Introduction to Time lapse photography

Having recently been asked to make a similar presentation for our local photographic society I decided it may be useful to put down some of my thoughts and some of the lessons I have learned while discovering this side of photography. For the sake of clarity I dont consider myself an expert, im still learning my self and more than capable of making mistakes setting up my time laspe’s most of the video’s below are my own work and have been taken during the journey to where i am now and so the quality differs wildly. You can see more of my work on my YouTube channel.

What is Time Lapse?

I should start by explaining what time lapse photography is and how it differs from a video played back at high speed. So time lapse is the process of taking single images at set intervals and then combining the images into a video with great detail while also compressing time and so capturing movement or change that would otherwise go unnoticed. for example a piece of food decaying or a flower opening or the sun setting over the horizon. It is these examples that drew me to explore time lapse photography. You may ask why not just record video and play it back at high speed but im afraid that this method results in loss of clarity and detail that makes it obvious when this method has been used.

So exploring further there are different types of time lapse photography styles and the required equipment varies depending on which style you wish to create.

Simple Time lapse

The simplest form is stationary time lapse as per the example below. (for the best experience please view full screen and in HD using the gear icon bottom right)

for this type of time lapse you only need a camera with manual control a tripod and an intervalometer your camera may have this function built in but can be purchased relatively cheaply if it hasn’t.

Motion Time Lapse

Motion time lapse adds and extra element in that the camera changes its view on the subject as time passes creating depth and the illusion of three dimensions to the image captured. Here you can start out very simply with something like the TurnsPro and the above intervalomter which rotates the camera over a set period of time, this can add more interest to the time lapse and make your video a little more immersive for the viewer. the main advantage to this type of Motion time lapse is its cheap to obtain the gear and the gear is very portable being no bigger than a spare lens for your camera so easy to travel with. See example of TurnsPro below.

however this method is not as good at introducing the perspective shift required to create the full illusion of 3 dimensions and so a motion time lapse rail gives better results. See example of Single axis Motion Time lapse below.

However these Motion time lapse rails vary wildly in price from £350 to £2000 and above for a complete retail ready to run setup. This can be off putting for most people looking to dip their toe into the water for the first time, and so it was with me, it is for this reason I chose to design and make my own motion time lapse rail. This single axis rail cost around £150 to make and only requires moderate skill to complete.

and it is possible to go further with this Motion Time lapse by introducing more movement with a full 3 axis Motion time lapse rail this means that the camera can move in the slide pan and tilt axis resulting in an even more epic feel to the video the example below was shot at the same location as above but with full 3 axis of movement. See example of 3 axis motion time lapse below.

here you can see the motion is much more pronounced and makes the video more interesting to watch, shame about the lack of clouds 🙁  but im sure you get the idea ( i Chose these two examples because of the shared location only).

ok so here i have dealt with fairly good light conditions and if you have got this far im sure you will have seen some night time / star trail time laspes you could do these as simple Time lapses with no camera movement at all but if you wish to introduce Motion Time lapse for this type of time lapse photography then the movement must be Move Shoot Move and cannot be continuous movement like the TurnsPro as the continuous movement will introduce blur into the shots due to the long shutter time required. Here you would need something like the syrp genie or a move shoot move rail such as my Ooznest ustepper rail . See Turotrial below.

Hyper lapse photography

finally moving onto Hyper Lapse photography, this is where the camera moves a greater distance between shots resulting in more pronounced movement often combining moving and stationary objects. here i have included two video’s that explain it way better than i can with the first being shot by a child and the second by a professional. In the first example the girl is using a very old Canon 300D with kit lens and reinforces the point that an expensive modern camera is not required.

If you got this far im impressed and if there is enough interest i may look at a guide to processing your time lapse images into a final video.

One thought on “Introduction to Time lapse photography

  • August 15, 2017 at 8:53 am

    superb useful article!


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