Because of one of the more extraordinary advancements in camera technology—the ever increasing speed of image burst rates—creating a time-lapse video can be as simple as holding down the shutter and editing the images into a short video. Making a skilled time-lapse project that’s able to engage an audience and stand out above the crowd, however, can take some patience, some planning and a bit of know-how. But there has never been a better time to learn, especially since so many of the best time-lapse videos are ending up as popular viral videos that have been seen by thousands of viewers.
I’m always looking for compositions that are full of action, color and visual drama. With experience, it becomes intuitive. If something moves me enough to pull out my phone and capture it, then I’ll probably return to that spot for a time-lapse.
Sometimes I want to shoot places that are out of my reach. I may be at an event or restaurant that has a view that can be accessed only with the owner’s permission. I’ve been known to chat up a waitress—not for her number, but to get a boss’ name to look up. Or, I’ll find a business card or brochure and email the company. In the email, I include links to examples of time-lapse photography and offer to provide HD copies of what I shoot at their site. I was ignored a lot in the beginning, but over time, I got more and more green lights. Pretty soon, I had enough time-lapses to create a promo that I now use as a skeleton key. It has opened many doors.
When preparing for a time-lapse, I format my memory cards, set my camera to manual, turn off the autofocus on the lens and set the image size to medium JPEG. There have been times when I’ve forgotten to do this and used up a sizable chunk of space because I shot the time-lapse in RAW. I shoot in medium JPEG because the image size is big enough to export a 1080p HD file without losing quality. If I were shooting for film or a high-end production, I’d choose RAW for a higher-quality video. Otherwise, RAW takes up too much space.