What Is Time Lapse Photography

What is time lapse photography and why is it so popular. In recent times it began to appear on the Internet. More specifically on video websites such as Youtube, Vimeo, etc. Countless videos made with a very curious technique called Time Lapse.

What Is Time Lapse Photography

These are videos of spectacular landscapes or situations in which everything happens very quickly. And in a few minutes you can appreciate, for example, the sunset, a sunrise. Or even the course of a whole day.

Have you ever wondered how they do it? Don’t worry, in today’s article I will explain you step by step how to do it. And what you must take into account. So that you can make your first Time Lapse without dying in the attempt.

What is Time Lapse?

As it indicates, Time Lapse is a sequence of photographs taken with a certain time of separation. Between one and the other. Which are then joined together by means of a computer. To create a video that gives the sensation of being recorded in a fast camera.

Haven’t you ever seen one? Take a look at the next one and you’ll understand better what I’m talking about:

Although it may seem like a really novel technique. In reality it is not so novel since there are short films. From the beginning of the century made using this technique to show a slightly faster version of reality.

Time Lapse vs Video

You’re probably wondering why take hundreds of photos to make a video if your camera shoots in Full HD? The answer is simple:

The video mode of your camera, despite using the same sensor and filming in Full HD. Is much more limited in terms of setting metering and exposure parameters. And the resulting quality than if you use your camera simply to take pictures. This means that no matter how much your camera films, video modes. Don’t process noise, capture light, or work with the quality your camera is capable of taking a picture with.

Think about it: a 16 megapixel camera will take pictures at a size of 4928 x 3264 pixels. While in video mode it is capable of capturing 1920 x 1080 pixels.

If you were thinking of making a video and then using software on your computer to speed it up. To achieve the same effect, you’re likely to be disappointed when you see the resulting video.

Types And Uses Of The Time Lapse Technique

While you can make a Time Lapse video of anything you can think of. If you take a little time to investigate the different types of videos shared on the Internet. You’ll find that not all situations are ideal for making a surprising Time Lapse.
In general, we can say that there are 3 main types of situations. With which you can get some amazing videos:

Nature: this includes all kinds of flora and fauna that inhabit nature. From the blooming of a flower to the creation of an anthill.

Landscapes: sunsets and sunrises, storms and lightning, winds, clouds, sun and stars, etc.

Others: everything that does not fall within the two previous classifications. But that can be attractive to document: the traffic in a street, the construction of a building. And everything where with the passage of time something attractive is created or transformed.

While in the first two classifications (Nature and Landscapes). The fluidity and continuity of the video is key to its impact. In the third (others) it is not so much because it is not important to lose some intermediate sequences. Because the important thing is not the evolution but the transformation of the chosen elements.

Sunset Time Lapse

Uses And Applications

This technique, currently booming, is used by many media, agencies and photographers where power is sought:

To show events of long duration, as for example the path of the stars in the firmament, in a short video duration.
To show in the same scene different subjects moving at different speeds.
Any other kind of artwork.

Complete Sequence of a Time Lapse

The Necessary Equipment

The key to being able to take this type of photographs or videos is to have a photo camera. Whether reflex or not, that allows you to take photographs every a certain amount of programmable time. However, if your camera does not have this option built in. You can try an external interval meter or remote trigger.

As you can imagine, the stability of the camera is an indispensable requirement when making a quality Time Lapse. To achieve this, the ideal is to make yourself a good and firm tripod. As you gain experience, you may also need a slider or rail so you can move the camera around a scene, while still taking stable pictures. I recommend you read the following article: “How to Correctly Assemble a Tripod” if you don’t want to waste hours of work and hundreds of photographs.

It All Depends On The Scene

The lens you will use will depend on the scene you are going to photograph. If you want to photograph a landscape, it is recommended that you use a wide-angle lens (8 to 25 mm), but for the bloom of a flower a macro lens would be ideal. Anyway, you can do it with the objective that you have at hand, it does not need to be the most expensive nor much less. Although quality is important, in Time Lapse it is not so important.

The battery is 100% charged and, if possible, more than one. If you have a grip that allows you to use more than one battery at the same time, excellent. Ideally, the photo shoot should end when you want it to, not when the batteries are in place.
Memory cards with the maximum capacity and speed possible. If you run out of space in the middle of a session, you may miss crucial frames for the continuity and fluidity of your final video.

Better Safe Than Sorry

A good book: despite being a very exciting process, it is extremely boring. Imagine sitting for 4 hours with nothing more to do than listen to the camera trigger take a picture every 30 seconds. You can go crazy! Take something with you that you can entertain yourself with while the whole taking process lasts.

Easy Time Lapse Photography

Location And Framing

The location you choose to mount your camera on the tripod and the elements you decide to incorporate in the frame to dress the scene are essential for the resulting Time Lapse to achieve the impact you’re looking for.

Choose your protagonists well and take your time to decide how you will dispose of all the elements you have available within the frame to achieve the desired impact. The less you improvise, the better. Keep in mind that changing an element of place, means redoing hundreds of pictures.

Take your time to study location and framing well.

Computer Configuration

Once you have arrived at the place you chose to take the shots, not only must you place the tripod and the camera in place but you must also adjust all the parameters of the camera to take each of your photographs. That is, make a good metering and exposure of the scene to be photographed, and then set the interval meter to automatically take a picture from time to time.

Depending on the scene to be photographed, the interval between each photograph will vary:

If you want to photograph a sunrise, for example, it is recommended that you use an interval of 30 seconds approximately since the sun will not vary much of position between one and another.

