Shooting Timelapse? Look for Movement in the Shot

One of my favorite styles of photography is timelapse… showing the passage of time through a series of still photos that are then created into a movie.  This is a great way to see time passing.  For example, here is a simple shot I made during my recent trip to Tokyo.

No matter what you are shooting (people, landscapes, nature) you need to remember a core concept.  Time-lapse is all about the movement of the subject within the frame.  You will want to think about how that movement is going to cover up the photographic frame and pull the eye through.

Being able to identify the movement will help you determine the interval setting to use.  The interval is how often you take a picture.  For example, with the street shot above, I was very close to the action with fast moving subjects.  I shot with a one-second interval and combined that with a two-second exposure.  This led to a lot of streaking shots captured with little gap — hence smooth motion.

 © James Bal

© James Bal

On the other hand, if I was shooting a sky and  the clouds barely moving, I’d choose to shoot a longer interval so a sense of drama was created. With experience, you can increasingly make educated decisions about that span between exposures.

Don’t worry, even if you have a little trouble early on, you can just shoot more frames than you need (although this will fill up your camera quicker).  Then in postproduction you can speed up the playback rate.  Just don’t get lazy… you still want to develop your time estimation skills.