Friday, March 06, 2009

A Time-Lapse Photography Project AND Tutorial

Last weekend instead of tackling my kitchen I was perusing the web and came across this site about 6 creative approaches to photography. I took a look since I haven't been growing as a photographer. It's pretty interesting. I especially loved the time-lapse photography of the baby playing: how adorable! Then I came across this site where a lady used time lapse photography to capture her cleaning the kitchen. What a terrific idea!

Instead of moping around on the Internet, I jumped up to do the same. I did a similar project when I first got my camera but it was about as boring as watching ice melt, which happened to be my subject :P

Here is my video. After the video will follow a tutorial so you can do the same!


This site was greatly helpful to me with putting together my project but I still feel the need to write my own tutorial on how I did it.

1) Figure out your subject matter

Since my husband's been away (Navy) my kitchen has gotten out of control so naturally it was a good subject for me. Pick something where the camera can be stationary and something that changes often but not too frequently so the camera can capture it adequately. Here is a great link for 12 creative examples.

2) Camera Settings

Every camera is different so check your trusty manual. I certainly did! I have a Canon Powershot S3IS (pictured left courtesy of

2a) The Dreaded Math!!!

(I'm not good with numbers so I tried my best and then fudged it and went with that.)
This is where you need to figure out how many pictures you are taking and how long your session will be as well as the "wait time" between exposures. You don't want your camera continually taking photos. Otherwise I'd have 43,200 pictures and my memory card isn't that large!

This site helped a lot with the math but if you'd like more help, here's another one I found.

Total Film Time = 30 minutes (again some fudging)

This means how long will the project take. To clean the kitchen I estimated 30 minutes. (it was pretty messy).

Total (compressed) video time = 30 seconds

The videos here
last anywhere from 1 minute to 5 minutes. Use discretion here. I didn't think 5 minutes of watching me clean would be captivating so I kept it short to 30 sec to a minute tops. (more fudging)

For film, it's common knowledge that you get about 24fps, which is frames per second. So that means when you are watching a video, TV or a movie you are seeing 24 (very similar images) for every second. Video is many still images stitched together.

Convert total film time to sec.

30 minutes * 60 sec/min = 900 sec

Convert Total Video Time (in sec) to frames

30 sec * 24fps = 720 frames

Film Time/Video Time

900 sec / 720 frames = 1.25 sec wait between each shot.

(Again I fudged my numbers; it's a good thing I don't take care of the finances in my house.)

It turns out my camera can only shoot through intervals of minutes so I would have to capture an image every minute. This is where I gave up on math and just hoped for the best.

My Camera Settings

1) Power on (make sure it is on a manual setting like P, M, Av, Tv etc.. )
2) Menu
3) Scroll all the way down to Intervalometer and hit SET
4) Set Interval time and No. of Shots. (Mine has an interval range of 1 min to 60 min & No. of Shots 2-100
(Hit set to set or cancel to get out of here)

3) The fun part
When you are ready to start, maker sure your subject is ready and take the first shot. The camera will automatically power down. When the next interval approaches; it powers on, focuses and takes the next photo and will repeat until finished.

After some elbow grease, soap and the help of my camera, my project was finished, NOT. I had to put it together. Okay, great. How do I do that?

4) Turning it into a Video
If you have a Mac this step is easy. Use Quicktime Pro or iMovie. But since my pocketbook is empty I do not own a Mac, yet.

I ended up using Windows Movie Maker. It is free but equally frustrating as using Windows. If you deleted if off your computer, no fear, here is a link to download it for free.

Since I use a laptop with no mouse, I had problems manually adjusting the length of each photo. I wanted them to all show for a sec instead of a full minute for each photo. (That would be incredibly boring!)

I deleted my project (which did not delete my photos in a separate folder) and started over.

I found a program called JPGVideo from here. It's freeware which means a kind computer brainiac created this program and released it to the web for free. Be careful though, some freeware is created with malicious intent. Don't download anything untrustworthy; that's how you get a virus on your computer.

This program puts my pictures into a video with the configuration that would please me.

If you use this program these are the steps:
1) Go to Configure
2) JPEG Directory is where the pictures are. Click on the (...) icon. (This is where you tell the program to find the pictures.)
3) Click Output to find/create a folder to store your new video.
4) Configure the settings :
-Sort the files anyway you would like. I sorted mine alphabetically because my camera names the files alpha-numerically.
-For frames per second I did 2 per sec. It doesn't really matter what settings you choose as long as you keep a copy of the originals. Tweak with the settings until it looks like what you want.
5) After you are done configuring click OK. Then Run. It will put the pictures into a video so just wait a moment.
6) Hit close when you are done and the new video will be ready in your selected folder. You can view it with windows media player.

Now open up Windows Move Maker
Import Video
Import Music, import anything you want.
I played around here and made a few title screens and a credit screen. I wanted to give credit to the person that provided the music for free, yes FREE.

This article is a great resource about free sound.

When finished with the tweaks, save it and you are now a proud producer of your first time-lapse photography.

Give it a try and upload it online. Let me know, I'd love to see it!

1 comment:

Cara said...

You're a huge dork. Even so, this is pretty cool. If I weren't so lazy, I might try it out myself.