This article is a followup to a recent one on shooting stills for a time-lapse video with your DSLR. If you need to start with that step, you can read it here. In this tutorial, we'll discuss the problems that may need to be fixed before combining your stills to create a time lapse video. I'm also going to tell you how to avoid those problems to save time and effort.
(Success Tip: The trick to mastering Time Lapse is all about the right gear. See what you need here. )
There are a number of adjustments that may need to be made to your photos in order to achieve the best possible quality in your presentation. No matter how careful you are with your setup, there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the process of taking the sequence of still images. Some of the possibilities include:
Focus shifting: Forgetting to turn off autofocus before shooting a sequence can cause disturbing shifts or loss of focus between frames, as changing conditions affect the camera's ability to sense focal points. This problem is common in low-light conditions. Manual focusing is almost always the right choice.
White balance changes: this usually occurs when the white balance setting is inadvertently left in automatic mode. This causes the white balance to be adjusted prior to each exposure and changing light conditions can affect the setting adversely.
Radical exposure differences: Leaving the camera in an auto exposure mode can also cause problems as the camera adjusts to changing light conditions. This often results in flickering or unnatural looking light during sequences taken during transitions from day to night and similar situations.
Camera shake: This usually occurs because of an unstable setup and causes misalignment between images. It's important to be sure your camera is solid and secure before starting the timer.
Jerky camera movement: This is often caused by attempting to add camera motion effects by re-positioning the camera by hand and it's almost impossible to fix. Use a motion slider or dolly like those offered by Revolve to maintain smooth, even motion for those dynamic effects.
Noise in dark areas: This may be due to shooting with a very high ISO setting or by the tendency of some sensors to produce noise in shadows. This can usually be removed with batch processing after the fact, but shooting at the lowest practical ISO setting should help avoid it.
Jerky transitions from frame to frame: Using a fast shutter speed can cause your time lapse video to have a jerky quality, like a very old motion picture. Try to use longer exposure times for your stills, which allows a slight motion blur and smooths out these transitions.
While many of these issues can be solved in post processing, some of them require adjustments to individual files, which is time consuming and often frustrating. Others may be corrected with batch processing in applications such as Lightroom. Either way, the best solution is to avoid having these problems in the first place.
I hope you've found this quick tutorial helpful in learning to create time lapse videos with your DSLR. Don't forget that experience is the best teacher, so get out there and start shooting!