Time-lapse photography seems to be something that gets a rep of being overly complicated. This is a bit of surprise to me, but apparently, there are many people out there who’ve decided against giving it a try because the end result won’t be worth it. The consensus (at least among those I’ve asked) seems to be that sure, it’s beautiful and most of us would want to be good at it – but it’s far too difficult and requires skill levels of a professional photographer to actually produce something worthwhile.
So better to leave time-lapse photography to pros and just make good ol’ videos of a beautiful sunset. Sure, it’s not what you want, but the sunset is still… there, is it not? You can always watch the video to relive the memory, and it will be just as beautiful.
Here’s the thing though: this rep is undeserved. Time-lapse photography isn’t some kind of ancient wisdom only accessible to the chosen ones. It might have been a bit overcomplicated when it just became a thing, but nowadays? Thanks to the advancements made in modern technology, anyone can master the art of making beautiful time-lapse photos without the need for special equipment worth thousands of dollars. All you need is a quality camera and a few tricks to help it along the way. Take Sony a6000 for example – this little guy does half the job for you, all you need to do is keep some details in mind to optimize your photos.
Get Ready To Shoot For A While
If there is one thing that quality time-lapse photography demands you do – it’s investing your time in it. There are no ifs and buts around it: you want an impressive result that utilizes the full benefits of time-lapse photography? Get ready to be shooting for a while.
Depending on the conditions, some daredevils even set the camera up and just… leave it be. But the reality is the absolute majority of us will stick around to see what it is exactly we’re filming.
Ideally, choosing a free day is the best choice: this will allow you to scout the area, choose the best angles for shooting, and make multiple attempts at catching the exact image you want. Even if you’ve only got limited time on hand (say you’re shooting sunrise or sunset), do not skip the groundwork: knowing the best angles is half the job done.
Another thing to remember while trying your hand at time-lapse photography is that you’re gonna need a lot of images for short clips. Think somewhere between 25 to 30 frames per second. This means a fully charged Sony a6000 can take roughly up to 320 shots (some have claimed it can make more, but it’s always better to lowball your expectations) – so around 10 to 12 second long clips, on average.
And the most important thing to remember? It’s always better to shoot more than less. You’ve caught enough images to make a stunning clip? Make some more just to be on the safe side.
Set Fitting Interval
This is probably the most important detail when it comes to time-lapse photography. Whatever it is you’re shooting – choosing the right interval will make or break your clip.
The basic mistake when it comes to time-lapse photography is thinking that interval only determines the speed of the final video. Which, make no mistake, it definitely does. But it will also determine how smooth the motion is and how well it flows.
The easiest way to determine the right interval for the scene is to pay attention to how fast it’s changing. Ti put it very simply: faster the change – shorter the interval. Let’s take sunrises and sunsets – some of the most popular time-lapse photography objects around – as an example: you need about 2-second intervals for a smooth-flowing final video. If you’re shooting something that moves faster than celestial bodies – like vehicles on a highway, or clouds across the sky – your interval will need to be even shorter, only around a second.
On the other hand, if you’re shooting something that moves slowly – the interval between frames might have to last minutes, or even hours. Say, you’ve decided to shoot a flower blooming – another popular object of time-lapse photography. Depending on your starting point (are you shooting a bud blooming, or a seed sprouting?), the shoot may take from several days to several weeks.
No matter how gorgeous each frame looks (and on Sony a6000 they all look gorgeous), if the interval between them doesn’t fit the tempo of the movement, your time-lapse clip just won’t look good.
Shoot In Manual Mode
Shooting in manual mode is probably the most wide-spread advice seasoned photographers give to newbies when it comes to time-lapse photography. And with good reason: it’s the one people often skip.
And, well, sometimes it might work. Sometimes.
Other times (quite often), you’re just going to end up with flickers throughout the footage. Flicker is the ugly effect that tends to occur in time-lapse photography due to small changes in exposure between frames.
Imagine: you’ve chosen the best angle, the lighting is perfect, everything seems to have gone smoothly. And then, right there, a flicker in the middle – ruining an otherwise fantastic shoot. There are very few things time-lapse photographers hate more than flickers.
Shooting in manual mode will help you keep the aperture and shutter mode the same throughout the shoot – which, in turn, will minimize the chances of flicker ruining the footage.
Sony a6000 is no exception. No matter how good the auto-mode is (and it’s pretty amazing), your time-lapse photography will benefit from manual mode – which, thanks to the camera’s easy and intuitive controls, is simple: you can use the two dials on top and the control wheel to select the shooting mode and camera settings you think will work best for the shoot (as well as assign any of the 474 functions to 7 customizable buttons).
There is, however, no 100% “flicker-proof” shoot, since a lot depends on the lighting. Lighting changing will require you to manually adjust exposure while filming, otherwise, chances are you’ll still end up with flickers.
Seems pretty obvious right? Focusing, after all, is photography 101. Yet – as it usually goes with things that are obvious – this one often seems to be something people skip. Want to be like a real pro? Never skip the basics. Just like a house begins with the foundation, quality photography begins with solid basics.
If you want to make quality time-lapse videos, you should remember that focus is just as important, as intervals and exposure. Just like exposure changing can ruin the footage, so can changing focus.
Luckily, Sony a6000 has a great auto-focus. Even when you’re shooting fast-moving objects, the phase-detection auto focus sensor ensures you get high-quality shots. All you have to do while shooting time-lapse is just pay a little attention while setting up the shoot, the camera will help you out along the way.
After you’re done focusing the camera on the subject, switch the focus to manual mode, and ensure it holds.
Finding focus at night is a little more problematic. The easiest way to avoid this is to go back to tip #1 and invest some extra time in the shoot: arrive at the scene while it’s still light, auto-focus on the area you wish to shoot at night, and lock the focus in, so that it stays in place until dark.
Adapt To The Environment
Nature is an unpredictable thing.
You may check the weather forecast a thousand times, choose the best possible conditions – and nature will still find a way to throw a wrench into your plans. You might be planning for beautiful white clouds as a frame for your sunrise, or – on the contrary – for clear skies to shoot stars at night. But the reality is the white clouds might be nowhere to find, or – on the contrary – it might be cloudy when you’re the least ready for it.
It might feel like a terrible disappointment, especially if you’ve cleared your schedule specifically for this shoot. But alas, that’s just how it goes when you get into photography. One thing to keep in mind though? There’s always something to shoot. So maybe you won’t be able to take those gorgeous pictures of sunrise you’d envisioned before – there’s always another day to try again. Do not think of the time as wasted, think of it as an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and try your hand at something new.
Does the lighting seem to be off? Thankfully Sony a6000 has great detail-catching capabilities in low light due to its heightened sensitivity. The angles you chose suddenly do not work due to the weather? Adjust the angles. Right framing is one of those things that can make or break a shoot: if the frames you’d envisioned aren’t a possibility anymore – find new ones. Some of the greatest images have been born of spontaneity.