Timelapses are really cool ways to show time progression and I love to create one or two in every city I travel to. Over the summer, I had a short stay at the Westin Buckhead in Atlanta and shot a really cool timelapse of car streaks outside the hotel. It didn’t take long and was a lot of fun to produce.

What You’ll Need

  • Camera with a wide-angle lens
  • Intervalometer (Unless your camera has one built in. I like TriggerTrap)
  • Tripod
  • Extra batteries

Step One – Find a great location

Just like with an individual photo, you have to compose a great shot for a time lapse to look great. I walked around for a few minutes handholding my camera trying to find the perfect framing. Once you find the perfect spot, go ahead and set up your tripod.

Step Two – Set up your camera

With the camera on the tripod, now it’s time to dial in the settings. I shoot everything in manual mode so that it stays consistent frame to frame – even manual focus and manual white balance. We’re using a tripod, so we can keep the ISO pretty low. Its okay if the shutter duration is several seconds. I chose to leave it at ISO 200. For the aperture, I wanted a lot of the frame to be in focus, so I’m shooting at f5.6. That leaves the shutter speed to streak the car lights, we need a slower shutter speed, something around 1/2 a second or slower.

Let’s go ahead and set the white balance to manual mode. I like to use Kelvin, and will switch the camera to Live View mode as I dial in the right value. Using a manual white balance allows for consistent color throughout the series of photos were shooting for a timelapse. With auto white balance, you run the risk of color flickering when we put the final video together.

If you’re not already, make sure you’re shooting raw images so we have the most flexibility in post to edit with.

Step Three – Set our Interval

Once you have your camera set, next we need to set our timelapse interval. If our shutter is a 1/2 second, then our interval can be about 3-5 seconds. The key is to pick an interval that allows the camera to capture an image, write it to the card, and stabilize itself before taking the next shot. Too quick of an interval and your buffer will fill up fast or you could introduce some camera shake. The interval could be longer than 5 seconds, but I didn’t want to stand outside for too long.

Step Four – Shoot Away

Everything is set. Make sure the camera is locked down on the tripod and focus is set. Take a few sample images and make sure everything looks good. If youre satisfied, go ahead and start shooting.

How Many Frames do I need?

When we put the timelapse together in post production, we have to make sure there are enough images for a decent length movie. Playing back at 30 frames per second, we need to shoot 300 images for a 10-second movie.

Putting It Together

Once we get all of the images back to the computer, its time to batch process the raw files and get them edited down into a final video. Rich Harrington has a great post about assembling your final timelapse movie inside Photoshop here.