8 Tips for Smarter Time Lapse

Time-lapse photography is both surreal and beautiful. Two of our field agents, Jarad Switzer and Derrick Lytle, are veritable masters of the craft. Taking a break from capturing stars and sunsets, the duo gives us 8 pointers for the aspiring time-lapser.

1. Gear up

An SLR (digital or analog) with an intervalometer and a sturdy tri-pod is the ideal time-lapse set up. If a solid camera cuts too steeply into your breakfast burrito budget, plenty of less expensive point-and-shoot options and GoPros include a built in Time Lapse mode that does most of the work for you! These options offer way less control in post-editing, however.

2. Plan ahead

Decide what the final composition will look like ahead of time. How long will your clip be? How fast is stuff changing in the frame? If you’re not sure, shoot in faster intervals and remove the extra shots later. Get to your location with enough time to frame your composition. Haste makes crappy time lapses or something like that.

3. Do the math

To really plan out the timing of your composition, think in terms of video Frames Per Second (FPS). Most video runs at 24 or 30 fps, so at 24 fps, 240 pictures equates to 10 seconds.

4. Oh baby I like it RAW

Shoot in RAW on your camera’s full manual setting so that all of your images are exposed identically. This will make a HUGE difference when you want to make the pinks really pop in that 15-second sunset clip you captured.

5. Use a frickin’ tri-pod

Seriously. While we all agree the makeshift platform you constructed from stones, a guide book, and your turkey sandwich is impressive, a gust of wind WILL knock it over. And even if it doesn’t, what happens when lunchtime rolls around?

6. Patience

It can be pretty boring waiting around for 8 hours to produce a 20-second clip. Entertain yourself with snacks, games, bouldering, puppies, whatever. Just don’t get too distracted. The only thing worse than waiting around for your time-lapse to finish is discovering that the lens cap is still on at hour 6.

7. Make it move

A little motion can turn a time-lapse from interesting to amazing. This can be done in post with a sort of Ken Burns effect, or during the shoot using a slider. I’ve even mounted my GoPro to an egg timer to achieve a makeshift rotational movement effect.

8. Be prepared

This goes without saying, but with such long shooting intervals, changing weather becomes a huge concern for both you and your camera gear. Make sure to pack the right Mountain Standard threads to keep you warm, dry, and happy!

You're officially on your way to making gorgeous time-lapse videos of your own! For more inspiration, check out more awesome photography and time-lapse from Jarad and Derrick


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