Getting started with timelapse Part II of III

6 Sep 2013




In part I of “Getting started with timelapse” we explained a bit more on what timelapse photography is and on the equipment that you need. Now that you understand all this a bit better you need to know how to calculate your your settings before you can start shooting.


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How to calculate and program your camera:

Firstly; you need to know how long do you want to shoot (over what period will the action take place e.g how long will it take from now until the sun sets).

Secondly; how many photos do you want to take? Take note that the amount of photos will indicate your playback time e.g. 25 photos = 1 sec video.

Thirdly; how often do you want to take a photo? Are you shooting fast moving subjects like people or cars or perhaps a slow moving subject like shadows or a flower?

Use this formula to calculate your settings:

Example 1 – shooting a flower opening up over a 3 day period.

3 days x24 hours = 720 hours or 4320 min
Amount of shots / playback time:
20 sec x 25fps = 500 photos
or 500 / 25fps = 20 sec
4320 min / 500 photos = 8,64 min

In other words, to photograph a flower opening up over 3 days with a total playback time of 20 seconds, program your camera to take a photo every 8 min. You will end up taking 500 photos in 4320 min.

Example 2 – when the subject determines your interval (e.g. fast moving clouds).

This time your interval is more important.
Lets say you want to take a photo every 5 secs, then calculate from there how long you will shoot and how many photos you will take, which will determine how long your playback will be.

Interval & Duration:
5 sec interval x 300 photos = 1500 sec or 25min
Amount of shots / playback time:
300 / 25fps = 12 sec

Therefore, to photograph fast moving clouds with an interval of 5 seconds, it will take your camera 25 min (1500sec) to shoot 300 photos for 12 seconds of playback time.

There is a fantastic iPhone app available to save time when making these calculations.

Timelapse Helper does exactly what it says – it helps you to calculate your interval, fps, shooting time, amount of shots and playback time. It’s so simple and easy to use and it’s free!

Shooting with a motorised dolly:

When making use of a timelapse slider or rail, you now have to calculate the desired speed that the camera should move from point A to point B as well as the distance the cart should move between each shot.

Ensure your camera is set to Manual mode – manual shooting and manual focusing! Adjust your ISO, white balance, shutter and aperture accordingly for correct exposure. Make sure you achieve focus and then disable the autofocus completely. When using auto exposure you have no guarantee that the exposure will be consistent throughout your shoot and this will also cause an inconsistency in your exposure, referred to as flicker.

Now sit back and relax while the time is lapsing as you take your sequence of still images.

Once your shoot is complete go back home and transfer your files to your hard drive. Do some editing and output your files as a movie file. There are different ways to do this and so will your results be different too.

In the next blog we will share some basic info on editing and software for timelapse processing. We will also help you in choosing a subject to start shooting your own timelapse. You will get three “assignments” that you can try out for yourself.


The post Getting started with timelapse Part II of III appeared first on ODP Magazine.

About the Author:

Photographer at TIMELAPSE SA Timelapse photographer and Shukuma dolly designer / engineer Joe Louw has been in the photography industry since 1999. Starting out as professional wedding photographers, Joe and his wife Jonelle quickly developed a trustworthy reputation offering quality products in the wedding industry. Their intense passion for nature, along with many journeys traveling to our neighboring countries was the driving force behind their decision to venture into other genres of photography. This also led them to take a break from the wedding industry whilst they became qualified field guides working in the hospitality industry. Along with a passion for photography, Joe has an incredible ability to understand almost all technical fields. He learnt about timelapse photography for the first time in late 2010, and it soon became somewhat of an obsession to know as much as possible about this exciting technique. With timelapse photography came dolly sliders and motion controlled timelapse rigs - and that is how the Shukuma dolly was born. Having recently established Timelapse SA, Joe Louw is the first person to produce motorised timelapse dollies in South Africa. His comprehensive knowledge and experience in timelapse photography allow him to deliver outstanding work. His perfectionistic nature and high standards are the key behind the superb quality of the Shukuma dolly which equals, if not excels, other units available internationally. For details visit

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