Have you ever made a time-lapse video?

Time lapse photography can be done on almost all cameras available today. It’s a great way to add variety to your photography repertoire. I think of it as a hybrid of stills and video. It’s especially useful when you need to show activity over a long period of time…more time than you would care to take using straight video.

How do I do time lapse? Well here’s how!

Some cameras have a built in time lapse movie mode or a built in intervalometer (time lapse controls). In cases where the camera does not have either, no worries, Creve Coeur Camera carries several models of add on intervalometers.

Whether you are using an in camera or add on intervalometer the common basic settings are the same:

1) total frames

2) time in between frames

3) exposure settings for each frame

Total frames.

This is the total amount of pictures you want the camera to take. The more pictures the longer period of time will be covered (some cameras will calculate this for you). In most cases this can be set from 2 to unlimited.

Time in between frames.

This is the delay between each shot, this will greatly affect the total time covered because it is multiplied by the total frames. Delay increments are mostly in seconds, minutes or hours or a combination thereof. The shorter the delay between frames the “smoother” the final movie will be.

Exposure settings.

These are the settings you would normally use for a still picture. There are a few considerations such as focus, depth of field and anticipated lighting conditions that need more thought when doing time lapse. It’s advisable to set your focus manually so nothing wandering close to your lens will affect the focus when the shot is taken. Normally you would use a small aperture to increase your depth of field to get more things in focus. Alternatively, a narrow depth of field will give a very striking look, but you need to be very sure of where your subject will be. Long duration time lapse will sometimes cover day to night or night to day sequences, also cloudy/sunny changes. Using the automatic exposure setting is the best way to compensate for these potential changes in lighting.

Other than your trusty camera, what else will do you need for time lapse photos?

  • A sturdy tripod is essential for keeping the camera steady and in the same position, if you are outdoors you don’t want a gust of wind to spoil your shot.
  • A storage card big enough to store all the pictures you will take, remember it could number into the thousands. A 32 gigabyte card should give you enough space on most cameras.
  • A power source equal to the task. If it’s a short run a fully charged battery should be sufficient. Longer stints may require an AC adapter for your camera to complete the run. Almost all manufacturers have adapters that can be ordered through Creve Coeur Camera.
  • You can add a dynamic touch to your project by using a motorized panoramic tripod head such as the Vidpro MH-36. The movement of the panoramic head makes the resulting video much more interesting to watch.
  • As stated before some cameras will create a movie from the stills automatically. If your camera doesn’t, you will need software on your computer that does it for you. Microsoft Movie Maker for PC and iMovie for Mac will compile the stills into a movie. Manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony also have free downloadable programs that will work as well. There’s also a myriad of third party options available.

You must also consider what lens to use. Your choice of lens will depend on the subject and what type of look you are trying to achieve. Generally speaking a wider field of view will encompass more of the landscape and potentially capture more movement which again makes a more interesting video.

My final piece of advice is is to practice, practice, practice! The winning combination of time, subject, duration, increment, exposure, angle and field of view is almost impossible the get right the first time. Test out different locations, time of day and exposure settings. Plan your shot so things will go smoothly when doing the real thing. Keep tweaking the settings and eventually you will get the right mix!

As usual feel free to drop on into your nearest Creve Coeur Camera location for any assistance.

-Rob Haughton, O’Fallon, IL Store

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