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.


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