How to choose the best time lapse interval

August 4, 2022    4 min read

choose the best time lapse interval

Time lapse interval is one of the first concepts you must get right when learning time lapse photography. 

In this article, I'll explain what time lapse intervals are, why they're important in time lapse videos, and how to calculate them.

Let’s get started.

  • What is time lapse interval
  • Why is interval important
  • How does interval run on the camera
  • How to calculate the interval
  • Things to keep in mind
  • Summing Up

What is time lapse interval?

The time lapse interval is the time interval between two shots in any given time lapse sequence.

Commonly, people confuse time lapse intervals as the duration between the end of one exposure and the start of the next - but it is actually from the beginning of one direction to the start of the next.

Why is time lapse interval an essential aspect of time lapse videos? 

The choice of the time lapse interval influences how your time lapse will turn out - fast or slow.

The footage will seem shorter if you choose a higher time lapse interval. Likewise, the footage will appear slower if you select a slower time lapse interval.

How does time lapse interval run on the camera?

The time lapse interval depends completely on the photographer. The choice of the interval also depends on the type of movement of the subject.

For faster-moving issues, you can choose a shorter time interval. On the other hand, for slower-moving subjects, you can select a longer time interval.

PRO TIPS:

  • For street traffic and moving clouds, 1 second is the perfect interval.
  • Sunset and sunrise time lapses work best with a longer time interval of 2-3 seconds. 
  • The well-suited time interval spans from 20 to 30 seconds for stars and other slow-moving subjects. 
  • You can opt for a longer interval for subjects such as growing plants and construction projects. 

How to calculate time lapse interval?

The time lapse interval should always be longer than the shutter speed.

To know the ideal time lapse interval, you must have the video’s speed and final duration in mind.

For example:

  • If you’re looking to create a time lapse video that’s 30 seconds long and set the shutter speed to 25fps, you would require 750 frames (duration of the time lapse x fps).
  • Next, you must multiply the total number of frames with the interval you’ve chosen.
  •  if you’ve chosen 5 seconds, it will be 750 x 5 seconds, which equals 3750 seconds.
  • The 3750 seconds equate to 63 minutes (3750/60), which is a little over an hour and is the precise duration of your time lapse.

The best time lapse interval can be calculated via the interval calculator.

Most time lapse cameras sport a built-in intervalometer, so all you have to do is check your camera’s menu or via the camera’s app, find the option and pick the perfect interval for your time lapse video.

Things to keep in mind

The time lapse interval you choose mostly depends on the subject. But you must consider two important points while picking the gap for your time lapse shoot.

First, if the light in the shooting scenario is too low, you need to use a longer shutter speed. Slower shutter speeds don’t work well with a time lapse shot in low light.

Another aspect to consider is the location of the time lapse shoot - if you’re shooting in a public space, leaving your camera behind for longer durations is not an option.

Instead, you must take the call and pick the appropriate time lapse interval in such situations.

For longer time lapse intervals, apart from the camera, you’d also require additional gear

  • This includes a connection to transfer images regularly, so there are no storage issues.
  • Along with this, you’ll also need to equip your camera with an AC adaptor.
  • Lastly, a tripod is a must, as it helps your camera stay stable throughout the time lapse duration.

These are certain aspects you must consider (and implement), especially when choosing longer time lapse intervals.

Summing up

Time lapse is a fun, exciting genre - there’s so much to explore here.

All you need to equip yourself with is the basic knowledge of time lapses and, of course, the right set of equipment.

Then, you’ll slowly but surely master the mesmerizing craft of time-lapsing with practice and experimentation!

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