How to time lapse, featuring the Artscape set-up

1 Video

So you want to make a time lapse. That’s great. Time lapses usually make for very compelling video. Just look at this 4K time lapse of scenes in Norway. Beautiful, right?

Yours may not look quite that good, but I’m offering some tips on how to most effectively time lapse with a DSLR camera. See below the video.

First, let’s start with equipment. What you need:

  • A DSLR camera, any model will do
  • A tripod, the more secure the better
  • A wide lens, somewhere in the 14mm-35mm range. For the above video I used a Nikon D610 camera with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens

And how about the settings?

  • If your camera has a time lapse setting, you definitely want to use that. It will compile your series of photos almost immediately into a video file. Most DSLR cameras made in the last 2-3 years have a time lapse setting. If you don’t, make sure you set your image size to the smallest possible. This will make things a lot easier when you get to editing.
  • Set the dial to aperture priority. This is really important if you’re shooting an outdoor time lapse. If the sun comes out and you’re in manual, your shots could quickly become over-exposed. Or you’ll have to use the dial on the camera, which could disrupt your time lapse
  • Set your aperture somewhere from f/4 to f/8, and with a low ISO. The combination of these two will help with possible over-exposure, especially if your shutter maxes out at 1/4000. With too much light, you could get over-exposed shots that ruin your time lapse/

Get to the time lapse already, bro

Okay, okay. You first want to determine how long your time lapse is going to be. If it’s going to be a matter of hours, you should set your camera to take a shot every 4-6 seconds. Less than 4 and you’re going too fast; more than 7 or 8, your time lapse is going to take too long.

Say you choose 5 second intervals, an easy number for minute math. That gives you 12 images every minute and 720 each hour. If your completed time lapse runs at 30 frames-per-second, each hour of shooting will yield 24 seconds of condensed time lapse. Or, to get a full minute of time lapse, you need to shoot for about 2.5 hours. Make sense?

The above time lapse was shot in about 5 hours over two days. Each segment was shot for 15-40 minutes, and several parts were condensed to meet the short length of the music.

Speaking of music… Don’t just pick the first thing you find, or the first that comes to mind. Music can make or break a time lapse. If it’s not subject-appropriate, it becomes a distraction. Time lapse music should be repetitive and thematically similar to the topic. And I would shy away from vocals.