Written by DroboAmbassador Albert Dros
I’m a landscape photographer, but I also occasionally shoot time-lapses. Time-lapses are basically a sequence of photographs over a longer period of time. Combining them gives a video (Mine are usually around 10 seconds each). Time lapses can be done with lots of different techniques. To get the best results, I shared some of my tips and tricks below.
I took over the Drobo Instagram account @drobostorage a few weeks back to explain this process and engage with the Drobo community. I have been using my Drobo devices to safely store my files for a long time. Drobo devices are fast, reliable and it even allows me to directly edit from them because of the speed of the fast interface.
When shooting time-lapses it’s important to know what looks nice in a video: movement! So try to shoot scenes that have a lot of movement. Cities are great for time-lapses because there is always a lot of movement going on. People walking, trams, cars, boats on canals, you name it. Try to find nice crossings or even rooftops to shoot from.
A typical question people ask is what gear you need to start shooting time lapses. Basically, you can shoot a time-lapse with any kind of camera, as long as you have the option to use an interval (shoot a photo every 1-5 seconds). Nowadays, most smartphones also have a time-lapse function.
If you want to shoot high-level time-lapses, I would recommend a camera that can shoot in RAW format and that you can set up manually. By using RAW format you can process your shot afterward, recovering shadow and highlighted areas. Especially when dealing with scenes with high contrast (night, sunset etc) you can recover a lot of image data with high-level cameras.
When shooting time-lapses it’s important to choose the right interval. The right interval determines how fast things move when you convert everything into a video later. Obviously, the faster the interval, the slower the movement. Here are a few tips on intervals for different kinds of movement:
- Fast-moving clouds: 1-2 seconds
- Slow-moving clouds: 3 seconds
- Cars: 1-2 seconds
- Boats: 2-3 seconds
- Day to night: 5-7 seconds
- Stars, milky way: 30 seconds
Notice that intervals are usually quite short especially when photographing in the city. A single time-lapse usually doesn’t take that long to photograph (15-30 minutes) except if you’re doing a day to night time-lapse which can take 1-2 hours.
In general, we shoot time-lapses in manual mode. This avoids Flickr and big light changes which costs time to deal with later on. When we’re shooting day to night time-lapses we can use aperture priority. Most cameras do a decent job nowadays with measuring light.
Shutter speed: It’s important that movement looks smooth. In cities, I would recommend using a bit slower shutter speeds of around 0.5 seconds. This will create motion blur when people are walking and cars are driving. All movements will have motion blur which will look very smooth on video. A shutter speed of 0.5 seconds is often not possible during the day because you will have too much light. In this case, it is recommended to use an ND filter (6 stop will usually work fine)
Aperture: I recommend to use a wider aperture of your lens. Preferably f/4-f/5.6 or something fast. This is because a lot of sensors tend to have dust spots that become visible at narrower apertures (f/11 and slower). So another tip would be to check if you have dust spots and clean your sensor! But to avoid seeing these dust spots, simply shoot at a wide aperture.
ISO: Leave your ISO at the lowest native setting. Usually, that’s 100 or 200 (differs per camera). You can go lower if you want to achieve a slower shutter speed.
For day to night time-lapses, we can use aperture priority and set the aperture at its lowest possible number. You will get a very fast shutter speed, in the beginning, meaning you will not get that smooth movement from cars and people walking. Because we’re shooting in Aperture priority, the camera will automatically slower the shutter speed when it gets dark. Make sure your interval is set on a high enough timeframe so that the shutter speed doesn’t get longer than the interval set. It is also recommended to already set the ISO a little bit higher (200-320) to avoid this.
To create more dynamics in your time-lapse you can use a slider. In the time lapses, I shot during my takeover I used the iFootage Shark Mini. But there are lots of different sliders out there that work great for this purpose. A slider moves your camera super slow during the duration of your time-lapse, creating a smooth movement. When using a slider, get creative and use foreground elements to give your time-lapses an extra dimension!
After shooting all the photos from the time lapses, copy them to your Drobo and edit them with Adobe Lightroom. If you shoot in RAW format, you will have more freedom in editing them and will lose less quality. When you’re happy with the result, export all the files in .JPG format. Import them as an image sequence in Adobe Premiere or Adobe After Effects, and export them as a video to have the final result.
A great tool for time-lapses is LRTimelapse. With LRTimelapse you can fix light changes and smoothen out transitions in day to night time-lapses. It’s a great tool.
Check the result below from a day of time-lapsing in Amsterdam!
See you next time!