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Mirrorless Camera Maniac: You Should Shoot More Time-Lapse

From what I can tell by looking at specifications online and from my own experience, it looks like all the mirrorless camera manufacturers have made shooting time-lapse videos pretty simple. I know that all of my Lumix cameras can shoot time-lapse sequences. Time-lapse means that the camera automatically takes a picture at a set interval, like every two seconds, and then you can compile them together into a video using Lightroom or Photoshop or QuickTime or many other applications. The video shows the passage of time much faster than reality and it looks really cool.

Stills and Video

Many cameras can shoot at an interval and let you keep the still images and they can compile a video in the camera, too. This is terrific because you can share the video right away and you’ll often find that many of your still shots will make terrific photographs on their own.

The great thing about having the still photos (my camera shoots them as RAW files) is that you can finish them all to look their best before making the video. Bryan Esler wrote an article this week all about how to shoot time-lapses and then he demonstrates how to use Lightroom to compile the video using a template from Sean McCormack–check it out right here.

This is a picture I pulled from a time-lapse I shot the other day.

Handy Settings for Time-Lapse Videos

There are a couple of things you need to every time you shoot a time-lapse. First of all, use autofocus to get the scene in focus, but then make sure that you switch to manual focus when you begin the interval. If you leave the camera on autofocus, it will search for focus before every shot, and that means it may even find something else to focus on between shots and that makes the video look bad–it looks like a flicker.

Similarly, you need to switch to manual exposure mode, otherwise, a cloud passing over the sun will change the exposure in one of the automatic modes and that will make the picture seem to flicker as the brightness changes.

Your camera normally makes pictures in either a 2:3 ratio or a 4:3 ratio, but videos will be cropped to 16:9, which is a much more panoramic shape than you usually shoot in. That means you need to plan for that crop when you compose your picture. I change my camera’s ratio to 16:9 to shoot time-lapses, but you could also switch to video mode to compose your picture and then switch back to your usual ratio. You may find that your camera, like mine, will give you the full uncropped RAW file even though it shows cropped in the viewfinder.

Here are some intervals you might find useful when making time-lapses.

  • Fast clouds: 1 shot every 3 seconds
  • Slow clouds: 1 shot every 5 seconds
  • People walking in a crowded place: 1 shot every 2 seconds
  • Plants unfurling in the morning sun: 1 shot every 10 seconds

Here’s a time-lapse I made of fog rolling past trees on a mountain top. I use Perfectly Clear to finish the photos before I used Photoshop to compile the time-lapse:

 

Conclusion

Making time-lapse videos is fun and it opens your eyes to a different world and I think you’ll realize movement in things you previously thought stationary. The best thing to do is to practice the settings in your home before you go to some incredible view and fumble around and miss the moment. I can’t wait to see what you make.

The Mirrorless Camera Maniac publishes each week–check them out right here.

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