Once you've secured your camera, make sure your camera lens and sensor are clean. When shooting high-resolution photos, any dust or dirt on either will show up in your final image and this could render the shot useless. Although you can remove some of these spots in postproduction, it's good to get in the habit of making sure each is clean. This is especially important when you close down your aperture, as this material becomes more present in your final image.
The Shots: Mix It UpSubject matter is at the forefront of these endeavors, without question. When shooting a time-lapse, determine what your subject matter is and how you want to capture it. Typically, the first thing I do when I get to a location is take 10 minutes to investigate the surroundings and find out the best way to accurately capture the space. Make sure to take into account all aspects of the image.
The Settings: A Starting PointThe most common questions people ask when trying to determine the perfect settings for their given shot is what interval, shutter and aperture to use. I'll walk you through a few different settings you'll need to consider when setting up your shot and hopefully guide you toward the settings you desire.
Focus. The first step is to set your focus to manual and turn off the image stabilizer if you're on a tripod. Ensure that Live View is activated. To focus, use the +/- button to zoom on your subject matter. If you're shooting at night, use exposure simulation and shine a flashlight on what you're hoping to have in focus.
Shooting Mode. Once you've focused your image, you need to determine your shooting mode. Use only manual or aperture-priority mode. In most situations, unless shooting a day-to-night/night-to-day time-lapse, you'll want to shoot on manual.
File Format. I recommend shooting both RAW and JPEG. By shooting low-resolution JPEGs, you're quickly able to prepare a render in the edit suite. Another thing I highly recommend is making sure your camera is set to "auto reset file number" so when you format your card, it resets the file numbers back to 1. By doing this, staying organized will be much easier.