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Simple Steps To A Professional Time-Lapse Photograph

Simple Steps To A Professional Time-Lapse Photograph

Simple Steps To A Professional Time-Lapse Photograph

/ Life Styles / Sunday, 03 September 2017 16:26

Time-lapse photography is a technique that records a scene or objects that has a slow state-of-change and turns it into a video that plays back in high speed. Time-lapse effect is a beautiful thing when done by a skilled photographer. In this article, we’ll show you how to create your own Time-lapse video, but remember as with all skills you need practice, patience and dedication.


The Basics

Under normal circumstances, every second in a video is made up of 25 single photos. If you watch a 2-minute video at 26 fps – frames per second, that means it’s made up of 3120 photos (frames), that, when placed in sequence, trick our mind into seeing motion – awesome right? 

To create Time-lapse effect, you basically reduce the timing for each shot and merge them into a 24-30 fps video


Choosing A Subject

For starters it is advisable to start with a 4-12 hours’ events e.g.

clouds movement

traffic on a busy street

stars movement

sunrise to sunset, etc.


Calculate your interval

Think ahead of the pause between each shot, as this will give you either a smooth or blocky video output. - okay, that might be confusing.

For an event - like sunrise to sunset - that takes longer but with slow changes, you might want to take a shot every 2-3 minutes to get that slow-smooth drift across the sky. If you should try the same approach on a city's traffic, you will have a blocky output - people and cars disappearing before the next shot. 

So in essence, you need to know how long it takes for a noticeable change and then work with that.


Event: sunrise to sunset

Timeframe: 12hours

interval between shots = 1min

total photos = 720

at 24fps you'll see the sun rise and set in 30secs


for something that takes longer say a construction

timeframe: 6 months

interval between shots = 30mins

total photos = 4320 - 4392

at 24fps you get to see the whole process in about 3mins, isn't it amazing?



Many cameras like the Nikon D500 have a built-in time-lapse feature in the menu. All the complex equations will be done for you and you automatically get an MOV file at the end. If you're using a mobile or your camera doesn’t have a time-lapse option, all hope isn't lost. You just need to take a series of photos at specific intervals, then put them into an external editing software to convert those images into a video.



It is essential to give your shots a stationary view and consistency, taking every photo from the same location without having to move here and there. When it comes to stability a tripod is your best bet. Of course you could choose to shoot without a tripod - maybe you could place the camera on a slab, stair or window etc. but this limits your subject of choice and makes it harder to maintain stability


Pause and keep calm

Don't forget how easy it is to get frustrated after the first few attempts, it's okay.

Take note of these few tips and sources of error to maximize your chance of getting good time-lapse shots

- Before you invest the full duration for the time-lapse, it is recommended to make a quick test of about a minute or so. To ensure you are getting the right angle and composition you want.

- Set your camera to take photos in basic jpeg format else you’ll be running out of disk space very fast, and also to reduce quality loss when down sampling.

- Go manual on everything; focus, shutter speed, aperture, exposure and white balance so the camera won't have to adjust itself when a slight change occurs.

- It's easy to forget that you will be shooting lots of photos and might run out of storage or battery, to avoid a situation where you have to cut short your lapse, ensure you have enough space and power or carry an extra or more – depends.

- choose a spot where your tripod remains balanced and secure from man and the elements, especially if you are shooting outdoors.


From photos to movie

After completing the previous steps, this last one is the most exciting. To get your still images into movies there are lots of applications out there that can assist you.

Apple QuickTime Pro

Time-lapse Assembler


Like I mentioned earlier time-lapse is a beautiful thing, all you need now is practice, go out and shoot some beautiful sequences.




Time Lapse in New York City
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