Timelapse Photography Tutorial

Timelapse Photography Tutorial

Timelapse photography lets you see the natural progression of time,
while not having to wait through the actual length of it. Pictures are
taken at regular intervals. When replayed at normal speed, time appears
to be moving faster and thus lapsing. For example, an image of a scene
may be captured once every second, and then played back at 25 frames
per second.

There are some things to keep in mind and calculations to be
done while setting up a time for Timelapse photography .

  • Usually the length of the project changes how you’re going
    to shoot it.
  • Your final movie can end up two ways: blocky or smooth and
  • Usually for a smoother transition you drag your shutter
    speed when you’re shooting, This will produce some blur and the images
    would blend in smother.
  • Timelapse compilations are commonly rendered at 24 or 30
    (fps) frames (photos) per second.

Timelapse Interval

  • What do you want to capture and how long is the event?
  • How fast is the action taking place?
  • How long do you want your timelapse compilation to be, and
    how long to shoot?
  • Your interval MUST exceed your exposure time. A good rule
    of thumb is to keep your exposure at about 60% – 80% of your interval
    to give your camera enough time to clear the image buffer before the
    next frame is taken.
  • Based on how long we want the movie to be we can calculate
    how many shots we would need. For a 20 second timelapse movie at 24 fps
    we would need 24 x 20 = 480 frames.
  • To know how often we need to take a shot (interval between
    shots) we need to know the duration that our event is going to take.
    For example if the event is for 4 hours i.e. 14400 seconds then we need
    a 30 second interval between shots. (14400 / 480).
  • Shutter interval time = Total shooting time in hours x 3600
    / Movie duration in seconds * Movie frame rate.

Some common intervals

  • Fast moving clouds: 1 second
  • Slow moving clouds: 10 seconds
  • Sun moving across a clear sky: (wide) 20-30 seconds
  • Stars moving across the sky: (wide) between 20-60 seconds
  • Sunsets close up: 1-2 seconds
  • Crowds of people: 1-2 seconds
  • Plants growing eg cucumber vines: 2 minutes
  • Shadows moving across the ground: 10-20 seconds

Camera Settings.

  • All standard settings should be set manually
  • Manual Focus. Make sure auto focus is off
  • Manual ISO. Set your ISO to its lowest if shooting in
    daylight without ND filters.
  • Manual Exposure
  • Manual aperture. Deciding upon the aperture setting depends
    on two things – how much depth of field do you want and how fast (or
    slow) you want your shutter speed to be. The latter of these two will
    probably be your bigger concern in the beginning.
  • Manual Shutter. Shutter speed in timelapse films is a very
    important factor. If you shoot with a fast shutter speed (eg. 1/100th
    second), the movement in your final film will tend to look less
    realistic than if you shoot at a slower speed (eg. 1/2 second).
  • Manual White Balance. Pick one appropriate for your
    situation and keep it there for the entire shoot.
  • Manual Sharpness
  • Manual Contrast
  • Manual Color Saturation
  • It’s important to try and anticipate what is likely to
    happen to the available light during the timelapse. If it’s likely to
    get brighter, then you need to set your initial exposure to be a little
    darker than you might if taking a single image. If you don’t allow some
    headroom, and the Sun comes out from behind clouds for example, then
    the image will become overexposed and you’ll lose detail in the
    highlights. Likewise if it’s likely to get darker, set your initial
    exposure to be quite bright (without overexposing, of course).

Long shutter speeds are the best

  • 1/2 second is the minimum shutter speed
  • 1 second to 30 second shutter speed are optimal depending
    on the event
  • Use a neutral density filter to achieve low shutter speeds
    during the day.
  • The increased exposure time will significantly reduce the
    battery life of the camera, this is worth considering particularly
    since a time lapse film may potentially consist of thousands of photos.
  • Roughly speaking, your shutter speed should be just under
    half that of your interval. So, for a 3 second interval, a 1.3 second
    exposure is great. At longer intervals this rule ceases to apply.
  • You may need to get some Neutral density filters (ND
    filters) so that you can maintain a longer shutter speed while taking a
    picture under daylight conditions.

Use a sturdy tripod

  • Lock all tripod latches
  • Sandbag your camera if wind/vibration might be an issue


  • Slowly zoom in or out at times to create a variation.
  • Pan the camera slowly to bring some movement into the scene.
  • Check that your memory card has sufficient free space for
    your images.
  • Shoot with a battery pack or external power source where
    possible if you are shooting over a long period of time.

Putting it all together

Creation of a Time Lapse moving using Freeware tools.

