Part 1of this PhotographyTalk.com article explained the concept of time-lapse and presented the first group of tips that will help you learn how to shoot this form of digital photography. The remaining tips are below.
Choosing a Time Interval
Remember, what gives your time-lapse sequence the illusion of motion is a separate digital photo being taken at regular intervals. The only way to learn how much time should elapse between releases of the shutter is to experiment. If you set the interval at three seconds, then one minute of real time would be reduced to 20 frames. At five seconds, there would only be 12 frames.
What you should be able to conclude from that math is that you must take many pictures to create a sequence of a viewable and interesting length. Remember, you’ll playback your movie at 24 frames a second, so those 12 frames above would only provide one-half second of viewing time. For a 30-second finished sequence, for example, shot at one frame every five seconds, you would have to shoot 124 frames. A time-lapse digital photo shoot, therefore, requires some planning and preparation because you and your camera will be in one spot for some time. Using the example above, to shoot 124 frames, one every five seconds, would require a bit more than 10 minutes of real time. Increase the length of your “movie” to three minutes, or six times longer, and now you have to shoot 744 frames, which will take 62 minutes of real time.
A Remote Shutter Release Is a Must
It should be obvious that not only can’t you shoot time-lapse images holding your camera, but also you need a remote shutter release. Even pressing the release on the camera body, when affixed to a tripod, will cause too much camera motion. Purchase a remote release that includes an intervalometer. This device allows you to preset your time interval and then trips the shutter automatically. Better quality remote shutter releases usually include this very helpful tool.
Without an intervalometer, you’ll have to stand or sit virtually motionless and use a stopwatch to release the shutter manually and accurately every five seconds 124 or 744 times, based on the examples above.
Plan Your Composition
Typically, you just can’t spread your tripod, attach your camera and begin to shoot a time-lapse sequence. It requires some planning. Remember, you’ll be shooting for minutes, even hours, so how the light and motion of objects will change during that real time must be taken into account. If you’re shooting a sunrise or sunset, then you must start to capture frames well before the sun actually appears or disappears. If you want a sequence of your children running in the park, then they better be prepared to run for a long time because, otherwise, you’ll have too few frames to make your movie, if their interest wanes after five minutes.
Of course, your time-lapse sequence of digital photos is created on your computer, so add title graphics and music to make it as much like a “movie” as possible.
Work for Your Success
Shooting a time-lapse sequence takes practice. If you have a vision of capturing a spectacular scene in motion during your next vacation to the beach or mountains, then first practice closer to home. You may want to photograph your children running through the park, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Your “movie” will be very short, but the learning experience will reveal your errors and prepare you to create something truly wonderful in the future.