How to Use Motion Blur in Timelapse Photography

When you change the shutter speed in a timelapse, you can control how people moving in and out of the frame transition. With faster shutter speeds the movements are more jagged; you can make out each individual. With longer shutter speeds, the movements are a lot smoother. In this video Jay P Morgan from The Slanted Lens gives a nice demonstration on the impact of changing shutter speed in timelapses:

There are four elements that impact a timelapse:

  1. ISO
  2. shutter speed
  3. aperture
  4. interval

For this demonstration Morgan just manipulates one of the four: shutter speed.

time-lapse shooting tips

4 Elements That Impact Timelapses

To change shutter speed, especially if using a slower one in bright conditions, you needs to stop a lot of light from entering the camear. That’s where neutral density (ND) filters come into the picture. ND filters allow the use of really slow shutter speeds—1 second, 2 seconds and even 4 seconds—in bright conditions.

The other tool that Morgan uses in this demonstration is the Syrp Genie Motion Control. It allows a controlled panning while the timelapse sequence is being shot and adds a bit of spice to the footage. Morgan uses two of them: a Genie and a Genie Mini. Both can be controlled via apps and be given a pre-determined panning distance.

controlling shutter speed in time-lapse shooting

1/160 of a second

The shot above is from a timelapse shot at 1/60 of a second. As you can see, the frames appear as if frozen. You can identify each person quite easily.

At 1/25 of a second, people moving in an out of the frame are starting to blur a bit. From thereon, as the shutter speed is slowed down, movement becomes more and more blurred:

time-lapse photography

1 second exposure

long shutter speed in time-lapse

2 second exposure

Adding motion blur to your frames might just be the touch that makes your timelapse stand out from the crowd.

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