What is GoPro Time-Lapse Photography?
GoPro Time Lapse photography is a technique where you capture many photos at a specific time interval (1 second apart, 5 seconds apart, 30 seconds apart, etc), stitch them together to create a video and then play it back at a higher rate of speed.
The frequency at which photos are captured is much slower than the speed of playback.
Let’s say we take a picture every 30 seconds for 1 hour. This means we will have captured 120 photos.
If we were to stitch them together and play the footage back at 30 frames per second (pretty standard), the length of the time lapse video would be 4 seconds (120 photos / 30 fps) compared to the 60 minutes it took to capture the raw footage.
Here’s an example of what a finished GoPro Time Lapse looks like:
How Do I Capture my Own GoPro Time Lapse?
Let’s start with what you need to capture a professional-looking time lapse.
1. GoPro Camera
Thankfully, GoPro users have it easy since there’s a Time Lapse feature built into the camera so if you have a GoPro, you’re good to go.
If you’re in need of a GoPro, here are a few links to the latest GoPros:
Remember this…Stable footage = Better time lapse
Stabilization is key to a quality-looking time lapse. If your camera shakes or moves during the time it’s capturing still photos, your final version is going to look pretty weird (and unprofessional) if the angle changes halfway through.
Trust us on this: a little stabilization goes a long way!
Or, if you have the GoPro 3-Way like this, that works too!
3. Software: GoPro Quik (GoPro Studio)
You’ll need some software to put together all of the images you captured so you can turn them into an awesome finished time lapse video. GoPro Quick is a free piece of software by GoPro. You can download it here.
Once you have those 3 things, we can proceed!
GoPro Time Lapse Settings & Preparation
Before we start choosing our time lapse intervals, make sure your camera is FULLY CHARGED.🔋
Don’t forget, you’re going to be leaving your camera for a long period of time (30-120 minutes).
The last thing you want is for your HERO to die during an epic sunset or lightning storm.
On the topic of batteries, it’s always a good idea to have extra power on hand so invest in a few extra batteries like these ones!
Once you’re charged up, turn on your GoPro and using the mode button, hit it to cycle through the modes until you see “Time Lapse” like the image below.
When it comes to selecting the right time lapse interval, it all depends on what you’re shooting. If anyone has ever told you to only use one specific time lapse interval for all time lapses, forget that right now!
The rule of thumb is this: if the movements are fast, you can choose a shorter interval. If the movements are slow and gradual, choose a longer interval.
Here’s the logic:
Think about clouds moving slowly thanks to a gentle breeze. The location of a specific cloud from 1 second to the next isn’t going to change a whole lot, right?
In this case, a time interval of 10 seconds makes more sense compared to 0.5 or 1.
Alternatively, if you want to capture a driving time lapse where there’s a lot of movement, something like 0.5 or 1 second will work much better. If you selected 10 seconds, you would be missing too much of the action. Think about how much distance you cover in 10 seconds if you’re driving at 45 or 60 miles per hour! That’s why a shorter interval is the way to go.
Once you’ve selected your ideal time interval for the situation, securely mount your GoPro to your tripod, make sure you’re in the time lapse mode and then hit the shutter button. Better yet, you can use the GoPro Remote or the GoPro App to start it.
From this point forward, do NOT touch the camera.
I repeat: no touchy!
A stable camera will yield a better time lapse. If you absolutely need to adjust the camera, do it within a few seconds of hitting the shutter button.
You’ll see a red blinking light firing every time a photo is taken. This is how you know the GoPro is on and snapping pics.
When you’re done, you can stop by hitting the shutter button again.
How long should I film for?
The answer is: it depends.
If you’re filming a sunset, sunsets don’t last forever so you’re limited with the time you can shoot for. You can start recording 1 hour before and then for another 30 minutes or so after.
Another way to think about it is to work backwards.
How long do you want the finished time lapse to be?
Generally, it’s a good idea to keep single scene time lapses to be under a minute.
Let’s go through an example together.
Assumptions: the final length of the time lapse will be 45 seconds
The time lapse is going to be played back at 30fps
With those 2 numbers, we can calculate how many photos we need
# of pictures = final video length x frame rate = 45 seconds x 30fps = 1,350 pictures
So we need 1,350 pictures.
If we’re capturing at an interval of 2 seconds, this means we will be capturing photos for 2,700 seconds or 45 minutes.
An interval of 1 second? This means 1,350 seconds or 22.5 minutes.
Again, this is just 1 way to figure out how long to shoot for.
Still with us? We’re on to the last step.
How Do I Edit my GoPro Time Lapse Video?
By now, you should have already downloaded GoPro Quick / GoPro Studio.
Sure, there are other pieces of software that can also put together a time lapse but GoPro Quik is a great option for the following reasons:
- It’s FREE
- It’s so simple to use
Watch the following video tutorial we put together on how to edit your GoPro time lapse with GoPro Studio in 5 minutes!
If you prefer, the written instructions are below but it’s easier to follow along with the video.
Import your GoPro photos to your computer and place the time lapse shots in a separate folder. Do not include any other files here!
In GoPro Quik, you should be able to navigate and select this folder. Right click on the thumbnail and click “Open in Studio.”
You can set the “in point” and “out point” of your time lapse. This lets you remove any garbage footage at the beginning and end of your time lapse. Once you’re happy with that, hit the big blue button called “Add Clip to Conversion List.”
You’ll see the clip move to the right hand side of studio. Hit the “Convert” button and wait a few minutes.
You can now proceed to step 2 to edit the video. Click and drag the thumbnail on the left side to the timeline (bottom middle of the screen where it says drag video here).
You can now adjust the playback speed, perform color correction and all that jazz. Play around with it!
Once you’re satisfied, you can export the video in your preferred settings depending on where you will post the video.