Adventure Pro photographer Terrance Siemon teaches us how to work with multiple images to create a stunning time-lapse

One of the most fun and rewarding visuals to create with a camera is a time-lapse. Even if video is out of your comfort zone, watching a still image come to life looks like magic.

timelapse photography 2020 ice fire silverton colorado
The 2020 Ice Fire near Silverton, Colorado.Terrance Siemon


True time-lapse photography is taking a series of raw images from the same exact location over a long period of time and playing the images back at video speed. This means we see it played back at the same frames per second (fps) we are accustomed to watching in film and television, about 24 or 30 frames per second. In a time-lapse project, you are actually seeing 24 or 30 photographs per second. So, for example, if you want a 15 second time lapse at 24 fps, you need to take 360 photographs: 360/24=15. There is basic computer software that will take a folder of images and output a video clip at the desired frame rate.

A note that time-lapse photography is not recording video with your camera and letting it roll for a long period of time; that is just video in fast forward. Although speeding up a video can achieve similar effects to time-lapse footage, the process is more creatively and technically limited. With a time-lapse, you get all of the capabilities of photography as opposed to videography.

timelapse photography bisti badlands new mexico
The Bisti Badlands in northern New Mexico.


Most cameras have a built in intervalometer. This is the tool that will automatically take a set number of shots at a certain interval, which provides the cleanest and smoothest result. An intervalometer is essential because the interval between each photograph taken needs to be consistent to have a smooth looking timelapse as an end result. Other than adjusting the settings on the camera, photographers just need a solid tripod and an interesting subject.

timelapse photography three creek lake oregon
Three Creek Lake in Oregon.Terrance Siemon


Time-lapse photography allows you to push the limits of traditional video, and the results are amazing. For instance, those that have tried to film a video in the dark of night probably saw a dark, grainy, low quality video clip. This is because video requires a faster shutter speed than photography. Video should be 1/50th of a second at the very slowest. Whereas photography can be as slow a shutter speed as we want — from 10, 30 or 60 seconds long. This produces a video that would otherwise be impossible to capture, like the Milky Way moving across the sky. Essentially anything that moves slowly to our naked eye — including plants, weather, stars, aurora borealis, fog and even wildfire smoke — can make very interesting subjects for time-lapse projects. It is well worth the effort and it showcases a new perspective of movement in the world.

For more photography and tips from Terrance, click here.