Time Lapse: What It Is and How To Do It (Simple Method)

In recent times, countless videos made with a very curious photographic technique called Time Lapse have begun to appear on the Internet, more specifically on pages such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

These are videos of spectacular landscapes or situations in which everything happens very fast. In a few minutes you can appreciate, for example, the sunset, a sunrise or even the course of a whole day.

Have you ever wondered how they do it? Don’t worry, in today’s article I will explain step by step how to do it and what you must take into account so that you can make your first Time Lapse without dying trying.

What is Time Lapse?

Time Lapse is a sequence of photographs taken with a time interval apart from each other and joined, with a video program or software, to create a final video in which the action takes place at a higher speed.

Have you never seen one? Take a look at the following and you will understand better what I am talking about:

Although it may seem like a really new technique, in reality it is not so much since there are short films from the beginning of the century made in Time Lapse to show a slightly faster version of reality.

Timelapse vs Video

Surely you are wondering why take hundreds of photos to make a video if your camera shoots in Full HD? The answer is simple:

The video mode of your camera, despite using the same sensor and filming in Full HD, is much more limited in terms of setting metering and exposure parameters and the resulting quality than if you use your camera simply to take pictures. This means that, no matter how well your camera films, the video modes do not process noise, capture light, or work with the quality with which your camera is capable of taking a picture.

Think about it: A 16-megapixel camera takes photos at a size of 4928 x 3264 pixels while in video mode it is capable of capturing 1920 x 1080 pixels.

If you were thinking of making a video and, using software on your computer, speed it up to achieve the same effect, it is very likely that you will be disappointed when you see it.

Types and uses of the Time Lapse technique

Time Lapse Types

Although you can make a Time Lapse video of anything you can think of, if you take a little time to investigate the different types of videos shared on the Internet, you will see that not all situations are ideal for making a Time Lapse. amazing.

In general, we can say that there are 3 main types of situations with which you can get amazing videos:

  1. Nature Photography: This includes all kinds of flora and fauna that inhabit nature. From the blossoming of a flower to the creation of an anthill.
  2. landscape photography: sunsets and sunrises, storms and lightning, winds, clouds, sun and stars, etc.
  3. Others: everything that does not fit into the two previous classifications but that can be attractive to document: traffic on a street, the construction of a building, and everything in which something attractive is created or transformed over time.

While in the first two classifications (Nature and Landscapes) the fluidity and continuity of the video is key to its impact, in the third (others) it is not so key since it does not matter if you lose some intermediate sequences because what is important is not it is not the evolution but the transformation of the chosen elements.

sunset time lapse

Uses and applications of the Time Lapse

This technique, currently on the rise, is used by many media, agencies and photographers where power is sought:

  • Show long-term events, such as the path of the stars in the sky, in a small short video.
  • Show different subjects moving at different speeds in the same scene.
  • Any other kind of artistic work.
Complete sequence of a Time Lapse

The necessary equipment to make Timelapse

Camera with timer

The key to being able to take this type of photography or video is to have a camera, whether reflex or not, that allows you to take pictures every certain amount of programmable time. In any case, if your camera does not have this option incorporated from the factory, you can try to get an interval timer or external remote shutter.


As you can imagine, the stability of the camera is an essential requirement when making a quality Time Lapse. To achieve this, the ideal is that you get a good and firm tripod. As you gain experience, you may also need a slider base or rail so that you can pan the camera around a scene while still taking pictures steadily. I recommend that you read the following article: “How to Correctly Mount a Tripod” if you do not want to waste hours of work and hundreds of photographs.

By the way, if you are thinking of buying a tripod, do not miss this comprehensive guide with tips and recommendations to find the best one for you.


The lens you are going to use will depend on the scene you are going to photograph. If what you want is to photograph a landscape, it is recommended that you use a wide-angle lens (8 to 25 mm). But for a flower bloom, for example, a macro lens would be ideal. In any case, you can do it with the objective that you have at hand, it does not have to be the most expensive, much less. Although the quality is important, in the Time Lapse it is not so much.

