by Stan Marie
What is a time-lapse?
Time-lapse is an animation technique resulting from the processing and assembly of thousands of photos taken at regular intervals. It allows you to contemplate the evolution of a place or a landscape over time.
It’s generally used to illustrate the movement of clouds, stars, the blossoming of a flower, or in a much more mundane way, to follow the progress of a construction site.
We take several photos of the moment we want to capture. These photos will be assembled during post-processing. Once the assembly has been performed, we obtain a video which gives the viewer the feeling that time flies like an arrow!
Patience is a virtue
Creating a time-lapse takes a lot of time, both for taking pictures and for post-processing.
In fact, in order to realise a 15-second sequence, for example, the movement of the Milky Way, you have to take an average of 450 photos. If you take a photo every 30 seconds, the photo shoot will last 3:45 hours.
Clearly this can't be done manually, so you will need a time-lapse function on your camera. If your camera does not have this function, you can buy a trigger cell, like the excellent Pluto Trigger Cell. On average a simple interval timer, remote control costs between £25 and £30.
As for post-processing, from the processing of the photos to their export and assembly, it generally takes as much time as the shooting.
The necessary equipment
- A DSLR or any digital camera can be used for a time-lapse (compact, SLR, hybrid, bridge).
- The tripod is the essential element to achieve a Time-lapse. It will ensure the stability of your sequence, avoid camera shake and jerks causing a different framing between each shot. Beware of false savings, your camera is on your tripod! A good tripod will not fall down on a windy day. For my part, I have used a Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT tripod (now replaced by the Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263CT) for several years. This carbon tripod is very well made and offers a good compromise between weight, resistance, and flexibility.
It will allow you to automate shooting at regular intervals. Some cameras have a built-in interval timer.
Smartphone applications, like qDslrDashboard, allows you to control your camera via an OTG cable. I do not recommend using these applications with the Wi-Fi of your camera because of considerable battery consumption.
The practice of time-lapse requires having memory cards with a large storage capacity! It often happens that we exceed 1,000 shots for a single sequence (1,000 shots with an average 20 MB per photo is equal to about 20 GB), I recommend that you bring one or even two 32GB cards. However, one of the 64GB is still preferable.
Think about the writing speed of the memory card! It will have to be fast, prefer a card of 90 MB/s at least!
Just like the tripod, watch out for false savings!
To avoid runing out of batteries during your shoot, I advise you to equip yourself with a grip containing two batteries, or, for more comfort and extra capacity, invest in an external battery.
Whether you're on PC or Mac, you'll need processing software such as LrTimelapse. This software provides the most complete solution for editing your time-lapse sequences. It is used by the majority of time-lapse photographers because it allows them to use their favourite photographic tools (Lightroom Classic or Adobe Camera RAW) for post-processing.
If you then want to build a montage of multiple sequences or insert your time-lapse to a video project, add an introduction, soundtrack or sound effects, transition effects, stabilisation or colourimetry, you will need to bring video editing software like Adobe Première, After Effect or Davinci Resolve.
It is best to have a computer with strong computing ability. Indeed, all these treatments are data and processing heavy. The more powerful your machine, the more time you will save when exporting and assembling.
While it's an involved process, from planning, to shooting, to post production, time lapse photography can deliver some astounding results and give you a perspective on your subject that you miss in real life. As a result, I hope this article will have made you want to go out for some fresh air and discover this shooting technique.
For more information
If you need additional advice, do not hesitate to contact Vanguard Ambassador Stanley Marie, and he will be happy to answer you.
Stan has always been fascinated by nature, by what it can bring to us, what we can live and share with it when we respect it and know how to listen and observe it! To find out more or to follow Stan, his social media links are: