Photo Contest Insider Blog


Tips for Shooting Time Lapses

May 26, 2017

By now, you’ve probably had the pleasure of admiring multiple timelapses, either online or even on your television. From rolling clouds and flowing waterfalls, to sprouting plants and famous phenomenon such as the Northern Lights – this medium of photography certainly turns moments into magic.

If you’ve ever wanted to create a timelapse yourself or simply to improve your skills within this photography genre, then you’re in luck! Today we’re going to share our top tips for shooting time lapses. Let’s get started!

Firstly, What is a Timelapse?

We wouldn’t get very far without first explaining what timelapse photography actually is, just incase you’re not very familiar with it. Neelima Vallangi from the Wandering Soul’s Wander Tales explains it quite simply, stating:

“Timelapse photography is essentially shooting images of a chosen subject continuously at a specified interval and then making a movie out of it. Let’s say it is progression of time in fast forward mode.”

Tips for Shooting Time Lapses

Manual Mode is a Must

Professional timelapse photographers tell us time and time again – everything must be shot in manual mode. While it might seem easier to shoot in auto mode, you must avoid this at all costs due to a number of reasons. Firstly, all of the settings in your camera have to remain constant, even as the subject changes. These include shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and aperture. You should even change the focus of your lens to manual to avoid any glitches. Additionally, photographer Enrique Pacheco recommends also shooting in RAW, rather than Jpeg.

“Both manual mode and RAW files will give us greater control over our camera and during the postproduction. We must remember that the camera is shooting for a long time, so if we use any automatism, the camera will try to correct every change of light and the color temperature. So if you shot it in JPEG, there will be no turning back,” he explains.

Do Your Research

Usually when you’re shooting a timelapse, you’ll be very interested in the movement of the sky (such as clouds or the sun rising / setting). Therefore, it’s important to do your research beforehand to ensure that you’ll be shooting in favorable conditions. There are easy ways to do this, including either Googling your location beforehand and finding out the movements of the sun, tides, clouds etc, or by obtaining this information through specially-designed apps for photographers (such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris).

Tips for Shooting Time Lapses

Come Prepared

It probably goes without saying, but shooting a timelapse usually requires you to be in the one spot for hours on end, so you’d certainly want to come prepared! Make sure you pack plenty of food and enough bottles of water to get you by comfortably. If you’re shooting in winter, an extra jacket or scarf won’t go astray. Alternatively, if the weather is a lot warmer, ensure that you’ll have sunscreen, a hat, and other sun protection packed.

You’ll also need to prepare your equipment and make sure that you have everything with you before you set-off. Other than your camera, a memory card, and a fully-charged battery, your tripod (the heavier the better) is also one of the essentials, so don’t forget to bring it with you! A spare battery and memory card as back-up will also put your mind at ease.

Set Up Your Frame

When you arrive at your shoot location, take some time to walk around and visualize how you want your timelapse to look, as well as what you want to capture. View the scene from multiple positions and angles before deciding on your final set-up. You’ll also want to anticipate the motion of what you’re capturing (i.e. the sky, running water, people walking, the moon etc.) to ensure that when you set-up, you’ll be able to capture the entire process in your frame.

It’s important to remember that once you start shooting your time lapse, you can’t simply change your position or angle half-way through as this will disrupt your series. Every shot in the timelapse needs to be cohesive in order to work.

Tips for Shooting Time Lapses

Music Ties It All Together

Once you’ve finished shooting your timelapse, it’s time to put all of the images together and turn them into a mini movie! If your images look great but you feel as though something is missing, fear not! Photographer Neelima Vallangi advises that the simple addition of music will easily tie your masterpiece together.

“Just as the photos are a treat to the eye, music is a treat to the ears and both of them together can create great impact. So spend some time choosing suitable background score,” she explains.

There you have it – our top tips for shooting time lapses! Will you be experimenting with timelapses any time soon? If you are, we wish you the best of luck!


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