Charged battery

Battery 100% charged and as far as possible, have more than one. If you have a grip that allows you to use more than one battery at the same time, great. Ideally, the photo session ends when you want, not when the batteries have it.

High speed and high capacity memory card

Memory cards of the highest possible capacity and speed. If you run out of space in the middle of a session, you may miss frames crucial to the continuity and fluidity of your final video. It’s better to prevent than to cure.

A good book

Despite being a very exciting process, it is extremely boring. Imagine sitting for 4 hours with nothing to do but listen to the camera shutter snap a picture every 30 seconds. You can go crazy! Take something with you that you can entertain yourself with during the entire shooting process.

Take a good distraction with you

Location and framing

The location you choose to mount your camera on the tripod and the elements you decide to incorporate into the frame to dress up the scene are critical for the resulting Time Lapse to achieve the impact you’re looking for.

Choose your protagonists well and take your time to decide how you will arrange all the elements you have available within the frame to achieve the desired impact. The less you improvise the better. Keep in mind that changing an element of place means redoing hundreds of photographs.

Take your time to study the location and framing well.

Location and framing are critical

How to make a Time Lapse

Once you have arrived at the place you chose to take the shots, you will not only have to place the tripod and the camera in place, but you will also have to adjust all the parameters of the camera to take each of your photographs. That is, make a good measurement and exposure of the scene to be photographed, and then configure the interval timer so that it automatically takes a photograph every so often.

Depending on the scene you are going to photograph, the interval between each photograph will vary:

  • If you want to photograph a sunrise, for example, it is recommended that you use an interval of approximately 30 seconds since the sun will not vary much in position between one and the other.
  • On the other hand, if what you want to photograph is a highway full of cars, it would be advisable to use a much shorter time interval, otherwise the jumps in continuity and the fluidity of the resulting video would be too noticeable. Try to use intervals of 5 seconds or less.
  • To make a Time Lapse of a landscape or a starry sky, as fluidity is essential, you should use a much smaller time interval between shots, from 1 to 5 seconds. However, these are general recommendations. Do all the necessary tests until you reach the result you are waiting for.

shooting mode

Although I always recommend using the manual mode to take each and every one of your photographs, in this particular case and depending on the duration of the video, it is recommended that you use the aperture priority mode. Why? The “amount of light” available in a scene can vary from its beginning to its end, so if you use manual mode, you should adjust the exposure according to the moment. Instead, using aperture priority mode, once the required depth of field is set, the camera will adjust the exposure automatically.

Light changes throughout the day


The ideal format to work in photography is the digital negative or RAW because it stores in each file all the information of the shot for later post production. Now, in a Time Lapse that lasts several hours, shooting in RAW can consume all the memory of your camera, not to mention its battery. I recommend you shoot in JPG mode. After all, after a session of more than 300 photos, the process of developing the digital negative could take forever.

equipment life

If you have a reflex camera, I regret to inform you that they are not immortal. In fact, using the Time Lapse technique will cause your camera to wear more than normal. Unfortunately, photo by photo your camera will slowly approach its sad end: the funeral. According to manufacturers, the life expectancy of most DSLRs is around 100,000 shots depending on the manufacturer and camera model.

This is why you must carry out a serious planning process in order to waste as few photographs as possible when taking your shots, since after a long Time Lapse session, you will have consumed a small but important portion of the life of your camera.

Don’t despair! 100,000 photographs may not seem like much, but it is not: take a look at the following article and you will understand it better: “The Life Expectancy of your Camera”. And if what you want is to prolong its useful life as much as possible, follow the following recommendations: “The Complete Guide: Cleaning Tips For SLR Cameras”.

Be careful and make sure everything is perfectly adjusted

Steps to get a Time Lapse

Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to take your things and start making your first Time Lapse. Sure, after reading the following…