Achieving Smooth Motion Control in Time Lapses

Time lapse photography is a fascinating technique that allows you to capture the passage of time in a compressed format. Whether you’re shooting a sunrise, a bustling cityscape, or the movement of clouds, achieving smooth motion control is essential to create visually stunning time lapses. In this article, we will explore the basics of time lapse photography and how to master the art of smooth motion.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose the right camera and lens for time lapse photography
  • Set up your time lapse shot properly to ensure stability
  • Control exposure and white balance for consistent results
  • Use a motorized slider for precise and smooth camera movements
  • Utilize an electronic shutter release for minimal camera shake

Understanding the Basics of Time Lapse Photography

Choosing the Right Camera and Lens

When it comes to time lapse photography, selecting the right camera and lens is crucial. Your camera should have manual controls and the ability to shoot in RAW format for maximum flexibility in post-processing. A wide-angle lens is often preferred for capturing expansive landscapes or cityscapes. Consider the focal length and aperture of the lens to achieve the desired depth of field and sharpness in your time lapse shots.

Setting Up Your Time Lapse Shot

Now that you have chosen the right camera and lens for your time lapse photography, it’s time to set up your shot. This is a crucial step in achieving smooth motion in your time lapse. Vision is key here. You need to carefully consider the composition and framing of your shot to create a visually appealing time lapse. Pay attention to the elements in your scene and how they will move over time. Think about the story you want to tell and how you can capture it in a single frame.

Controlling Exposure and White Balance

When it comes to time lapse photography, controlling exposure and white balance is crucial to achieving the desired results. Shutter speed is one of the key factors that determine the exposure of your images. It refers to the length of time the camera’s shutter remains open, allowing light to enter the sensor. By adjusting the shutter speed, you can control the amount of light that reaches the sensor, which in turn affects the brightness and clarity of your time lapse.

To ensure consistent exposure throughout your time lapse sequence, it’s important to set a fixed shutter speed. This will prevent any variations in exposure that may occur if the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed based on changing lighting conditions. By keeping the shutter speed constant, you can maintain a smooth and consistent look in your time lapse footage.

In addition to controlling exposure, white balance is another important aspect to consider. It determines the overall color temperature of your images and can greatly impact the mood and atmosphere of your time lapse. White balance settings allow you to adjust the color temperature to match the lighting conditions and achieve accurate and natural-looking colors in your time lapse.

To ensure accurate white balance, it’s recommended to use a custom white balance setting or manually adjust the white balance based on the lighting conditions. This will help you avoid any unwanted color casts or shifts in your time lapse footage. By paying attention to both exposure and white balance, you can achieve stunning and professional-looking time lapse sequences.

Mastering the Art of Smooth Motion

Using a Motorized Slider

A motorized slider is an essential tool for achieving smooth motion in your time lapse videos. It allows you to precisely control the movement of your camera, resulting in fluid and professional-looking shots. With a motorized slider, you can create dynamic and captivating time lapses that capture the viewer’s attention. Whether you’re shooting landscapes, cityscapes, or even astrophotography, a motorized slider will greatly enhance the quality of your footage.

Utilizing Electronic Shutter Release

When it comes to achieving smooth motion in your time lapses, utilizing an electronic shutter release can make a significant difference. By using an electronic shutter release, you can minimize camera shake caused by manually pressing the shutter button. This helps ensure that each frame is captured with precision and eliminates any unwanted blur.

Additionally, an electronic shutter release allows you to set a specific interval between each shot, ensuring consistent timing and smooth transitions. You can easily program the shutter release to take a photo at regular intervals, whether it’s every few seconds or minutes. This feature is especially useful when capturing time lapses of moving subjects or changing scenes.

To further enhance the smoothness of your time lapses, consider using a tripod or stable surface to mount your camera. This will help minimize any additional movement or vibrations that could affect the overall quality of your footage.

Lastly, don’t forget to review your camera settings and make sure you have the appropriate exposure and white balance settings for your desired outcome. Adjusting these settings can help create a more visually appealing time lapse with accurate colors and proper exposure levels.

Applying the 180 Degree Rule

Applying the 180 Degree Rule

The 180 Degree Rule is a fundamental principle in cinematography that helps create smooth and natural-looking motion in time lapses. It states that when capturing moving subjects, the camera should stay on one side of an imaginary line, known as the action axis. By following this rule, you can maintain consistent movement and avoid jarring transitions in your time lapse footage.

To apply the 180 Degree Rule effectively, consider the following:

  • Camera Placement: Position your camera on one side of the action axis and keep it there throughout the time lapse. This ensures that the movement remains consistent and visually pleasing.

  • Subject Movement: Pay attention to the direction and speed of your subject’s movement. If the subject is moving from left to right, make sure the camera stays on the left side of the action axis. This creates a smooth and natural flow in the final time lapse.

  • Transition Points: Identify key moments where the subject changes direction or speed. These transition points can add visual interest to your time lapse. By strategically positioning the camera on the appropriate side of the action axis, you can emphasize these moments and create a more dynamic sequence.

Remember, the 180 Degree Rule is a guideline, not a strict rule. Feel free to experiment and break the rule when it serves your creative vision. However, understanding and applying this principle can greatly enhance the smoothness and visual appeal of your time lapse videos.


In conclusion, achieving smooth motion control in time lapses requires a combination of the right equipment and techniques. By choosing the right camera and lens, setting up your time lapse shot properly, and controlling exposure and white balance, you can lay the foundation for a successful time lapse. To take it to the next level, consider using a motorized slider to add smooth and precise motion to your shots, utilizing an electronic shutter release for seamless captures, and applying the 180 Degree Rule for natural-looking motion blur. With practice and experimentation, you can create stunning time lapses that captivate your audience and tell a compelling visual story.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is time lapse photography?

Time lapse photography is a technique where a series of photos are taken at regular intervals and then played back as a video, creating the illusion of time moving faster.

What equipment do I need for time lapse photography?

To capture time lapse photography, you will need a camera, a tripod or stable surface, and optionally, a motorized slider or electronic shutter release.

How do I choose the right interval for my time lapse?

The interval between each photo will depend on the subject and the desired effect. Generally, shorter intervals create smoother motion, while longer intervals create more pronounced changes over time.

How do I control exposure and white balance in time lapse photography?

To maintain consistent exposure and white balance throughout your time lapse, use manual mode on your camera and set the desired settings before starting the sequence.

What is a motorized slider and how does it help in time lapse photography?

A motorized slider is a device that automatically moves the camera along a track, allowing for smooth and precise motion in time lapse shots. It eliminates the need for manual adjustments and ensures consistent movement.

What is the 180 Degree Rule in time lapse photography?

The 180 Degree Rule states that the camera should move no more than 180 degrees between each frame in a time lapse sequence. This helps maintain smooth motion and avoid jerky movements.