There’s something exceedingly amazing about professionally done time delay videos. Watching one you can’t help but wonder, how did they do it? Take a look at any time lapse film; a flower blooming, revolution of cloud patterns, ants industriously building a giant anthill, or the construction of a sky scraper. It’s simply magical!

See, time delay photography captures images of an event unfolding at a much lower frequency than the sequence in which it will be played back. Consequently, change that would require hours, days, months and even years to witness can be viewed in a matter of seconds and that is what makes it truly fascinating.

For this reason, the time manipulation filming technique has been actively sought now more than ever before by firms and individuals for a variety of reasons including online marketing, reporting, documentation, self gratification among others. Now, before you embark on this exciting yet challenging task, here’s some handy tips to keep in mind gathered from our years of experience as Australia’s leading time lapse specialists.

  1. Have reliable power backup

Time delay photography depending on the phenomena can take anything from a few hours to years; the camera rolling all this while. It may even be connected to other devices that take in a lot of power such as external intervalometer, tilt pan or slider. This only means your electric and battery powered devices need to have reliable power backup.

While some batteries are built to last long, extras are always a necessity. It would be truly disheartening if battery ran out right in the middle of all the action and you had no replacement.

In addition to having your camera fully charged, you also need to have one or two other fully charged batteries on standby.

For long term time delay photography, invest in a good camera that utilises sustainable power for backup. In the event that there’s an electric power cut, you’d still be filming long before it is rectified. Our cameras for example are solar and AC powered and highly recommended for long term time lapse photography use.

  1. Locate your camera appropriately

Before you start shooting a scene, one of the most crucial pre-shoot preparations is to determine where to fix your tripod or post.

It is better to spend too much time finding the perfect location than get the view all wrong because the camera will be stationed at that position the entire recording. You can’t afford to mess with this one and ruin the entire shoot so take your time.

The same applies to long term outdoor shoots. We spend many days prior to the shoot just to ensure we have the perfect spot. One which satisfies the following requirement; close proximity to power supply, safe distance from the surrounding people, authorised height, proper view of the scene factoring in light and shadows and secure from anything likely to cause it damage.

  1. Match interval lengths to the scene

Deciding on the length of interval in between shots is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of time delay photography even for dedicated photographers as it affects the quality of the final video.

Setting the gap to wide results in a disjointed appearance as some significant change will be missing out. On the other hand, too short intervals will take lots of unnecessary space and place a burden on the final edit.

Scenes that lapse quickly need short intervals to capture these fast changes. For scenes that take a while to notice a transformation for example with construction of a building, keep intervals spread far apart.

  1. Give manual mode and RAW formats preference

Choosing the right camera settings is the holy grail of time delay photography. Professionals give preference to manual mode and RAW formats for a number of reasons.

As the scene keeps transforming you want to keep things such as focus, aperture and shutter speed consistent. This may not be possible if shooting on auto mode as these will keep getting adjusted with every click. The end result will be visual jerk otherwise known as flicker.

Also, to retain original image data and for greater control especially during post production, shoot RAW format as opposed to JPEG.

  1. Take more than enough images

Did you know that not all captured images necessarily end up in the final video? After a time lapse shoot, what follows is a session called post production. This is where all the final editing taking place and incorporation of sounds, music, special effects and everything dramatic. At this point, some images are usually discarded. This can be a problem for you if you have too few.

Approximately how many photos will you need? Do the Math. You need about 30 frames per second of clip. Consider the interval length and intended duration of final video; you should be able to know how many frames are required. Remember, you would rather have more than less.

What’s your favourite time delay photography hack or tip?