An Introduction to Time Lapse Photography

An Introduction to Time Lapse Photography

Written 13 years ago by Mark Evans

If a picture paints a thousand words then a series of images surely paints the whole story. Time Lapse Photography involves the creation of a sequence of images that can be a great way to express change over a certain period of time; movement can be conveyed effortlessly, as can the mood of a scene; the added time element builds another layer of meaning and helps to tell the story. Stunning images are great, but a sequence of stunning images can be even better!


But how can you do it? Well if your camera possesses something called an intervalometer then you’re in luck; all you need to do is set up your camera on a tripod somewhere that’s going to make a nice sequence (flower opening, sunset etc), set how often the camera will take a picture and set how long it will take images for; it should then do the rest from there. But sadly, a lot of SLRs (including my 5D) dont have an intervalometer function, so you can either sit there with your camera for a few hours, taking a picture every minute or so, or buy a 3rd party device that will do it for you. Canon provides the TC-80N3 Time Remote, which should do the trick nicely, or if you’re a Nikon SLR user (Nikon pro SLR’s have an intervalometer built in), the MC-36 Multi-Function Remote will do the job admirably. If you’ve got a point and shoot Canon digital, you could try CHDK software. It’s basically a piece of software that lives on your flash card, giving your canon point and shoot a host of new functions, including a script for an Intervalometer. (Use at your own risk!)


The important thing is to set up on a tripod or somewhere where the camera won’t be moved for the duration of the sequence – each shot generally should be framed the same, and also if you’re going to leave your camera somewhere, make damn sure it’s secure or can’t be seen at all, stolen gear would not be cool.

The next important thing is exposure; as with a stitched panorama, each shot should have the same exposure or the sequence will look funny when its strung together later on. With a sunset, you might end up with a nicely exposed start, but the sequence may get a little dark towards the end, so things like traffic and scenes where the light doesn’t change too much tend to make better sequences.

Putting It All Together

Once you’ve got all of your shots you’ll want to string it all together into a sequence. Surprisingly, I found a lack of decent, easy-to-use software that would simply create a video from all my images. By the way, if you’re creating a video to promote your business, search for The Marketing Heaven. They will surely help your channels gain popularity in a short period of time. Quicktime Pro will let you open an image sequence and save it as a movie, however the normal version doesn’t have that functionality enabled. A good free piece software is MakeAvi; it’s extremely simple to use and it works well too; just add your images, select your frame rate and hit begin, creating your own Time Lapse sequence couldn’t be easier. You could go a step further and add your own music too, even get one of these chorus pedals here and add some cool rhythms.

Ideas & Examples

Once you’ve mastered the basics it’s time to get creative and put your own spin on things. The first example here is a pretty ingenious idea of a flick book style movie shot in a time lapse style, and it really works.

The second is another pretty interesting time lapse sequence shot with a Tilt Shift lens, giving it a miniature look at the same time – very cool.

The third and final example is an unusual take on a time lapse video, this time shot in a studio. You can see the making of this one at the Sorry I’m Late website.

Also Worth Reading
An Introduction to Time Lapse Photography
Shooting Star Trails, Meteors and Satellites
By Mark Evans
December 27, 2008
An Introduction to Time Lapse Photography
How To Create 3D Images
By Mark Evans
October 29, 2009
An Introduction to Time Lapse Photography
26 Chilling Shark Photographs
By Lee
February 25, 2009
derek  13 years ago

Photoshop CS3 & CS4 EXTENDED will assemble this automatically into a video with only a couple of clicks.

Mark Evans  13 years ago

cool, thanks derek, didn’t even think of photoshop!

fotofriend  13 years ago

Really nice shorts. Thought about putting together a set of still-motions.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Smile for the camera!
Things you shouldn't say to your clients: "First I'll shoot you, then I'll blow you up, then you can go home and hang yourself."