Tools Used

  1. Irfanview 4.30 (http://www.irfanview.com/)
  2. VirtualDub-1.10.0 (http://www.virtualdub.org/)
  3. Donald Graft’s DeFlicker plugin (http://neuron2.net/deflick/flick.html)
  4. Donald Graft’s Zoom filter (http://neuron2.net/zoom.html)
  5. Donald Graft’s Pan filter (http://neuron2.net/pan.html)
  6. Deshaker plugin (http://www.guthspot.se/video/deshaker.htm)
  7. XVID Codec (http://www.xvid.org/Downloads.15.0.html)
  8. MPEG Streamclip 1.2 (http://www.squared5.com/)
  9. QuickTime Alternative 1.81 (http://www.filehippo.com/download_quicktime_alternative/2615)
  10. Rename Master (http://www.joejoesoft.com/cms/showpage.php?cid=108)

Preparation, resize and cropping of your images.

To save time resize your photographs to the size you are going to
create your video for display. In this example I am creating a video of
1920×1080. This is in the ratio of 16:9. Your images most likely are in
the ratio 4:3. We will need to first resize the images to match the
width of 1920 and then crop them to 1920×1080. This means you are going
to loose pixels on the top and bottom of your image.

  • Select all the images you need to process in Irfanview.
  • Keeping the images selected, click on ‘File’ – ‘Start batch
    dialog with selected files’


  • Select ‘Batch conversion – Rename result files’
  • Output format is JPG. Use the ‘Options’ button to make
    changes to the image quality etc.
  • Select ‘Use advanced options (for bulk resize…..) and click
    on ‘Advanced’. We will first resize the images.
  • Click ‘OK’ when done.
  • Under ‘Batch rename settings’ and use a name like
    ‘image-####”, the #### will be replaced by an incremented number.
  • Set the ‘Output directory for results files’, to the
    location you want the resized files to be stored.
  • Click on ‘Start Batch’ when ready to start resizing.
  • Once complete we will need to crop the images so that they
    are in the ratio 16:9, to do this follow the previous process except
    remove the tick from RESIZE and select CROP instead. My images were in
    the format 4:3 so I used 0 for X-pos and 100 for Y-pos, the width and
    height are 1920×1080. Start left top and click ok.
  • Reselect the resized images and select a new output folder.
  • Click on ‘Start Batch’ when ready to start cropping.
  • Once this is done you are ready to begin creating your
  • Click on ‘File’ -> ‘Open Video File’
  • Navigate to your images and select the first image in the
  • Make sure ‘Automatically load linked segments’ is selected
    and click ‘Open’.
  • Right click on the screen and set the zoom to a convenient
    setting for your monitor.
  • When you do this for the input video and output video, you
    will see both videos on the screen.
  • Next you set the frame rate normally this would be 24/25fps
    for PAL.
  • Flicker occurs when each frame of a video has a different
    overall brightness. Click on ‘Video’ and select Filters.


  • Select the deflicker filter and accept the default values.
  • Select Video..Filters (or ctrl-F) and add… you should
    have deshaker on the list. When selected, press configure. Basically
    you make sure the Pass 1 button is selected, close the dialog, reset
    the play position to the start if it isn’t, and and press Play O to run
    through the pass 1 stage. You’ll see a load of dots on the footage as
    it works out the motion vectors to compensate for.
  • You then repeat the excercise by going back into the
    deshaker filter config, press the Pass 2 button, and Play through
    again, and this time it deshakes the footage. When it’s done you’ll see
    the dramatic difference, and you can save the clip as an AVI.
  • Select Video – Compression, If you want to export to
    QuickTime select uncompressed then Select File – Save as AVI and save
    your video, then follow the directions in the next step to create the
  • You can export the video to XVID format, Select Video –
    Compression and from the list of codecs select XVID MPEG-4 Codec then
    click on File – Save as AVI to save your video.

Encoding a H.264 video in QuickTime MOV format.

  • To create QuickTime MOV video you can use the Squared 5
    MPEG Streamclip software combined with KL QuickTime Alternative. Both
    are freeware.
  • Launch MPEG Streamclip and open the video you want to
  • Click on ‘File’ – ‘Export to QuickTime…’
  • The following screen appears.
  • From the Compression dropdown select the H.264 Encoder.
  • Set the quality between 60 to 80%
  • If your video does not contain sound select ‘No Sound’ from
    the dropdown.
  • Select 24fps for PAL or 30fps for NTSC.
  • Select 1920×1080 (HDTV 1080i) and click ‘Make Movie’
  • That’s it your movie would soon be encoded.

Thats it for Time lapse photography

Filed Under : Photography