How to Shoot a Time Lapse

The fundamentals you’ll need to get started on your first time-lapse swiftly. Learn how long to shoot for, how to use interval settings, and more.

A time-lapse is created by shooting a series of static photographs that are then played back in order to create a moving image. A typical time-lapse will depict a large length of time passing in a very small period of time, such as witnessing the sunset and the moon rise over a city in a matter of seconds rather than the hours it would take to see in real life. Time lapses can be utilized for educational purposes (showing a plant developing at a rapid rate), artistic purposes (bustling traffic), or security purposes (showing a plant growing at a rapid rate) (overnight watch of a building or street).


The majority of individuals wish to photograph them for artistic purposes. They may be used as movie title sequence footage, music video filler, or even as distinctive pieces in a wedding film. You’ll need to acquire all of the essential equipment before going out to construct your own.

Gear Required for a Time Lapse

  • A camera is required. A DSLR or similar mirrorless camera is your best bet for this.
  • A camera lens. To record broader sights, most time lapses utilize wide lenses. Here’s a selection of fast, wide lenses for landscapes, cityscapes, and the night sky.
  • A tripod is required. This is quite important. Something to keep your camera stable is required. A smaller Gorillapod could suffice.
  • A stopwatch or an intervalometer. A camera timer is a device that allows you to set a timer for your camera. This will allow you to choose an interval for your camera to take images automatically. This feature is available on several DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. See the In-Camera Time Lapse Photography Resource and Guide for further information.

Finding a Time-Lapse Location


What is the most crucial aspect of a time-lapse? Of course, the material! That is why your physical location is so important. What are your plans for shooting? When are you planning to start filming? Before you switch on the camera, you should ask yourself these questions.


The most crucial guideline to remember while filming a time-lapse is to select a setting with motion — a motion that will look amazing over time. Clouds are the most straightforward illustration. Clouds are beautiful in the sky, but they’re much better when they’re sped up over time! So go outdoors and find something moving to photograph: vehicles, people, clouds, boats, the ocean – anything!

Setting Up for a Time Lapse


“What is the greatest individual shot I can shoot in this spot?” should be your next idea after you’ve chosen your place. Consider composition, motion, and/or the sun’s angle. You’ve got a terrific start for the remainder of your time-lapse if you can frame one excellent shot.

Place your camera on a tripod, compose the shot, and press the shutter. Make certain it appears the way you want it to. The photo should be properly exposed. Be sure this is how you want your timelapse to appear. Once the frame is set, it will not change.

Time Lapse Camera Settings


Let’s take a brief look at how to expose your photo.


  • Aperture: This should be as high as possible (f/18–f/22). This ensures that everything is in focus and allows you to increase the shutter speed.
  • ISO: Keep it as low as possible. You want the best-looking shot with the least amount of grain possible. If it’s low, you’ll be able to increase the shutter speed even further.
  • Shutter Speed: This is where you set the shutter speed to get the right exposure. The more time you have, the better. When generating a time-lapse, the longer shutter will give your photographs greater motion blur and help them blend together.


So, to begin, here’s the recipe:


  • Long(ish) Shutter Speed • High Aperture • Low ISO

Time of Day


You may leave your camera on the manual settings you gave it for your test shot if you’re shooting during the day when the light won’t vary significantly. There shouldn’t be a lot of variation in the exposure.



If you’re shooting at sunset or dawn, make sure your camera’s dial is set to AV (aperture priority). As the time-lapse progress, you’ll be able to dial in an aperture and the camera will automatically change your shutter according to the light.




A lengthy shutter speed is required when photographing a nighttime lapse. If you want to view the stars, you’ll probably need a camera with a high ISO (2000+). You can keep your camera on manual mode because your exposure shouldn’t alter much after you’ve got it dialed in. Keep in mind that at slower shutter speeds, stars will appear as streaks.

The Intervalometer


Plugin your intervalometer (or use your camera’s built-in one if it has one) after your camera has all of its settings ready to start. You’ll want to set an interval based on what you’re shooting at this stage. You’ll want a quicker interval if the motion in your images is faster. As a starting point, I employ clouds (clouds = 7-second interval). I’ll choose a faster interval if the topic of my time-lapse is quicker than moving clouds (people walking = 2-3 second interval). I use a longer interval if the topic is slower (clock hands moving = 15-30 second interval).


Once you’ve decided on an interval, hit the start button on the intervalometer. Your camera will take its initial picture and then continue to take pictures at the interval you specify.

How long do you wait?


So, your time-lapse video is being recorded. How much longer do you have to wait? How many photos do you require? In general, I strive for a final time-lapse video that is 10 seconds long. That means I’ll require around 240 photographs. There is a simple magic rule that can assist you in determining how long you must wait. Calculate your interval by multiplying it by four. This will inform you how long you should let your camera operate.


If my interval is 7 seconds, for example, I multiply 7 by 4 to obtain 28. I’d have to wait 28 minutes for my camera to take the 240 images I needed.



Creating the Time Lapse



Now is the time to transfer your images to your computer. Go to the Develop tab in Adobe Lightroom after bringing them up. Pick a photo from the center of your collection and make the changes you want. After that, you may apply those adjustments to all of your photographs and export them as JPEGs.

Editing Software

Bring your altered photographs into your preferred editing software. Place them one frame at a time on your timeline. Make sure the frame rate on your timeline is set to 24 frames per second. Your time-lapse may now be exported! The resolution of your completed time-lapse should be quite high. Your photographs’ resolution will be taken into account. As a result, depending on your camera, it might be extremely large…even larger than a 4K video clip!


You’ve completed the task in a flash! Time-lapse photography is a simple and pleasurable practice. You now have a movie time-lapse with extremely high resolution!


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