Basics of shooting a time lapse
Basic Photography
August 8, 2018

Have you seen the speedy travel videos where the sun sets fast and darkness creeps in? If not, surely you have seen similar scenes in movies. These videos are examples of time-lapse videos. A time-lapse is nothing but showing the lapse of long time duration in a few seconds. These are used so frequently in various travel and tourism video packages and nowadays in movies as well. Time-lapse can be done by taking images as well. Most of your cameras will have the inbuilt time-lapse video option. However, they are not often used by professionals since the quality delivered is not of the highest standards. Another technique is to shoot a video with a very low fps (frames per second) value and then play the video at the normal 24 frame rate. However, frame rates slower than 24 fps are not easily available in all cameras either. As of now, we are going to take a look at how to make a time-lapse video using our photography skills only.


1) The gear required:
You do not need any sort of expensive gear to make time-lapse videos. A basic entry level dslr camera is good enough. You can do time-lapse photography using the most readily available 18-55 mm kit lens as well. The most important camera accessory required for this kind of a video is the tripod. You need the most stable setup possible, for the best results. During viewing the final video, jerks and shakes will result in an amateurish stink. Make sure that you have a sturdy tripod which can support up to twice the weight of your camera gear.  Hang a sandbag from the middle leg of the tripod to stabilize it further. In case you want to get the long exposure shots to bring in all the drama in the sky, you will require a ND filter as well. Since you will have to shoot multiple images at fixed time intervals, manually pressing the shutter button all the time is not a good option. You need to have an intervalometer. This is used to set intervals according to which the camera will keep clicking. An intervalometer is quite similar to a remote shutter cable with the additional advantage of being able to control the time interval and the number of shots.


2) The process:
Mount the camera gear on your tripod. Decide your composition before you do this. The camera should be in manual mode. Assisted modes like aperture priority or shutter priority are not of much help here. You have the time and hence you must go manual. Depending on the composition, choose the aperture or f-stop value. For a landscape, I prefer f/8 or higher. Keep the ISO at a minimum. Shutter speed will depend on what kind of photographs you want to take. If you want normal exposure shots, keep the shutter speed around 1/125th of a second or faster. In case of long exposure shots, you may keep the shutter speed slower than 1 second. This will help you get the feel of movement in the image. Once you are done with the exposure triangle parameters, it’s time to get down to the actual time-lapse shooting. Plug in the intervalometer to your camera. Select the number of shots you want to take. Select the time interval between each shot. Press the shutter release button for the first time and the intervalometer will take care of the rest. The camera will continue taking shots till the number of shots is fulfilled and in the specific time intervals. If you are shooting the entire sunset, you will need to take more than 200 shots to make an 8-10 second video.  For example, you are shooting an image once every second. When you playback the images at a normal speed of 24 frames per second, the video will appear 24 times faster.

3) Post processing:
As you already know, post processing is an unavoidable process in the digital photography age. Once you have the entire set of images, import them to Adobe Light room. Process the first image by adjusting the brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation and all other sliders as per your requirement. Here you will require the batch processing feature of Adobe Light room. Once an image is processed, all that you need to do is to sync those settings to all the other images. If there is a drastic change in lighting condition, then you may have to make another preset or two. After the batch processing is done, import the images to Adobe Premier Pro. Create a new sequence of 24 frames per second. Drag and drop your set of images and export the final video. And there it is! Your own time lapse video is ready!

Things to remember:
Time-lapse has a set of challenges and its better we sum them up...

1. Always shoot in manual mode in raw format. Manual mode does prevail in this genre of photography over the other semi assisted modes. Shooting in raw mode will help you preserve a lot of information which you will require while post processing.

2. Ensure there is no compromise on the stability front. Choose a non-windy day for the shoot, if possible.

3. Think of what you exactly want to shoot and the composition of the frame. Try to include moving objects to show the speedy movement in your video. More the movement involved, more it will wow your viewers.

4. You need to be sure of the duration of the video. Accordingly you will have to have the idea of the number of images you need to shoot. Doing arithmetic on the day of the shoot is not the best idea.

5. Focusing is of prime importance. You need to choose the perfect focal length and aperture to get all your subjects in sharp focus.

Shooting time-lapse can be a lot of fun. It is wonderful to view the final product albeit at the cost of time and a lot of efforts. What is best is the fact that people never get tired of getting mesmerized by time-­lapse stuff!

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