Art Prints

Time Lapse and low aperture demo

If your new to time lapse photography you should be aware that there are a few different forms ranging from long exposure which is addressed here to regular exposure over longer periods of time. Both are referred to as time lapse and the wikipedia has done a great job of making it easy to understand the difference please visit for the technical explanation between the two.

The first thing you will need is something steady to shoot from, like a tripod, but you can use just about anything from a bean bag to prop your camera up, but tripods make it much easier to aim at your target quickly.

Once your camera is ready to shoot you need to make sure that the settings will expose a good image. This is where you almost need to use a SLR either 35 mm or DSLR, since you will be adjusting the f-stop and shutter speed to get the image correct. When using a DSLR you will be able to see your results right away and make the changes you need, on a 35 mm SLR you will need to shoot brackets of images to make sure you nail it!

Before you start changing settings you need to think about light sources, that will change meter reading on your camera, such as:

Light sources to consider at night:

  • Street lights or their reflections
  • Tail or headlights of cars
  • Stars
  • The Flash
  • A Flashlight
  • Flashes of lightning
  • Fire works
  • The Sky
  • When shooting at night you can use fast or slow film speeds depending on how strong your light source is. For example, if you were shooting a city skyline and had the f-stop closed down (f-22) with ISO 100 settings you might not see anything in the image regardless of how long you left the shutter open, where as stars at night might over expose your image in a matter of seconds with a wide open F stop (f 3.5) using ISO 100. Experiment and have fun! Using a digital camera lets you shoot for almost free and you can see the results, change your settings and go again until you get something you like ;-)

    Simple overview of F-stop settings and results



    Wide open
    (lowest number available 1.4 or more)
  • The lens allows am much light in as possible
  • Depth of field is reduced (what is in focus is very specific)
  • Time required for image is reduced
  • Closed down
    (highest number 16-22 or more)
  • The lens lets less light in
  • Depth of field is increased
  • More light is required for image
  • By metering a light source that is hotter than your intended target, your image could be underexposed, while the light source is properly exposed. My first rule of thumb is to bracket a few shots during set up to see where best to set the camera (digi of course). To start use the metering provided on your camera, but be sure what is being metered. If you meter the dark zones, then the zones with light might be over exposed and visa versa.

    Once your set to shoot, proper zoom, time and speed settings, you can use a cable release or the auto timer function to click without moving your camera. If you have a flash or flashlight handy you can use these as a light source for special effects. A flash will help illuminate within it's range and the flashlight can be used as a paintbrush of sorts at distances only limited by the size of your flashlight ;-).

    Below you will see the results of some of my work using a tripod, extended exposure and a variety of aperture setting, depending on the strength of the light sources. To see full resolution previews of these images click on the image to be taken to a new window or tab.

    Water when captured over time becomes smooth like silk, this example was taken with just 1/2 a second at ISO 400. A better choice whould have been ISO 100, for clarity, but other conditions required a faster shutter to avoid tripod movement

    This image of a top spinning provided additional consideration, since the top will only spin for so long

    For me, fireworks is where it all started. Time lapse gives the viewer to see the true path the burning colors paint on the night sky. One trick is to use a drak hat to cover the lens if you feel you have captured enough (once covered the fireworks already captured are protected from later onse paiting on top of them)

    This is a great example of why you need a solid support for your camera. As good as this looks, there is movement in this hand held time lapse photograph
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