This is part 6 of a series on timelapse photography.

Generally you’re going to avoid shooting in an Automated mode like Program, Shutter Priority, or Aperture Priority.  You need to shoot manual to really control the camera. Let’s briefly revisit the Exposure triangle:


  • Aperture. Remember the aperture is the size of the opening in your lens. And generally speaking, you’re going to adjust this based upon the environment. If shooting mountain ranges or fields, I’m going to go down to a very small aperture, maybe F16. So there’s a greater depth of field. Aperture is a stylistic decisions, but you will also use it as a control method, to control how much light hits the sensor. And, if you can’t get it with aperture, remember you can always add a Neutral Density Filter.
  • Shutter Speed.  The shutter is the second component of the exposure triangle. Now, with shutter speed, you have to decide if you’re using it for technical or artistic purposes. A short shutter (1/125 or faster) will depict motion that is sharp and staccato in its movement.  A longer shutter (1/30 or less) will progressively elongate and stretch movement. You might use it to freeze the action. Maybe you want a very staccato type look, or to streak things out. For most of my time-lapse shooting, I use a slower shutter speed to get a lot of drama in the shot. So, by using that, that’s going to let more light into the camera. So, balancing that out, you’re going to have to make some adjustment.
  • ISO. The ISO setting is the general sensitivity of your sensor. You can increase this, so it’s more susceptible to light. However, as you bring it up, you’re going to add noise to the shot. I use ISO as the third adjustment to make, so I can refine my exposure. If the ISO is too high, I’m going to get noise. Now I could clean that up in post-processing, but it leads to extra work. I recommend you keep your ISOs relatively low. If you can’t pull that off, the good news is, is that you can use things like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to clean it up, but don’t go too aggressive.


Organizing Media

Once down shooting, you need to get your selects made.  I generally employ a base level of organization at the Operating System level to avoid importing everything.  Then I tend to favor Bridge as a way to avoid overstuffing my Lightroom catalog.  If you’re only a Lightroom user, feel fee to import, but I recommend using smaller catalogs for timelapse projects.

The essentials steps are:

  • Transferring. Get the images onto a fast drive.
  • Ranking. Make your selects of which scenes are good candidates to process.
  • Sorting. Remove images you don’t want to get just the best left.  Consider grouping images into subfolders.
  • Previewing. Do a rough assembly of your files to judge quality.
  • Renaming Files. Make sure there is no gap in numbering.  Also consider renaming with a descriptive name to avoid potential duplication in your catalog.
  • Develop Files. Process the files.  Even if using JPEG, consider the Camera Raw engine so things can be synced.
  • Export an Image Sequence. Export the files to a target directory
  • Assemble. Build the timelapse movie with an editing tool, Photoshop, or After Effects.

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