This is the first tutorial in a series on the magic of time-lapse photography. In this lesson, I demonstrate how we can use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple’s QuickTime 7 Pro to create a simple time-lapse video clip. When you are thinking about time-lapse photography choose a subject that moves, or changes, slowly in front of the camera over a long period of time. Subjects that move slowly like stars in the night sky or the Aurora Borealis are perfect material for time-lapse photography.
The real secret to time-lapse photography is to shoot frame after frame with total consistency: consistent white balance, consistent focus, and consistent exposure settings. There are three parts to making a time-lapse video clip:
- Shoot a sequence of still images.
- Processing each image.
- Compiling the still images together into a video.
One of my favorite things about time-lapse photography is that it requires so little extra equipment. You need a normal digital camera, an intervalometer, and a steady tripod to shoot images for a time-lapse clip. You do not need a video camera, a top of the line digital SLR, or anything fancy. Any digital camera with full-manual controls and an intervalometer will work fine for simple time-lapse clips.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s ability to Synchronize Develop Settings from one image to another rocks when it comes to processing the hundreds, or thousands, of nearly identical images that it takes to make a long time-lapse clip. The ease with which we can Copy and Paste all of Lightroom’s Develop Settings from one photo to another makes preparing all of the frames that we will need for a time-lapse clip easy.
There is a catch though. Photoshop Lightroom makes the time-lapse file-preparation process easy, but Lightroom cannot tie our stack of frames and then save them into a video file format. To turn our sequence of photos into a video, we need to turn to additional software like QuickTime Pro 7 or Adobe Photoshop CC.
Here’s the real secret: what we perceive as smooth fluid motion in any video is an illusion. When we watch a movie what we are actually seeing is a huge stack of still images that advance from one to the next so fast that our eye’s never perceive the tiny gaps between each frame.
When we shoot a sequence of images for a time-lapse clip what we are really doing is creating the stack of still frames that we will flash back so fast that they will fool the viewer’s eye into believing that what we recorded is really smooth continuous motion. The event that we are shooting might requires hours, or even days, to record. But when we play these frames back we are going to speed them up to the point where the eye perceives them as a dynamic continuous video. When you watch the time-lapse clip below, you will see what I mean about the illusion of smooth continuous motion as the Northern Lights shimmer and dance while the stars march slowly across the night sky!