My Timelapse Jitters, Shakes, or Sinks

The camera seems to move during the shot somehow like this:

This means that some part of your shooting platform is not solid.  Here are some places to check:

The tripod is not sturdy enough. Just because it’s been trusty and stable for still photography does not mean your tripod will work well for timelapse.  You need a tripod or other platform that can hold up to some wind; it needs to have some physical weight to it. Even gentle breezes can cause jitter with expensive but light hiking tripods! If you can’t get a solid tripod – collapse yours so it’s short and close to the ground to get it at its most stable position.  Fully extended tripods are generally less stable.

The ground below the tripod moved on its own. You really need to make sure your tripod has a solid footing that is settled before a shot begins. Push down on your tripod to confirm the footing and that it isn’t on something soft like dry sand or a rotten log.  Sometimes soft ground will lead to jitter or ‘sinking’ as your tripod settles.  Also, if your tripod is unbalanced the wind can rock it between shots on unstable rocks or ground.

You moved the ground below the tripod. Walking by or standing near your camera during a shot is a no-no!  Be especially careful if you’re working on sand or other soft surfaces.  Just because it doesn’t seem like you move the camera at the time doesn’t mean it won’t end up in a rendered shot.

Because your ball head wasn’t locked down. Make sure that everything is locked down tight; make sure your quick release plate is strongly attached to the camera. A loose ball head is a common cause of a ‘sinking’ shot.

Because the wind is too strong. Usually not a good excuse, it just accentuates existing flaws in the tripod or ground   I’ve only ever encountered a few shots where the wind was actually too much for a solid tripod with solid footing; usually the setup is to blame. But it can happen!

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