Create A Time Lapse Video In 5 Easy Steps

Time lapse is a creative technique that distorts time. Highlight the stunning beauty of a metropolitan cityscape, the frenetic pace of people walking on the street, or the ever-changing light all at warp speed. Turn the ordinary into something exciting and extraordinary. Watch the black of night rapidly transform into the shimmering light of morning. Shooting time-lapse is fun and easy once you get the hang of it. In fact, once you do, you’ll be hooked. Learn how to create a time lapse video in 5 easy steps.

blue and pink time lapse video

What Is Time Lapse?


A time-lapse video is the opposite of a slow-motion video. In this type of video, a series of still images are taken, and then artificially sped up to create a seamless video where time appears to be moving very quickly, distorting the perception of time. As an example, we all know how long it takes the sun to set. In a time lapse, this process can happen in a mere ten seconds.

Any moving subject is appropriate for time-lapse, such as people walking through the city, children playing at the park, a plant swaying in the wind, or the tide rolling in. Typically, the camera is stationary, but I know some photographers who like to move around when shooting stills for time-lapse.

Time lapse is also great for detailing processes that take place over a period of time. For instance, an artist beginning and finishing a painting or the moon rising over the mountains.

What Equipment Do You Need?


  • Camera: You can use your DSLR,  any compact camera, or smartphone to shoot a time-lapse video.
  • Tripod: You’ll definitely need a tripod, especially when using a DSLR. You can use a shoulder pod to attach your phone to the tripod.
  • Intervalometer: This is an advanced shutter release timer that will trigger your camera’s shutter to whatever firing frequency you choose. This is an invaluable tool for time-lapse as it allows for hands-free shooting, and allows you to be in the video if you so choose. Some cameras, like Nikons, have built-in intervalometers, but unfortunately, Canon DSLRs do not. In this case an external intervalmeter must be used. Check this one out. If you’re using your iPhone, all you need to do is utilize the time-lapse setting in your camera app.
  • Time Lapse Video Software: You’ll need editing software to assemble your photographs into the proper sequence and set the frame rate. I’ll go into more detail on software below. During the editing process is when you’ll add your music, making your video super fabulous.

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How To Create A Time Lapse Video


1. The first step is to determine the subject of your video: What do you want to photograph? Content will always be key in a time-lapse so make sure it’s great and that your subject is moving.

2. Select your location: Do you want to capture people, cars, boats, or animal? Choose your subject, then go where they are.

3. Stabilize your camera or phone with a tripod: Like all still shots, pay attention to your exposure, composition, and lighting. Use a small F-stop for time-lapse. F/18-F/22 are ideal, ensuring the entire frame is in focus, and allowing for the slowest shutter speed possible. I like shooting in manual mode to correctly dial in exposure.

The longer the shutter speed, the more motion blur your images will have, and the more smoothly they’ll blend together. Your ISO should be at a low setting to eliminate noise and grain, and  allow for the slowest shutter speed possible. Of course, if you’re shooting at night, your shutter speed will be very slow. To compensate, your ISO will need to be quite high at around 2000.

For sunset and sunrise shots, use the aperature priority mode on your camera. This way you can set the aperture, letting your camera automatically choose the shutter speed depending on the changing light. And like always, either custom white balance your camera or use the camera white balance setting most appropriate for your lighting.

4. Now it’s time to use your intervalometer: Plug in your external intervalometer or use your camera’s built-in one. Choose an interval based on the motion of your subjects. The faster the motion, the faster the interval. The intervals can start at two seconds and go all the way to 30-second intervals. When set, press start, and take your first photo. All your subsequent photos will be taken at this chosen interval.

5. Shooting your time-lapse according to how long you want your video to be: How many photos should you aim for? Here’s a general rule of thumb when trying to figure out how long your camera should run. Let’s say you set your intervals to five seconds. Multiply five by four and you get 20. You’ll need to let your camera shoot for 20 minutes to get the required number of photos for your time-lapse. We’re talking about 200 + photos for length video. Keep in mind, the less time between your shots, the smoother your video will be.

The goal is to choose an interval that won’t produce too many pictures, but will shoot enough images that your final video will be at least 15 seconds. To give you a feel for timing, a clip that is 25 seconds long will require a full 30 minutes of shooting at an interval of 12 seconds. Think how many pictures will be taken during that half hour time frame – a whole lot! A good rule of thumb is to shoot more images than you think you’ll need.

