides, etc. and how they affect the subject. The planning stage also includes provisions for the photographer, as well as an appropriate cover from the sun or rain if you’re supposed to spend more time outside.
It takes a lot of time to find the right location and composition, so allow yourself enough time to walk around and experiment. Remember, time-lapse is just another form of photography and you should treat it as such. It’s too early to be thinking of a video at this stage. Make sure you go for a perfect photo, with all the details that you want to capture. If you get it right, the video will also be amazing.
Basic camera settings
It’s widely accepted that, if you want to achieve great results, you shouldn’t use auto mode, but manual exposure and RAW files, since they will give you more control over the camera and allow you more options when it comes to postproduction. Automatism means that the camera will react to any change of light and color temperature, thus changing crucial aspects of the final result.
Choosing the right lapse
Possibly the trickiest part of the whole procedure is to determine the interval between shots, because it also determines the speed of the final video. The rule says that the longer the interval, the quicker the movement of the elements of your shot. However, the interval needs to be adjusted to suit the real movement of the scenery.
For example, if you’re making a time-lapse video of passing clouds, you should set the interval to anything from 3 seconds for very fast-moving clouds to 10 seconds for very slowly-moving ones. On the other hand, night landscapes usually require an interval of between 20 and 30 seconds.
Finally, if you know that it takes 25-30 frames for one second of video and you want to make a 20-second one, you’ll need at least 500 frames, which multiplied by the lapse gives you the total time needed for creating enough images for a time-lapse video.
Like any other hobby, this type of photography requires learning and patience. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts are not as great as you imagined they would be. Just keep learning and experimenting and the results will eventually come as a reward for all the hard work you’ve invested in creating a work of art.