Crea­ting timel­apse recor­dings — this is how it works

In this blog post you will learn the basics of recor­ding a so-called timel­apse shot. Have fun trying it out. 

Was ist ein Timelapse?

With the help of timel­apse recor­dings, move­ments that occur over a longer period of time are shown in an acce­le­rated manner. In most cases, indi­vi­dual shots are taken at a certain interval and then played back as a video with a frame rate of, for example, 25 frames per second. This then results in a time lapse. In this way, processes such as the move­ment of shadows due to the posi­tion of the sun can be clearly visualised.

With a frame rate of 25 frames per second (fps), you need 100 frames to have a video sequence of 4 seconds. With 500 pictures you get 20 seconds of video material.

Plan­ning timel­apse recordings

When plan­ning timel­apse recor­dings, the weather is the most rele­vant factor for me. A look at the most popular weather apps shows me, for example, whether I should expect rain showers. Weather maps can also be used to predict inte­res­ting cloud struc­tures or cloud move­ments in general. If I plan to capture the colours of a morning or evening red, I like to plan this with the View­findr app by weather photo­grapher Bastian Werner. The app’s fog fore­cast is also best-in-class, I would say.

In general, however, you should not limit yourself to the few weather events in the View­findr app for timel­apse recor­dings. In a timel­apse recor­ding, all slow move­ments can be displayed quickly and thus be very interesting.

Motifs for timel­apse recordings

Of course, there are no limits to crea­ti­vity in timel­apse photo­graphy. When choo­sing a motif, you should always bear in mind that very slow move­ments can be made visible, while other move­ments are acce­le­rated. To get you started, here is a small list of suitable motifs that you can try out:

  • Passing or forming clouds in the sky
  • Sunset/Sunrise
  • Colours of the blue hour in the sky and, if appli­cable, morning and evening glow
  • Shadows moving through the sun
  • Stars moving across the night sky and the moon
  • Water, e.g. high and low tide
  • Cars and trains
  • People in busy squares
  • Clock hand of a tower clock
  • Buil­ding sites and cons­truc­tion cranes
  • Sprou­ting plants, opening flowers

Suitable loca­tions for timel­apse recordings

When plan­ning and prepa­ring timel­apse recor­dings, you should think about your loca­tion in advance. It is best to choose a loca­tion where no one can run in front of the camera. Also bear in mind that move­ments that happen directly in front of the camera can lead to them not being reco­g­nisable or visible at all in the shot due to the longer expo­sure time. Move­ments in the distance are all the better for it.

If, for example, a car drives past in front of your camera with an expo­sure time of, say, 2 seconds, you will end up with a video that shows a picture of hundreds of stripes of the car. This can be seen as flicke­ring in the video. But you want to avoid that. But if the car drives by in the distance, you will end up with several shots of the car moving through the frame. This move­ment will be visible in the video.

So it is quite helpful to have some distance to the move­ments you want to record. Espe­ci­ally when it comes to fast movements.

Another tip is also to select the image section of the compo­si­tion and then tend to zoom out a little. Select a slightly larger section of the image. For the video format, the pictures are usually cropped a little, and you may also have a little more move­ment in the picture than if you choose the crop­ping too narrow. This has saved my shot a few times. For example, once or twice I almost didn’t have the most inte­res­ting clouds in the picture if I had used the original focal length.

You may also want to make sure you are shel­tered from the wind and rain, should this be an issue from a weather perspective.



Basi­cally, only a few things are neces­sary for recor­ding a timel­apse. Basi­cally, you need a camera with which you can take a picture at regular inter­vals and a firm stand. The easiest way to achieve this is with a tripod.


It doesn’t really matter what kind of camera you use. Theo­re­ti­cally, a mobile phone is enough for now. Ideally, the camera has an inte­grated inter­va­lo­meter, or it is possible to connect an external inter­va­lo­meter. Other­wise, you would have to trigger each indi­vi­dual shot manu­ally, for example via an external shutter release, so that you don’t shake the camera.

For those who have been involved with timel­apse for a while, the LRTi­mel­apse PRO Timer is a house­hold name. It is the abso­lute best inter­va­lo­meter with which you can also manage complete day-night tran­si­tions. With the settings in the camera alone, a tran­si­tion from the blue hour to shortly after sunrise is usually the maximum possible.

Neutral Density Filter

As soon as you have made your first test shots, you will notice that it is better for the video if the expo­sure time is at least 50% of the shoo­ting interval. The move­ments are some­what blurred, but this is more plea­sant to watch in the video itself. The move­ments appear less “jerky” and softer. In the example of moving clouds, an interval of 5 or 6 seconds is often used, which means a minimum expo­sure time of 2.5–3 seconds. Espe­ci­ally during the day, this cannot be achieved without a grey filter.

With chan­ging light condi­tions, e.g. sunrise, it is of course not always possible to keep the same expo­sure time constant. Compro­mises have to be made here. See the on-loca­tion video below.

Golden sunrise above Malsch | DJI Mini 3 Pro @ 24 mm, f/1.7, 1/320 sec., ISO 100

This and all other shots of this post you can request under “Prints” as an art print for your wall at home directly from me. 

Camera settings for timel­apse recordings

Manual focus

It is gene­rally a good idea to use manual focus for timel­apse recor­dings. Espe­ci­ally in diffi­cult lighting condi­tions, it can happen that the auto­focus is off once and you would have unusable images within the video clip. So focus manu­ally. Take a test shot and if it fits, don’t change it.

