Capturing a beautiful outdoor time-lapse video used to be difficult for professional photographers and videographers. It was also a very expensive process with film. Even after the advent of early digital cameras it took a few years before time-lapse photography menu settings showed up in cameras. Today you simply need a camera with manual exposure and frame rate to produce beautiful time-lapse sequences.
Tip #1 – The Right Equipment
- A capable camera
- A remote trigger timer
- A tripod to stabilize the camera
There are scores of cameras today that are capable of shooting time-lapse video. Many action cameras have built in time-lapse software that works great right out of the box. Other types of cameras need a remote trigger timer to get the look you need. In all cases you need to have a very steady shot to achieve a professional looking time-lapse video.
Tip #2 – The Right Camera
Action cameras often have a time-lapse setting built into their software. Check your camera’s manual or look for an online tutorial to find out your specific model’s capabilities. For many DSLR cameras you need to purchase an inexpensive remote trigger timer to set shot frequency and duration.
Tip #3 – The Right Settings
Shutter Speed – If you have a manual mode like many DSLR cameras you will get best results with a slow shutter speed. This will give objects, such as clouds, the appearance of moving faster than they do in real time.
Time-Lapse Interval – Movies, TV shows and videos are typically shot in 30fps (frames per second). That means for every second of video you watch you’ve seen 30 individual frames of video. If you want to make a slow moving object, such as a cloud, appear to be moving quickly you should set your time-lapse interval to take a photo/frame once every second or two. Once you compile the shots into a video at 30fps you will see time move 30-60 times faster than real time. Below is a basic guide for setting the correct time-lapse interval for the subjects you’re shooting.
1 second intervals
Fast moving clouds
1-3 second intervals
Slower moving clouds
Crowds of people
Sunsets and sunrises
Moon or sun near the horizon
15 – 30 second intervals
Sun moving across a cloudless sky
90 – 120 seconds
Fast growing plants
Tip #4 – The Right Composition
Once you have the scene you want to capture, a capable camera, a tripod and the settings ready for your time-lapse shoot, you will need to figure out a composition. It’s good practice to have multiple objects in the shot to establish the moving clouds from the static trees or rocks.
Tip #5 – The Right Software
After you have shot your time-lapse sequence you need to process the videos using a video editor. Many action cameras provide their own video editors that automatically process the individual photos into a video. If you decide to purchase video editing software then you might have to place all the photos into the timeline using a process specific to the software. Check video tutorials online in order to find out how to process the video in your given editing program.
There are thousands of examples of great time-lapse videos online and on popular shows for you to gain an understanding of composition. Like everything in life, making good time-lapse videos takes time and patience to master.