DPP Home Technique Camera Technique Time-Lapse Primer

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Time-Lapse Primer

Preston Kanak takes us through the skills, steps and gear to making your first time-lapse

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Menu screens from Canon and Nikon DSLRs show the best image-quality settings to use.
>>White Balance. Ensure the white balance is also set to manual. Your shooting location and time of day will determine your white balance. Although it's not 100% important to nail your white balance when shooting RAW, it's good to get in the habit of setting it. As a point of reference, daylight is ~5600K and tungsten is ~3200K. When shooting astro time-lapses, I tend to lean closer to 3200K, but I highly recommend taking a few test shots to see what you like best.

Some cameras have intervalometers built in. If yours doesn't, you'll need to purchase an external unit. Above: The Hähnel Giga T Pro II lets you control the camera wirelessly.
>>How Much Is Important. Once you've set all the internal settings on the camera, you'll need to determine what you want your aperture to be. Most lenses have a sweet spot, and I highly recommend testing out its full range of apertures to find out where the sharpest point of your lens is. When choosing what aperture to use, this will depend on what you're shooting. Keep in mind that you'll introduce flicker if you have your lens stopped down unless you use the "lens-twist method" to lock out your aperture blades. If you want to drag your exposure during the day, I recommend using ND filters rather than stopping your lens down completely. If shooting astro time-lapses, you'll more than likely want to shoot wide open.

>>Smooth Like Silk. One of the last settings to determine is shutter speed. Set your desired shutter speed based on the effect you want. The longer the exposure, the smoother the motion of the action in your scene. By dragging your shutter (shutter open longer), you're able to hide exposure changes, and as a result, remove some of the flicker that would have been present otherwise. Usually, I wouldn't recommend a shutter speed faster than 1⁄100 sec., as you'll start to see more flicker from changes in light within your frame.

Most Canon DSLRs don't have internal intervalometers, but Canon makes the TC-80N3, which works with most of their cameras.
If trying to drag your shutter during the day, you may want or need to use an ND or a polarizer filter to get the desired shutter speed. By dragging your shutter, you're creating motion blur, and as a result, you're creating an image similar to shooting video at 24/25 fps. However, if you want to create a "stop-motion" effect, you may need a faster shutter to freeze the action within the frame.

Time Is Everything
Zero out the intervalometer in all modes and set the delay mode to the desired time. Some intervalometers require you to set your time between frames using the interval setting. If you're in Bulb mode, set the "long" option to the desired exposure time. When deciding on what interval to use, make sure the time between photos is at least the amount of time it takes to both expose and buffer the given image.

The Lens-Twist Method
A stopped-down lens will always cause a certain amount of flicker because between frames the aperture opens, then stops down again, just before the exposure is made. It's impossible for the aperture blades to close in exactly the same way in every exposure. The "lens-twist method" locks the aperture blades. To do it, establish the aperture you want to use and set it on the camera or lens. Press the depth-of-field preview to stop down the lens to that aperture and simultaneously depress the lens release button. While holding the DOF preview button, twist the lens slightly. Your camera will lose contact with the lens and the blades will remain locked in the stopped-down position. You'll lose the lens metadata information in the exposures, but that's a small price to pay.


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