With constant lighting condi­tions M

If the lighting condi­tions change little or not at all over the dura­tion of your shot, then it is advi­sable to operate the camera in manual mode. Select the aper­ture, ISO and expo­sure time and let the shot run. As already mentioned, the expo­sure time should ideally be at 50% of the shoo­ting interval, as the move­ment becomes blur­rier and ther­e­fore smoother and more fluid in the video.

With chan­ging light condi­tions A

In a chan­ging light situa­tion, for example sunset, I still select A mode, i.e. aper­ture prio­rity. The expo­sure time is then adjusted by the camera. When choo­sing the ISO and your starting expo­sure time, you only have to leave enough play. If you start with a 2‑second expo­sure time before sunset, the camera cannot compen­sate for a 5‑second interval. As soon as it gets darker, it needs a longer expo­sure time, which is simply no longer possible. So start, even if it may not be as beau­tiful on the finished video, with a higher ISO and an expo­sure time of perhaps 1/200 sec. If you are photo­gra­phing into the day, then start, for example, with the longest possible expo­sure time.

Avoid ISO automatic

ISO Auto is not recom­mended, by the way. The ISO auto­matic always wants to realise a short expo­sure time and likes to go into the high ISO ranges.

With an inter­va­lo­meter like the LRTi­mel­apse Pro Timer mentioned above, it is possible to control all para­me­ters in the optimal range. If you want to photo­graph from the dark of night into the day, you can’t get around such a solution.


The aper­ture for timel­apse shots should be some­where between 5.6 and 8, maximum aper­ture 11. An aper­ture that is too closed can lead to unsightly flicke­ring. Choose the aper­ture carefully so that you have enough sharp­ness in your pictures.


One ques­tion remains. Which recor­ding interval should I set? There are a few clues, but even in this area a little expe­ri­ence is helpful. With time, however, you learn to judge whether the clouds are moving very quickly or not. The faster, the shorter the interval should be. If you are not quite sure, choose a shorter interval.

Here are some clues:

  • Passing clouds approx. 5–15 sec.
  • rising buttons/flowers approx. 30–60 sec.
  • People in place approx. 1–5 sec.
  • Sunrise/Sunset approx. 5–15 sec.
  • Seasons or cons­truc­tion project approx. 1 shot/hour to 1 picture/day

Why did I choose which settings for this timelapse?

Since I was shoo­ting directly into the sun, I wanted to avoid an addi­tional optical element and decided against a gray filter. Ther­e­fore I had to close the aper­ture quite wide (f/11) to have an expo­sure time greater than 50% of the interval when I started shoo­ting. I had chosen the interval at 5 seconds, because the clouds passed by quite fast. Of course, the expo­sure time reduced signi­fi­cantly until sunrise. Shortly before sunrise it was already at 1/15 sec. With the aper­ture closed, I also wanted to nuance the sun star at sunrise a bit more clearly. Whether now aper­ture 9 or 8 and ISO 100 would have been better, about it can be argued. In the end, however, it does not play a parti­cu­larly large role.

Sony a7 III @ 42 mm, f/11, 3 Sek., ISO 160
Sony a7 III @ 42 mm, f/11, 1/15 Sek., ISO 160

Soft­ware for interval recording

Soft­ware for crea­ting timel­apse videos is plen­tiful. That’s where Google comes in handy. I usually do a pretty rough edit in Ligh­t­room for all images synchro­no­usly, export the images as JPG and drag them into DaVinci Resolve to have a look at the result and export it as a video clip if neces­sary. This is, as I said, only very rough and should there have been any flicke­ring, this method comes up against its limits quite quickly.

The soft­ware LRTi­mel­apse by Gunter Wegner helps here. With LRTi­mel­apse it is possible to edit single photos (keyframes) in RAW format in Adobe Ligh­t­room and then auto­ma­ti­cally apply them to the whole sequence. With the help of the keyframes, para­me­ters can also be set adjusted to the chan­ging light condi­tions in the images, which achieves a much better final result. After exporting the photos from Ligh­t­room, LRTi­mel­apse creates high quality videos up to reso­lu­tions of 8K (and more!).

You can find the info here: GWegner

Here I have put toge­ther another short “on loca­tion” video with the finished timel­apse at the end. Feel free to have a look. I’m happy about “thumbs up”, comm­ents and of course if you subscribe to my channel. In the future I will certainly record more and more such videos.

Check­list for your Timelapse

  • Full batte­ries
  • suffi­ci­ently large memory card
  • Stable tripod
  • wind- and weather-protected recor­ding location
  • Check batte­ries in intervalometer/trigger

Camera settings in a nutshell

  • correct reso­lu­tion and in RAW
  • Select a slightly larger image section
  • focus manu­ally, auto­focus off
  • Expo­sure set to M (for constant lighting condi­tions) or A (for variable lighting conditions)
  • Select fixed aper­ture in the optimal focus range
  • Expo­sure metering on a spot where no one can walk in or integral
  • Select ISO so that there is enough lati­tude for expo­sure time
  • Set interval, better shorter for smooth playback
  • DSLR only: cover optical viewfinder
  • Switch off unneces­sary power consu­mers or connect a power bank right away

Update 24.02.2023:

I bought a used Sony ZV-E10 for shoo­ting timel­apse footage. In a first compe­ti­tion I let it compete against the Sony a7 III. You can see how it did in the follo­wing video.

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