Digital Arts

Tip of the week /Time-lapse photography


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Time-lapse photography is a cinematography technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured is much lower than that which will be used to play the sequence back. Put this simply: Time lapse photography is when a photographer takes several hundred pictures while locked down on a tripod over the course of about half an hour.  Then, the pictures are replayed in fast forward so time is compressed.  You have undoubtedly seen time lapse videos before, but you may not be sure how to do it.  Have no fear…  this little guide will show you how.
*You can do timelapse photography with a normal DSLR camera (

1.Choose your subject.
probably have some brilliant ideas already in mind for what to shoot in time-lapse form. Here are a few suggestions to get you involved :

1.Grass growing, seeds growing
2.Sunrises or sunsets
3. A busy city street over a day’s time
4. Opening of flower buds (basically any form of nature)
5 . The desert sky (stars!), or other natural landscapes
6. A self-portrait as you age over a number of years
7 . Life cycle of a tree over a year’s period

2.Figure everything out.

how long you’re willing to shoot for?how long you want your final movie to be, and based on all of that, how often (at what interval) you’ll want to take photos of the event.
Ask yourself how long you can go between photos while still documenting the action of the event; Most movies show around 20-30 frames per second; the more frames per second, generally the smoother the movie will play back .If we’re going to make E.T.’s flower come back to life, we’ll want it to be shown at around 24 fps(frames per second) and be smooth…Now to find out how often (at what interval) we need to shoot frames of a flower decaying (we’ll play the final movie in reverse to make it look like it’s coming back alive). 

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4. Shoot your still photographs.
It really doesn’t matter what you shoot your time-lapse photos with, as long as you shoot them — we’ve seen people use SLRs, point-and-shoot cameras, and webcams.
Whatever you use, we recommend you camera on a tripod.(If you don’t have a tripod, wedge your camera between a couple books ;-)
Set your camera to record JPG, to save on space. (Each photo is only on screen a small time anyway.)

Set your camera’s white balance to manual — auto-white balance can change , especially if you’ll be shooting something for a while and the light gets brighter or dimmer over time. Setting it to manual helps ensure all your photos keep the same look.
 Set your camera’s exposure manually — for most of the same reasons, you’ll want to take your camera’s exposure off automatic as well.

The idea is that your camera’s settings should change as little as possible while it’s doing its thing.
surprisingly, using a web-camera with your computer might just be the easiest route to take, thanks to some very nifty software.
For Mac, there’s the unbelievably cool freeware program Gawker. It immediately recognizes any iSight or web-cam on to your computer, or even better, on any computer on your network, and after specifying an interval for it to take new shots at, gives you one-button time-lapse recording from that iSight. Even better, you can also combine views from multiple iSights or web-cams into a single, split-screen time-lapse video or you could even use your computer desktop and what you’re doing on it as a source for your time-lapse.
For PCs, Webcam Timershot, part of Microsoft’s PowerToys package of free add-on software, does much the same as Gawker ( having the option to record your desktop): specify an interval, and Webcam Timershot will take pictures from your web-cam and save them to a location you choose.

15. Edit your photos in Photoshop (Optional).
16. Assemble all your photos together into a video.
Use Quicktime Pro to Assemble Your Photos Into a Movie
Underneath the File window of Quicktime, select “Open Image Sequence”, then navigate to the folder with your photos and select the first one. Hit okay, and then QuickTime will ask you how many frames-per-second you want your movie to have. QuickTime will do all the rest for you.
From here, you can export it for the web or save it so that you can add titles, music, and other effects to it in a movie editing program.Or: Assemble Your Movie with iMovie or Another Application

We found Quicktime Pro to be the best and easiest for this, but you can also accomplish pretty much the same thing in other video editing programs. To use iMovie, for instance, import all your photos into iPhoto. Once you have a new project started in iMovie, find your photos in the Media window, select them all (either by clicking and dragging your mouse or selecting the first photo and holding shift as you then select the last one too, all the ones in between should also be selected), and then open the Photo Settings for them. Set the duration for each photo to a nice small number, like “0:04″, this will play each photo for 4 frames, adjust to your liking, and push ' Apply' button to be done!
The photos will be added to your movie’s timeline and you’ll have the beginnings of a swanky time-lapse video.
17. Edit your video, add titles, music
After you have a time-lapse movie file, import it into iMovie or Final Cut Pro if you’re a Mac fan, or Windows Movie Maker or Adobe Premiere if you’re running Windows.
Add some music and titles, and you’re ready to show off your final movie!
You might also want to try some effects,over your finished time-lapse movie, to add motion and hone in on what’s interesting.

*Put the camera on a tripod or some other support, make sure the tripod is exactly in the same location every day (making a mark on the floor with some tape can help)
*see also

While doing timelapse photography, keep these tips in mind:

As explained earlier, manual mode is best, since your camera won’t adjust itself according to the light, and you get a true picture. Manual mode is for everything: ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and white balance.
Auto focus once before you start shooting, and then change the focus to manual. This keeps the camera from auto focusing after every shot and saves battery time.
Motion and composition are two of your basic points while making a timelapse video. Make sure you anticipate the movement of your subject and compose your shot so that the change in movement as time passes falls within your frame.
Tripod safety is an important point to note. Keep the trigger wire safely fastened by using Velcro. Avoid long cords dangling in the wind...
Keep the music you’ll use in mind. Choose something that goes with your subject and is pleasing to the ears.
If you’re considering a hiking spot for the shoot, download Google maps and use offline maps to avoid getting lost on your way. Or totally avoid this tip and have a mini adventure!
Keep a flashlight handy for nighttime shooting.

Timelapse photography is an exciting and beautiful concept.


about 3 years ago

Again, thank you very much for all the tips and explanations, Angelina! I had tons of fun doing the Stop Motion Exercise and I bet I'll have the same fun in doing this! :D

Many Thanks Eunice :-) I am glad you are enjoying the course ! cannot wait to see the result ;-) Greetings from Athens **

about 3 years ago

Is this exercise for chapter 3?

Take your time Tasneem. You do not need to do this exercise right away

about 3 years ago

Ok thank you so much,
This is the most enjoyable course in MOOCs!
Greetings from Syria :D

Many thanks Tasneem. Hope you are well and safe ☺take care! Enjoy the course!

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