A Beginner’s Guide to Timelapse Photography

We’ve covered some basic timelapse tutorials in previous posts here on PictureCorrect, but given the complexity involved in the process, it never hurts to have just a little more knowledge. In the informative video below, Corey Rich talks about some of the realities of timelapse photography and offers sound advice on how to go about creating a project yourself:

What Is Timelapse Photography?

As Rich explains, timelapse photography is taking a long amount of time and condensing it into a fraction of that time. To do this, you take multiple photographs at set intervals then play all the photographs back at around 24 frames per second, thus creating a video. This technique is how we can watch an hour-long sunset in just a few seconds.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

Rich is using a Nikon D800 which has a timelapse mode. Many other Nikon bodies, in addition to many other brands of cameras, also have this mode built into the menu. This function creates a video file for you. Consult your camera’s user guide if you are unsure if yours has this mode. If you have a model that doesn’t have a timelapse mode, or if you prefer to keep individual still images during the process, you can purchase anĀ intervalometer separately. This allows you to input a specified amount of photos to take and the time interval at which you want them to be taken, but you’ll need to edit the images into a video yourself.

timelapse-feature-nikon

Many DSLRs are equipped with a built-in timelapse mode.

You’ll also need make sure you have a lot of memory. Rich uses a 128 GB memory card. Depending on how long you want your timelapse to be, you could be looking at taking thousands of photos. If you’re shooting RAW, which is recommended, having enough memory to make sure you can shoot uninterrupted is crucial. When buying a memory card, look for one that supports high speed transfer.

You will need a tripod. Not just any old tripod—you’ll want as sturdy of a tripod as you can afford. Using a nice Manfrotto 504HD tripod and video head, Rich still weighs or ties his tripod down for added security. Any movement of the camera can result in a flickering, bouncy timelapse that is hard to watch.

What Do You Need to Know?

You may be tempted to use auto focus mode, or you may forget to switch it off, which result in inconsistent focusing in the frames of your timelapse. Be sure to pre-focus the camera and put the camera and/or lens in manual focus. It is possible to use auto exposure mode, but manual is preferred if you are comfortable shooting in manual exposure mode.

One last setting you won’t want to forget is the white balance. Never shoot in auto white balance as it will also cause inconsistencies and flickering in your timelapse, making it unwatchable. Decide which white balance works for what you are shooting and stick with it.

How Do You Make a Timelapse?

To determine how many frames to shoot, you’ll first want to decide how long of a timelapse you will want to take or how long the event you are recording will occur. When you edit your frames together to make a film in post production, you’ll want to set them to play at a rate of 24 frames per second. This means that for every 24 frames you shoot, you will have 1 second of video.

timelapse-frames-per-second-calculation

How many frames you’ll take will depend on the length of your timelapse.

Once you have your tripod and camera setup, your focus and exposure set, and your intervalometer all ready to go, press the shutter release to start the series of photos. Stick around your camera to make sure the timer is firing the shutter at the right times, and check to make sure everything looks like it’s working well.

If you are going to be making a lengthy timelapse, you may want to turn off the LCD viewfinder so it doesn’t show a preview of each image it snaps or you could be dealing with a dead battery before you are finished.

These are just a few fundamentals of timelapse photography, it gets more and more complicated the more advanced you become. There are lots of apps available to help with the timing, and always err on the side of caution, take more frames than you think you will need so you can sort out the best shots.

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