In this time lapse photography guide you’ll learn six essential tips to capture dreamy blurs and vibrant colors.
We have all gawked at those intriguing images where car headlights look like streams of light and rushing water resembles morning fog. Time-lapse photography has the power to illustrate the rush and bustle of our world in the most ethereal of forms.
What exactly is time-lapse photography? Quite simply, a photo is considered time-lapse when the frame rate is notably lower than what is used to view the sequence. Your camera takes in the scene for a longer period of time, thus creating the effect we’re looking for. Fortunately, you can achieve fantastic results with some time, patience, and effort.
1. Research, plan. Plan, research.
You pack your equipment, load the car, and drive to the mountain you wanted to capture at sunset. The river below the mountain would look stunning in time-lapse, and you’re excited to make it happen.
Then you arrive, and the mountain is blocking the sun. Oops.
Before you put your eggs in a basket with a hole in the bottom, plan out your shot. Research sunrise and sunset times, take note of other factors from excessive tourists to tide schedules, and visit the site before the actual shoot.
Time-lapse photography can be ruined by a number of variables. Check out and learn about the scene before you pack your bags. The Photographer’s Ephemeris is a fantastic resource that will list various characteristics of a given area and notify you of potential obstacles.
2. Fatten up your tripod.
Popular subjects of time- lapse photography are large bodies of water, mountains, and high vantage points to capture cities at night. Each of these scenes will most likely greet you with an extreme condition, whether it be strong winds from a lake or uneven terrain atop a rocky cliff.
Regardless of the specific condition, make sure you bring the correct tripod. (Don’t even think about attempting time-lapse without a tripod.)
I’m not talking about those lightweight carbon things that fall when breathed on. Grab that heavy metal tripod nobody wants to carry, experiment with different adjustment options, throw it into your car, and thank me for putting you on a path that won’t lead to a shattered DSLR at the bottom of a creek bed.
But seriously. Extra support from sandbags might also help you out. If you’re in the market for an ideal tripod, I recommend the Vanguard Auctus Plus 283AT, found here on Amazon. At 7.2 pounds with special gripping feet, your camera will be bolted in place.
3. Compose thoughtfully.
Before you decide on the frame, walk around the scene and take in the environment. You might discovery a unique way of capturing the shot that you never thought of before.
Most importantly, take note of the moving aspects of the shot.
If your goal is to capture a fast-moving river on a windy day, the clouds might also blur depending on your camera settings. Without thorough understanding of the scene, you might run into some complications and find yourself frustrated when you can’t seem to “get it right.”
4. Settings—the fun part…
Don’t let anybody tell you that decent time-lapse photos can be taken on automatic mode. The camera will constantly adjust to different changes in light and temperature while the photo is being taken, which you don’t want. To achieve a professional result, use manual exposure and RAW files. This setup will allows greater control over your camera, both before and during post-production.
Live view is also a good idea for time-lapse work. By using this feature, you can visualize the shot in real time and ensure that no issues are occurring. You can save precious time in this regard, especially if you’re waiting for the stars to start spinning.
5. Focus infinitely.
In most cases, I use a wide angle lens and set the focus to infinity. If the point of focus is in the foreground or middle ground, you should adjust the depth of field to sharpen that area. This is where paying close attention to elements of interest comes in.
6. Choose the right lapse.
When dealing with time-lapse photography, this point is probably the most important. The interval between shots will determine the “speed” of your final product. The longer the interval, the quicker the movement of the elements in your shot. Conversely, a short interval will result in slower movement. Overall, you have to adapt the interval to the unique movement in your environment.
Time-lapse photography technique is a dense world of experimentation and patience. A professional time-lapse photo requires careful planning, thoughtful attention to detail, and vigilant execution. Through your effort, however, you will undoubtedly find yourself with fantastic results!