In-Camera Time-Lapse Photography Resource and Guide

In-Camera Time-Lapse Photography Resource and Guide

Fast-disappearing are the days of having to have a separate interval timer to create time-lapses. Many cameras now have built-in intervalometers. The following is a guide to setting up the time-lapse function for most cameras.

1. What is a Time-Lapse?
2. What Gear Do I Need for a Time-Lapse?
3. Notable Cameras with Built-in Interval Timers
4. What Settings Do I Need for a Time-Lapse?
5. For How Long Should I Make My Time-Lapse?
6. Time-Lapse Instructions By Camera
7. How to Put Together Your Time-Lapse

What is a Time-Lapse?

Time-lapses are comprised of a bunch of pictures of the same thing taken over a long period of time. You then display them quickly in sequence when you’re done. The result is a little “movie” that displays a slow passage of time quickly. Time-lapses are a great way to show how a kid grows, how a flower dies, how stadiums fill up, how the weather changes, and even how the Earth rotates! Most of time, though, you just want to show something simple made interesting, like the sun setting rapidly or the bustle of traffic. Time-lapses also make good scene fillers for larger visual projects. Pay attention and you’ll start noticing them everywhere, from the credits of TV shows to commercials and music videos.


What Gear Do I Need for a Time-Lapse?

Before we get into interval sequencing, it is important to understand some basic fundamentals of time-lapse photography. Consistency is key. You will need the following:

• A tripod or other very stable environment.
• A lens with manual focus.
• Distance from random light sources (for example, don’t turn your porch light on and off if you’re doing a time-lapse out on the deck).
• A camera with a built-in intervalometer (unless you want to use a separate timer).
• A large capacity memory card.

Here are a few notable (not ALL) cameras with built-in intervalometers:

Nikon D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D800E,  D810, D5300, D5500, D7000, D7100, D7200, D4, D4s
Canon 7D II, 5Ds, 5Ds R
Leica Q (Type 116)
Pentax K-3, K-5, K-7, K-01
Olympus OM-D E-M1, E-M5 II, E-M10, E-P5
Samsung NX1
Panasonic GH3, GH4, G7, GM5
Fuji X-T1, X-T10, X100T, X-E2 (with latest firmware)
Sony (only with Sony Remote Camera Control) NEX-6, a5000, a5100a6000a7a7IIa7Ra7RII, a7SRX1RX1R, RX100 III, RX100 IV

What Settings Do I Need for a Time-Lapse?

Start with shooting your time-lapse in relatively stable lighting conditions in fully manual mode. Even with all manual settings, one frame can expose slightly differently from the next frame, resulting in a kind of “flickr” effect in the final product. A few key settings will help minimize the flickr.

Shutter Speed: Using a slower shutter speed helps give smoothness to the entire sequence. 1/100th seconds or slower works but you may need to use an ND filter on your lens if shooting a time-lapse during the day. The ND filter will help darken your scene and compensate for the over-exposing slow shutter.

ISO Sensitivity: Use a low ISO setting if you can to help prevent unwanted noise in your images.

White Balance: Choose your white balance and stick to it – especially if you’re shooting JPGs.

Aperture: Wider apertures tend to produce less flickr but sometimes a shallower depth-of-field is not what you want.

Focus: Focus ahead of time then lock it down and switch your lens to manual mode.

Montana de Oro, State Park, California

Aperture Priority Option: If you are not shooting in stable lighting conditions and you know that fully-manual settings are going to make your scene either too light or too dark as some point (example: day-to-night scenes), a quick fix is to choose all of your starting settings but then select Aperture Priority mode on your camera. This will keep your aperture and ISO stable but your shutter speed will automatically slow down as the light fades.

For How Long Should I Make My Time-Lapse?

Length of Time-Lapse: The number of total images taken divided by 30 will give you the length of your final “video”. For example: a thousand total images will produce an approximately 33 seconds long time-lapse.

Compiling: Decide ahead of time whether you want to let the camera compile your images into a .MOV file for you or to take all of the images and manually put together the time-lapse yourself using software. The benefit of the former is that it is easy. The benefit of the latter is access to each individual file, which gives you the most creative control.

Interval Times: Choose your interval time to be longer than the slowest shutter speed you are going to be using. For example, if you’re shooting with a 30 second shutter speed, the interval needs to be longer than 30 seconds. Be sure to factor in buffer time by adding a couple of seconds to that time for safety.

Interval Times in Aperture Priority: If you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode for a day-to-night scene, choose an interval time that will accommodate the slowest shutter speed you predict you’ll need to use for darker scenes.

Time-Lapse Instructions By Camera

The following shows the basics on how to access and set the time-lapse timer for these brands. Each model’s menu system may differ slightly from one another, so keep that in mind when viewing these examples. As of this writing, the following models have built-in intervalometers or some manner of time-lapse mode. This list is not comprehensive:

Nikon D600, D610, D700, D750, D800, D800E,  D810, D5300, D5500, D7000, D7100, D7200, D4, D4s
Canon 7D II, 5Ds, 5Ds R
Leica Q (Type 116)
Pentax K-3, K-5, K-7, K-01
Olympus OM-D E-M1, E-M5 II, E-M10, E-P5
Samsung NX1
Panasonic GH3, GH4, G7, GM5
Fuji X-T1, X-T10, X100T, X-E2 (with latest firmware)
Sony (only with Sony Remote Camera Control) NEX-6, a5000, a5100a6000a7a7IIa7Ra7RII, a7SRX1RX1R, RX100 III, RX100 IV








Requires the use of Remote Camera Control, which can be downloaded here or visit this download page for Windows or this download page for Mac. Here is a good visual intro to using the app’s intervalometer from Mike Beauchamp.








Time-Lapse Post Production

If you want to edit and compile the time-lapse movie yourself instead of having the camera do it for you (where applicable), here are some video resources to get you started.

Here are a few more resources, along with some inspiring time-lapse shooters, to explore:

Time Lapsing Against the Clock: How to Shoot a Time Lapse with a Stadium Full of Warriors Fans

How to Determine the Interval for a Time-Lapse

Dakotalapse, Time-Lapse Videos by Randy Halverson

Time-Lapse Videos by Michael Shainblum

Build a Motion Control Rig for Time-Lapse Photography

TimeScapes: The Movie

Please share your favorite resources in the comments below!

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Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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  1. Oh my goodness! This was SO helpful! Thanks so much!!!!

  2. hi, nice post and work, i didn’t know you could use adobe for post production, i use a 3rd party software i found on line. We have not done much with DSLR’s yet, we build time lapse systems with Ethernet Cameras, for remote management. Can you actually view a DSLR camera remotely ? i know some of the cards have built in wifi, but im guessing as they dont have a built in web-server, then maybe not. Anyway, thanks for the read.

    • Ooops, sorry i forgot to share my work, you did say its ok too. This is a project I am really proud of. A 4MP Ethernet Camera, for an off grid application, I set my customer up on a cloud server, done all the pre-set up, port forwarding etc. Supplied a 140 Watt PV Panel and Battery etc. He had it installed in under half a day…. Here is the link


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