Time-lapse Photography: A Cushy Instruction

I’d been wandering in internet for several days to find the way to make a time-lapse video or star trail photo. I did it once in the last month but it looked really crap. I did it again last night and, well, I could say that it was much better. Here’re what I’ve got and how I did it.

Time-lapse video:

Star trail photos:

71 single photos

213 single photos

What do you need?

  1. A DSLR camera that can take the picture in  some interval of time. Some cameras come with build-in function. If not, you will need the intervalometer (trigger) or a computer connect to it to control the time of camera trigger.
  2. A tripod – there is no possible way to do this kind of photography without any camera stand: a firm tripod or anything in similar.

Make sure your camera has enough battery power to do the job as long as you want, prepare spared batteries or plug it to AC.

How to take the picture?

First thing first, before doing the time-interval photography, we need to think about what we’re going to capture. Difference kinds of scenarios need difference camera setting; sunrise/set, night sky, or people. It is recommended widely to use the manual mode and manual focus to take the picture, any change of setting by camera itself could effect the time-interval photography. For example; a sunset time-lapse we set camera to take the picture in Aperture priority mode (A in Nikon, Av in Canon) every 2 seconds. But when it getting darker, the camera requires more time to capture picture more than 2 seconds: it MIGHT be the problem. (can’t say it clearly because I myself never tried doing like that)

Calculate how long it takes to capture the picture at an optimum aperture size (f ) and ISO speed. Do some test shots before, to see the actual results from your camera.  For my setting in this job, I set speed shutter of my D90 to 15 seconds, f/4 and ISO 1000, WHY?

If you use shutter speed long than 30 seconds, the picture will capture the star moving. I prefer to make the star a small round dot, no moving trail or a blink like small aperture sizes (at f>11) do. As what I prefer, 15 seconds will long enough to capture the light.

To take the picture of stars, f 3.5 to 5.6 are recommended. Aperture size that larger than 3.5 might not be able to get the sharpness of stars which appear at infinity focus length. Aperture size that smaller than 5.6 might make it too long to capture enough light.

At optimum aperture size and speed shutter setting, if the picture still too dark, increase ISO speed. Consider it yourself, there is no fixed setting for any scenario.

Set the time interval of your intervalometer to be more than shutter speed and I am highly recommended to shoot RAW because you can do more post-processing in RAW than JPEG.

Plan your plan carefully, calculate how many pictures it will take. So you can know roughly that how many of memory storage you need to store your files.

To make a time-lapse photography, some camera models come with time-lapse function. (I just guess) If not, you can use an intervalometer or, in case you can’t find one usable with your gear, you can use computer to control camera via usb using ‘Camera Control Pro’ software  from Nikon.

When everything is set, let your kits do their job as long as you can.

In-PC processing

Now you’ll get a shitload of picture, hundreds, thousands. The files from your camera might not be satisfied, do some improvement. I won’t tell you how :)

Making of Time-lapse video

There are many of tutorial in internet, too many I’d say. It would take days to find the one really tell you how. I learned how to process images into a video by following PhotoGavin’s video, I think that he can do it much better than me. Check out video below at 9.33 min.

Now you can make a time-lapse video!

Making of Star Trail photo

Everything comes in handy, there is a free software name StarStax that can make a star trail photo out of your Gigs of photos. It would take a minute to process full-size pictures. Download it, extract and run it. In StarStax, load your photos, choose blend mode (lighten) and click ‘Process‘; and that’s it!

There is an option to load ‘dark frame image‘, I turned it on and it made my picture looks weird to me, I wasn’t use this.

You won’t know exactly how to do it until you really go out and do it. This should be enough, see you.

Check my star trail photo on 500px: http://500px.com/photo/11658395

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