Tech Dads United

Tips for Timelapse Photography

October 5, 2017
Brett Eldridge
Photography, Timelapse, Tutorial, Tips

Timelapse Photography Tips

Let me be clear up front, I am NOT an expert when it comes to making timelapse videos. However, I have enough of an understanding, and have tried enough techniques, and have failed enough times to give you some basic advice on making time lapse videos. In this guide, I will be running through the process I used to make my 5 hour timelapse.
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A snapshot of my timelapse at the beginning and end

Taking the Photos

The Camera
You can use any camera, however, you must be able to put it into ‘Manual’ mode, where you have full control over the main setting: Aperature, Exposure, Focus & ISO. For this, I just used my Canon 450D. An oldie, but a goodie. The lens I used is a 8mm Sigma. I really love the wide angle.
Another thing to consider with the camera is its battery life. If you want to take photos for 5 hours or more, you need a battery that can handle it. I use a canon battery grip, that allows me to have 2 batteries.

The Tripod
You need a good tripod, something that wont blow about. Software is great for aligning and straightening, however, having no movement between shots just helps a bit in the end.

The Trigger – Intervalometer
You can manually take a photo at any interval you want, but, its going to get tiring and boring. You will want to make the trigger automatic. What you need is an intervalometer. Some cameras have them built in, but mine doesn’t, so i bought a $20 intervalometer from Ebay. It just plugs into my camera where the remote shutter plugs in. All I do, is set it to take a photo at any interval I like.

Settings
This is personal, and totally depends on what you are shooting. For my 5 hour timelapse, I was taking a sunset, so I had to take into consideration the diminishing light. For a standard timelapse, without a lot of post processing, your would want your subject to always have a similar amount of light, so that you do NOT have to adjust any camera settings. If you do need to adjust camera settings, eg: exposure, you will either have to invest in software (below), or be happy with a flickering timelapse.

Now that I know I will be taking photos with diminishing light, I set up for my first shot. Focus is set to Manual, and I get the subject focused. I then set my ISO to 400 (Good setting for my old camera). Then I set the exposure. Now, because my light is reducing over time, I set it so the image is a bright as it can be without clipping.

Calculating Intervals
This is a common question, so I made a post about it: Calculating Timelapse Intervals
For this project I used 30 second intervals.

Shooting the Photos
For most projects, this is easy, let the intervalometer do the work until its time to go home. However, for this project, I needed to keep an eye on the exposure as the sun set. After each shot, I had the camera display the histogram (Important). I could see the shot getting darker and darker, and just before I saw it was going to clip the blacks, I simply adjusted the exposure. I increased the shutter time. Now I don’t have an exact way to measure this, I am sure there is one, but I just used experience. As long as you don’t blow out the shot, it will be ok. If you do blow it out, don’t panic, adjust it back, and delete that one photo later on. Not a big deal.

Post Processing the Images

Lightroom
If you took the photos without adjustments, then this is easy. Import all of your photos into lightroom, edit the first picture, and then sync all the changes to the other photos. If you don’t know how to do this, spend some time learning, its a must know tool.

Lightroom + LRTimelapse
If you are ready to take your timelapse videos to the next level, get this software: LRLightroom
I am not getting paid in anyway to promote this, I just think its awesome.

This software integrates into Lightloom well. It helps make the transitions where you have adjusted the settings. EG on this project we changed the exposure time. They have some great info pages if you are interested: LRTimelapse Tutorials

Export Your Photos
Once you finish editing all of the photos, export them to a folder, and rename them in sequence in case you have removed an image. If there are missing images, the next parts are harder.

Making the Video

After Effects + Permiere Pro
Making the video is the easiest bit. Getting to here is the hardest. I use After Effects from Adobe.
Plenty of tutorials out there to help. But basically, After Effects will line up the images in case there is a slight movements, and then join them to output a video. Personally, I output the video in its full size, and then I import that movie into Premiere Pro. If you output the video in full size, and your final video is only 1920×1080, then you will have the ability to zoom and pan within Premiere Pro. This can make the video a bit more exciting.

The Result: 5 Hour Timelapse

Things I would Change

My example is not perfect. And would change a few things.
Firstly, I used the zoom in the field. DO NOT use zoom in the field. Even though I managed to smooth it out, it took a very long time, and I am still not very happy with it. Zooming in field would work well for an ultra zoom hyperlapse, but thats it.
Secondly, I would adjust a little less often. I was a bit too worried about clipping, and found myself adjusting a bit too often.
Thanks for reading our timelapse photography tips, and be sure to leave some comments or ask a question.

My Top Ten Must Haves for Landscape Photography
Calculating Timelapse Intervals

Products in this Post

LRTimelapse Software
Lightroom Timelapse software for creating awesome time lapse videos.
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Manfrotto 190XPROB
This is a heavy duty tripod by Manfrotto, a must for timelapse.
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