How to create a time-lapse video using a DSLR

Time-lapse videos are becoming more popular, more creative, and are getting a ton of attention these days. A quick search on Vimeo for time lapse videos will turn up thousands of videos, some of which have racked up millions of views, for just the one video alone.

If you want to try putting together a time-lapse video of your own, we’ve put together a guideline of all the things you’ll need from start to finish to set up your shots, take them, and finally stitch them into an impressive video, set to the soundtrack of your choice.

Deciding what you’re going to shoot

The first step is obviously figuring out what kind of time-lapse you want to create. Maybe you’re at a vantage where you can take shots of a city skyline or a beautiful landscape as the sun sets and rises, or you’re attending an event and want to document a hall as it fills up and empties. Other ideas for time-lapse videos include taking one photo day of yourself for a year, taking photos of a plant as it grows, or wilts, or a public spot with a lot of movement and bustle like a city street, a subway station, there’s really no limit.

You can choose to make the video entirely of one scene, or like in some of the examples below, put together a compilation taken from different places and

If you’re in need of inspiration, it’s always a good idea to check out time-lapse videos on Vimeo and YouTube to get a sense for what’s out there, and we’ve also put together a list of our favourite time-lapse videos which you can find at the end of this post.

Setting your video up

To create a time-lapse video using your DSLR camera you’re going to need a few extras to get your camera to fire off shots at small intervals. We’ve put together a short list of must-haves when using your DSLR camera:

Depending on what you’ve decided to shoot, you might need to get a tripod in place so that you can get the exact angle or shot that you’re hoping for.

If you’re planning to shoot a time-lapse video from a high-rise building, you might want to use a Lens Skirt or something similar to avoid reflections in your night time shots.

Get your camera ready

Now that you know your interval, you’ll want to get all the settings on your camera right, set the camera to take shots at the calculated interval, and take a few test shots. A few things to keep mind include:

  • Turn off auto white balance ¨C you can use either a custom setting or one of your camera’s presets.
  • Make sure your battery is fully charged and that there’s enough space on your memory card.
  • In order to deal with changing light conditions, aperture priority is the best option to ensure your photos come out looking good.
  • Select a shutter speed that works well with movement ¨C in other words make sure it isn’t too fast. This is an important setting to test before leaving your camera to do it’s thing.

There are several ways you can get your camera to take shots at specified intervals. Some Nikon users should be able to set their camera up natively without the need for any additional tools. Under the Shooting Menu, Nikon users will find a setting, ¡®Interval Timer Shooting’ where you can determine how long the camera will wait between each shot.

Calculating your interval

Now that you know what you’re going to use to take the photos for your time-lapse video, you’ll need to determine how you want the video to look.

For a smooth looking video, we’ll need a short interval but to determine that exact figure, a little mathematical equation will do the trick.

Depending on your preference, you can either decide on a specific interval and then calculate how long your final video will be, or determine how long you want the final video to be and then calculate the interval.

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