The Beginners Guide To Time Lapse Photography

Time lapse photography can capture some incredible scenes, but it may seem a little overwhelming for those just getting into photography. No worries, here we have a step-by-step guide for you on how you can begin to take time lapse photos and have them look incredible.

What Do I Need?

There are a few basic things you’ll want to make sure you have. You definitely want a sturdy tripod, as time lapse photography absolutely depends on stability. As far as your camera, any DSLR camera will make it easy for you to take beautiful time lapse photographs.

You will also need an intervalometer of some kind, which does automatic shutter triggering. If you have one built into your camera, you’re all set, but if you don’t, you will need to purchase one separately. For an inexpensive option, we suggest something by Linkdelight. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, consider a Satechi brand.

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Last but not least, you’ll need neutral density filters, or ND filters. These filters allow for slower shutter speeds, limiting the amount of light going into the camera without changing the colors.

Getting Ready For Shooting

Like any good photographer, you want to make sure you capture the best possible aspects of whatever it is you’re photographing. In this case, you’re looking for things that will change over time. What will change over time in your scene? How can you best capture this change? What do you want in your foreground? Are you going to follow the rule of thirds? Make all these decisions before you set up your camera.

Once you know where exactly you want your camera to be, set it up with your tripod. We suggest using the gear in the center of the tripod or even just a heavy bag of rocks to help really press your tripod into the ground. Take the extra time to make it stable now will keep you from having correct a shaky time lapse.

Choosing Your Time Lapse Interval

Your time lapse interval will determine the speed at which the scene moves in the final video. Your time lapse interval must exceed your exposure time by twenty to forty percent. Your camera needs time to clear the image buffer before taking the next frame. If you’re not sure what interval to choose, consider this. For time lapse photography, moving traffic or fast-moving clouds are typically photographed at 1-second intervals, sunsets and sunrises at 3-second intervals, and the sun moving across the sky at 15-30 seconds.

Setting Your Exposure

There are various exposure settings you can use on your camera, and which one you should use will depend on what you are photographing. If you are pretty comfortable with your camera, you can play around with the various settings to find the look you want. We suggest shooting in manual mode if you have relatively constant light, as this will reduce any “flickering,” which is when photos in your time lapse are constantly changing brightness. If your light is going to change, however, Aperture priority mode is likely to be the most helpful setting for you. In the end, you may have to play around with it, shoot photos for half an hour, and then look through them to see if you’re getting the effect you want.

Putting It Together

You’ve taken all the photos, now what? You can put together your photographs with software like LRTimelapse and Photolapse 3 (both free) or Adobe Software (not free, but excellent software). Once you’ve put together your first time lapse compilation, share it with your friends, family, and whoever else you want to show. Be proud of it. You’ve worked hard on it. Then, sure, go ahead and start planning your next time lapse project!