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How To Do Time Lapse Photography

We often associate the words “time lapse photography” with photographing the lights of streaking cars at night time. And this is the truth, however there is also another type of “time lapse photography” that isn’t often spoken about. And I’d like to introduce you to it.

Lets look at time lapse photography from a “documentary of life” kind of style. You can create beautiful time lapse photography as you document your child growing up, a plant growing in the garden and anything that represents the passing of time.

Many photographers will assign themselves the task of keeping a photo a day journal of some kind or another. This has resulted in some hysterical and inspiring results. Time lapse photography operates on the same principle with the exception that the shutter might fire more than once a day, and the environment is usually more controlled.

Can you combine them and create a custom form of photography? Absolutely!  Consider the new parent who took pictures of their baby’s feet once a day for the first year of life, or the gardener who kept a stake in the ground to use as the tripod for a single image each day too. These are innovative forms of time lapse photography that must follow the same standards as a traditional approach – the camera is in the same location, the subject is the same each day, and the settings are identical too.

This means that the first step to doing good and valid time lapse photographic work is to establish the setting or the subject. Whether it is the same dressing table, the garden stake, the bird box, or the light box, the exact same location is critical for success. The next thing to determine is the subject matter and how it is going to be recorded. Will there be a single image a day, or will there be several? This is going to also be a significant decision when you consider that someone photographing a flower bulb or a household plant will see changes occur throughout the course of a single day.

Lastly, and most importantly, for the results of the time lapse project to be accurate the photographer must create the same setting and use the same exposure for every image. Whether the camera is on a tripod with a large aperture and slow shutter, or hand-held with a fast shutter and low ISO doesn’t matter, what does matter is that these same settings are in place each time the images are made.

Once the entire series is complete you might want to try putting them through a Photoshop process to see if any sort of animation can come from it. Usually a thirty-second film requires around 720 frames, which means that the single photograph per day series would translate to a fifteen second clip.

It is easy to see that advanced equipment and techniques are not necessary for time lapse photography and that it is a good way to be sure that you get out your camera and take a few pictures each day of the year.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time. DigitalPhotographySuccess.com

Comments (8)

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  1. Connie Buchaka says:

    This has given me some great ideas to photographically document my childrens school times. Thank you Amy!

  2. Adam Jones says:

    Hey Amy, can you also use this for yourself? Like if you want to photograph yourself over a few months?

  3. Cheryl says:

    That’s fascinating about photography and monitoring the changing times photographically- I never knew that. Thanks.

  4. Josh says:

    Can you do this in the garden?

  5. Zachary says:

    Amy I find that time lapse photography can be done really well over the course of a day. Start with taking one subject like a tree or beach ball…anything, and leave it in the one spot, then take a photo every hour as the light changes, and you will see how the light really works throughout the day. This can really only be done on a sunny day with lots of light to monitor the shadow and tone of the photo. Thanks Ames, great post. I really enjoy this blog and love your Ezine.

  6. Matilda says:

    Excellent blog post.

  7. Manny says:

    I wanted to thank you for this great I definitely loved every little bit of this info. I have you bookmarked your web site to check out the latest stuff you post.

  8. Sam says:

    I love the way you write.

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