Time-Lapse videos are a great way to capture the world around you in action. Shooting time-lapse doesn’t require as much attention as traditional videos or photography do. That and the fact that most modern smartphones and digital cameras are capable of shooting them makes time-lapse an awesome and easy way to bring some diversity into your photography.
We’ll start with a general overview of how to shoot time-lapse videos yourself, and finish with some very impressive examples of these films found on the internet.
How Time-Lapse Videos Work
Time-lapse photography is a technique that records a scene or objects that change at a slow speed and turns it into a video that plays back at high speed.
Essentially, your camera is taking a single frame shot at pre-specified intervals. You end up with a number of pictures spaced apart in a certain sequence. The software then puts them together, which allows you to capture hours worth of photos in a video with a few minutes playtime.
What to Shoot
The easiest way to shoot time-lapse is to have your camera stationary on something that normally moves very slowly (like clouds, snails, or the Russian post office workers!).
Moving cars are also a good choice. As long as there’s a steady source of motion so the change or movement is evident throughout the time — you’re good to go.
You probably already have fun ideas for a time-lapse video in mind, but in case you get stuck here’s a few to get you started:
- Traffic movement
- A busy walking street
- Boats on water
- Ice melting
- Rotting fruit
- Flower blossoming
- Clouds moving
- An artist painting
- Stars movement
The Right Equipment
Android phones made after 2014 and iPhone 5s and up will have a time-lapse feature.
For Android, you’ll need to download an app to unlock time-lapse. A wide choice of apps includes Framelapse, Lapse It, and Time Lapse Camera to name a few. iOS users have it even easier: the feature is built-in to the default Camera app. There are also Pro options for iPhones, like using Frameographer or Hyperlapse. For more options, check out our list of time-lapse apps and programs.
You can also shoot time-lapse with a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR. The latter is a better choice for this particular type of photography, as it has higher output quality and better control.
For a DSLR camera, you’ll need a tripod and a device called intervalometer. The first is essential to make sure your camera is stationary and is taking photos of the exact same location without moving anywhere.
An intervalometer, or a remote control, is a device that allows you to set your camera to hit the shutter button at an interval of your choice. In other words, an intervalometer is there to let you rest aside without having to manually click the shutter button yourself.
Some point-and-shoot cameras already come with a time-lapse function. In that case, you’ll only require a tripod to start shooting. Otherwise, you’ll need to get yourself a time controller device compatible with your camera before you can get started.
They say it’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times. Now that you know the technical methodology behind this photography technique, it’s time to see some of the most incredible examples of time-lapse videos we found online.
1. What Does It Feel Like to Fly Over Planet Earth?
Do you know what it feels like to fly over our entire planet? Watch this breathtaking time-lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station at night to find out. It begins over the Pacific Ocean, then continues to North and South America, hitting the daylight near Antarctica.
2. Landscape Series by Dustin Farrell
This time-lapse made from the stunning landscape shots by Dustin Farell won’t only take your breath away, but might even make you cry.
This particular video is a compilation of two years’ worth of shots of some iconic U.S. landmarks. The complete series can be found on the Dustin’s Vimeo page.
3. Welcome to the Magic: A Disneyland Timelapse
To create A Disneyland Timelapse, Matt Givot and Dan Douglas used over 20,000 images. All to show you the one and only: the Magical Capital. This film is bound to bring back your memories from the time you visited the Walt Disney creation, or make you put it on your bucket list.
4. Mirror City
Michael Shainblum, the creator of Mirror City, says when he first started working on the project he “wanted to create a video that was completely out of the norm”. Mirror City definitely turned out to be something special.
This time-lapse will take you to Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Although, they will be Dr. Strange or Inception version of the cities. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself both mesmerized and lost inside the abstraction of this unique kaleidoscope-like Mirror world.
This six-month time-lapse of New York by Drew Geraci perfectly captures the essence of “the city that never sleeps.” The film will take you around Midtown Manhattan. In only 2 minutes you’ll see 50,000 still shots showcasing the spirit of the city.
6. Macro Timelapse
An amazing example of using a macro photography and a time-lapse technique to shoot nature. What can be more beautiful than the blooming of flowers, or the growth of a young green plant? Daniel Csobot and his film Macro Timelapse give you a truly different perspective on simple things found in nature.
Simon Christen, the author of the project, calls his film “a love letter to the fog of the San Francisco Bay Area”. In order to make “Adrift”, Simon spent two years chasing that fog. Watching those morning and night shots put together will fill your heart with happiness and peace, and your mind with inspiration.
8. Barcelona GO!
A complete opposite to our previous pick, this time-lapse will quench your thirst for dynamic shots of some of the busiest streets of Europe. In only two minutes Rob Whitworth will take you around the bustling city of Barcelona and show you all the fantastic touristy sites one after another.
Our next pick is Snowtime, a microscopic time-lapse by Vyacheslav Ivanov. It’s a beautiful story of how a single snowflake is formed, told in just two minutes. This film will surprise you by how real and unreal these shots feel at the same time.
10. The Longest Way 1.0
Our last pick isn’t a traditional time-lapse video, but a film that definitely deserves your attention. It’s a story of Christoph Rehage, a traveler who walked through China. The whole journey took him one year and 4500km. Watch him transform his appearance by letting his hair and beard grow throughout the travels.
Before You Go…
Having watched those fantastic examples of what a time-lapse video can be, I’m sure you cannot wait to get your hands on a camera and start shooting. Before you do, though, here’s a few more things you should remember.
- Always begin with test shots — These are to ensure you are getting the right angle and composition you want.
- JPG is your best friend — Shoot in the most optimum JPG quality in order to save your disk space.
- Manual mode only — Manual shutter speed, aperture, exposure and white balance will help you avoid the camera trying to adjust itself automatically when the environment gets unexpectedly darker or brighter.
- Bring extra batteries and memory cards — Extra important if you are time-lapsing outdoors.
- Keep an eye on your camera — I know we said time-lapse doesn’t require as much attention as any other type of photography before, but this is common sense.
What Would You Shoot?
Certainly, photography styles like time-lapse or slow motion are very exciting for both amateur and professional photographers. Hopefully, you are now inspired and equipped with the right knowledge to create your own stunning time-lapse!
What would be the subject of your time-lapse video? Which film from our list did you find most inspiring? If you already have experience with time-lapse, share it with us in the comments below!