On the other hand, if what you want to photograph is a motorway full of cars, it would be advisable to use a much shorter time interval, but the jumps of continuity and the fluidity of the resulting video will be too noticeable. Try to use intervals of 5 seconds or less.To realize a Time Lapse of a landscape or a starry sky, as the fluidity is fundamental, you will have to use an interval of time between take and take much smaller, from 1 to 5 seconds. However, these are general recommendations. Do all the necessary tests until you reach the result you are waiting for.

Shooting Mode

Although I always recommend using the manual mode to take each and every one of your photographs, in this particular case and depending on the duration of the video, it is recommended that you use the opening priority mode. Why? The “amount of light” available in a scene can vary from its beginning to its end so, if you use the manual mode, you should adjust the exposure according to the moment, instead, using the aperture priority mode, once the required depth of field is set, the camera will adjust the exposure automatically.

Time Lapse Photography Phenomenon

RAW or JPG?: the ideal format to work in photography is the digital negative or RAW because it saves in each file, all the information of the shot for its later post production. However, in a Time Lapse that lasts several hours, shooting in RAW can consume all the memory of your camera and let alone its battery. I recommend that you shoot in JPG mode, after all, after a session of more than 300 photos, the process of developing the digital negative could be eternal.

The Useful Life Of The Equipment

If you have a reflex camera, I regret to inform you that they are not immortal. In fact, using the Time Lapse technique will cause your camera to wear more than normal. Unfortunately, photo by photo your camera will slowly approach its sad end: the funeral. According to the manufacturers, the life expectancy of most digital SLRs is around 100,000 shots depending on the manufacturer and camera model.

That’s why you should make a serious planning process so as to waste as few photographs as possible when taking your shots, since after a long session of Time Lapse, you will have consumed a small but important portion of the useful life of your camera.

Don’t despair! 100,000 photographs may not seem like much, but it isn’t: take a look at the following article and you’ll understand it better: “Your Chamber’s Life Expectancy [or Your Chamber’s Funeral]. And if you want to prolong their useful life as much as possible, follow these recommendations: “The Complete Guide: Cleaning Tips for SLR Cameras”.

Be Careful

Be careful and make sure everything is perfectly adjusted.

Make your first Time Lapse step by step

Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to take your things and start making your first Time Lapse. Sure, after reading the following steps:

Get ready for the adventure: although it is possible that you make your first Time Lapse from the window of your home, if you plan to do it outdoors, I recommend that you not only pack your photographic equipment, but also take with you a coat, an umbrella, a flashlight, sun protection and everything you consider necessary to not end up having a bad and long time. Check that everything is in place, clean lenses and charged batteries so you don’t have to interrupt the session for anything.

Don’t Improvise

As I told you before, the more time you spend planning the scenes and choosing the frame, the less time and photos you will waste. Imagine that after 4 hours of photos every 10 seconds, you realize that the sunset is out of the frame!
Duration of the final video: to get one second of filming requires approximately 25 photographs, so if you want to get a video of approximately 30 seconds, you must take about 750 photographs. Please note that for taking 750 photos with a photo to photo interval of 10 seconds, the total shooting time will be 2 hours (750 photos x 10 seconds / 60 minutes = 125 minutes). Review your action plan again after calculating the total time of the session.

Compose Your Photos

The moment you place the camera on the tripod is essential to make a correct Time Lapse. Make sure that the camera is firmly mounted and that all the elements of the scene are well arranged in it. Keep in mind that any unwanted movement can ruin working hours, so make sure that nothing and no one will move your camera. Also, make sure you are tidy when using your equipment. If you leave it all scattered, you’ll probably forget something when you re-edit the video.

Time Lapse Photography Definition

Set the parameters for the shot: depending on the characteristics of the scene to be photographed, you will have to adjust the different parameters for the shot such as: shooting mode, photo format (RAW or JPG), time interval between each shot, depth of field, etc. Read again how to configure the equipment if you have not been clear or have your query in the comments at the end of the article. Depending on the speed with which the elements move in the scene you will have to choose which time interval to use. The higher the speed, the lower the interval, and the lower the speed, the greater the interval between photos.

Focus Manually

If you let the camera focus automatically, it may be that in some shot, for example when passing a closer cloud, it decides to change the focus. To prevent the camera from getting confused and changing the focus, once your scene is in focus, change the focus mode to manual. In this way, all the elements you have focused on will no longer be modified.
Get comfortable and start taking your photos!

Once the shots have been taken: to the computer

I’Ve Already Got The Pictures. Now What?

Time Lapse Photography How ToOnce you have finished taking each and every one of the photographs that will integrate the final video, collect all your stuff and make sure you don’t leave anything lying around as the field of action will move towards your computer. That’s where the magic happens and the pictures come to life!

In order to join all the images it is necessary an editing software that allows to export them to a video file once they have been united and ordered. You can use any slideshow program (Proshow, Powerpoint, Movie Maker, etc.) if you don’t want the final video to have the best quality, or you can use professional video editing software such as Adobe After Effects, Sony Vegas, Final Cut, etc. if you want your final video to be more professional and of higher quality.

Once you have ordered all the photos in whatever software you are using, just choose the interval between photo and photo and adjust it if you are not convinced by the fluidity of the resulting video.

Wait, One Detail Is Missing: The Music

Did you think music magically appeared in your video? No way. No way. It’s essential that you take the time to select a song that reinforces the message of the video. Take your time, take the necessary tests and you will find the ideal music for the video you have just created. There is nothing written about tastes, but instrumental music usually gives more room for reflection. And allows viewers to concentrate on the photograph rather than the lyrics of the song.

Once you have found the ideal music for your video, you can incorporate it into it using the editing software used to merge all the photos.

The Final Result

I hope I’ve awakened your interest in this type of animated photography! Don’t hesitate and encourage yourself to make your first Time Lapse and share it with all of us! If you’ve enjoyed reading this article (like me writing it) I’d appreciate it if you’d give it a vote/recommendation on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.