Time Lapse Video Software


There are a variety of software options available for editing time-lapse. Lightroom, iMovie, QuickTime Pro, and Picasa are all easy-to-use platforms especially if you’re using a DSLR. Picasa and iMovie are free to use for Mac users. QuickTime Pro will run you $29.99, and works for both Mac and Windows. Lightroom is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud, and costs $9.99 a month. Most likely you already have this program if you’re a professional photographer.

I love Lightroom because you can batch edit all your pictures, saving a ton of time and effort. All time-lapse images should be set to 1-frame each, and the timeline set to 24 frames per second.

And for you Windows users out there, you can use Windows Movie Maker at no charge. The interface is intuitive, making it easy to customize the parameters, and publishing your video is a cinch. Filmora Video Editor is also a great choice if your making time-lapse videos. The drag-and-drop feature, animated titles, filters, overlays, motion graphics, and other special effects make it simple to customize your video, sharing it directly to YouTube, Vimeo, an Facebook.

Lapse It is a widely used IOS app for editing time-lapse on your iPhone. You can view a tutorial of Lapse It here. The free version is ok, but ideally you’ll want to pay $2.99 for the premium app. You’ll then have access to all the amazing options and features you’ll need to make an awesome video. Customize the frames per second, resolution, audio, and codec. There are other time-lapse apps, but Lapse It is a popular one.

Key Points


Time lapse is a creative way to turn your still images into dynamic, moving pictures. Transform the mundane into something truly magnificent by distorting time, changing the way every day scenes are typically viewed. Making a time-lapse video is cinematic creativity at its finest. If you haven’t dabbled in this type of video creation, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is.

Have you shot time-lapse before? Let me know in the comments:)

6 thoughts on “Create A Time Lapse Video In 5 Easy Steps”

  1. Great Post! I have seen this button on my phone before and messed around with it for a bit. It is always nice to learn how to use things properly from people who know how to use them properly. I like the sunset time lapse or fast motion video. I think these types of the video are very powerful.

    The reason I say this is because they can remind us of how short life really is. If slow mo can make us feel immortal, time lapse makes us realize how fleeting time is. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between the two.

    I will definitely be using this feature a lot more than to you.

    Reply
    • Nice thought Renton. Time lapse is reminiscent of how fleeting time is. Your reflection made me think. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  2. Many thanks to you for sharing such a wonderful article with us.Your article is really great. I like to watch videos like this because I think videos they have a very strong impact and reminds us of how slow life really should be. We need to understand how much time is worth, and it was from this thought that I wanted to make a video like this and I did it and I succeeded. 

    I have a DSLR camera and I shoot with it and use the aperture priority mode for sunset and sunrise. Time Lapse Video Software I like is Lightroom because it saves a lot of time and effort to edit all the pictures. I was able to use Windows Movie Maker for free for Windows users. All in all, I was able to create A Time Lapse Video and gained a lot of knowledge by making this video .

    Lastly, I hope that everyone who reads your article, and will learn a lot and will share their new experiences with you soon.

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading my timelapse tutorial. Timelapses are fun to watch, aren’t they?!

      I shoot with a DSLR as well, although I typically use manual mode. I agree with you about Lightroom, it’s a great program for quick editing. Awesome job on creating a timelapse video. I bet it’s amazing!

      Reply
  3. Great post with some VERY useful information.  I am an aspiring YouTube content creator and I am always looking for ways to make my videos stand out amongst the millions of other videos like it.  I think adding time lapse would be a great way to do this.  Thank you for explaining how to make it happen. I will be attempting this on my BLU G9 smartphone.  

    I recently purchased this phone because it has the four cameras, and the reviews were great for those who have tested the camera and video on it.  I also wanted to buy something that was budget friendly because I am way too rough on my gadgets and end up having to replace them sooner than later! Anyway, is there an editing software for Android you would recommend for video editing and adding time-lapse footage?  

    Thanks for your time!

    Reply
    • Hi Ashley,

      Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. I know what you mean about wanting to make your YouTube videos stand out. I struggle with that as well. Timelapse is engaging and fun. I enjoyed writing a post about it.

      I’m not familiar with the BLU G9 smartphone, but it sounds amazing if it has four cameras. I get about being rough on your gadgets and wanting them to be budget-friendly. Check out ActionDirector for Android. It’s a popular video editing app that’s available on Android. Thanks so much for leaving a comment:)

      Reply

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