Day Timelapse Tips

One of the big myths of timelapse is that you need super expensive DSLRs and lenses to even get started. In fact – you can get away with lower-cost gear for timelapse than you can for regular photography. Why? Even a 5 year old Canon T2i crop frame APS-C DSLR takes stills well in excess of the UHD 4k resolution the next generation of screens top out at! This clip from my Discover Oregon Trailer was done with a T2i and an 18-55mm stock lens:

What’s important is the camera’s ability to shoot in RAW – preserving color data so that you can perfect a shot in post – and have the ability to mount a manual lens so that you have full control over the timelapse.  My current main timelapse camera is a full frame Canon 6D with quality Rokinon glass for most of my shots. There are certainly advantages to newer full frames (wider shots, more frames per second, better performance at night) – but for DAYTIME shots, the advantages are not as obvious as at night.  I still bring along the old T2i for B shots.  Sony cameras are great too, but there’s less native glass out there for them. If you’re just starting out – you might consider getting ether a T6i or 6D:

The key to a great day timelapse is for the camera to take pictures at intervals far enough apart to see some movement – but close enough together for the footage to stay smooth. There’s really an art to this and you’re going to need to practice! You’ll also need to know the look you’re going for – keeping in mind four things contribute to the speed of your shot and how smooth it is:

1.  How fast your subject is moving

2. How long each timelapse interval is between shots

3. How much you drag each frame in relation to that interval

4. The focal length of your lens (Wide=Slow; Zoom=Fast)!

My goal is usually to have things appear as smooth as possible.  For slow subjects like clouds shot with a wide angle, they move so slow you usually won’t need to drag the shutter with an ND filter.  However, I find that ND filters are something you’ll want for faster subjects (such as a car or a person) if you don’t like the shot to look jumpy.  I’ll throw some examples of timings I use below:

Clouds and mist: any shutter speed

Fast clouds (they’re cruising or you’re using a zoom): 1s intervals, any shutter speed

Average speed clouds (easy to see movement): 2-3s intervals, any shutter speed

Slower changes (ie shadows & sun moving): 6s intervals, any shutter speed

Fast subjects (cars and people): 2s intervals, .5-1s drag shutter, usually requires ND filter

Continue to Night Timelapse