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How To Get Into Time-lapse Photography

9 minutes to read.

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve gotten really into timelapse photography.

When was the last time you just went to the nearest river or hill side and watched the sun set? It’s probably been a while.

Timelapse photography is a great reason to go relax and enjoy the out doors.

Over the course of this reading I will be explaining my set up and some examples of things I’ve shot. I have some new ideas of things I think will make good videos too, but perhaps I’ll have to update this once that happens.

Lastly, I am not a professional. But I do this for a fun a lot. If you are new to it, I’ve likely just gotten over the same humps you are about to experience and can help you figure it out.

Now, let’s get to it…


This article is going to be in the context of a GoPro Hero 4. But most everything I talk about doing with the GoPro, you can do with any cell phone and this $6 cell phone mount.

The camera I use is a GoPro Hero 4 Silver.

This is the camera that got me into timelapse photography. I originally bought to have a small camera that would be hard to break so I could film things on vacation. Then I started watching Casey Neistat’s vlog and just loved the timelapse’s he had in his videos so much it inspired me to give it a shot.

Having the GoPro worked out great and I highly recommend it for getting into timelapse photography.

The wide angle lens fits a lot more in the shot, it shoots timelapse in 4K, it shoots nightlapse’s, and you can control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed without having to know a whole lot about cameras.

And those are just the most useful parts for timelapse photography. Not to mention any underwater or sport stuff you want to use it for.

Overall a very versatile camera. *I may be the first person in history to say this, but GoPros are pretty awesome.


GoPro Gear

I’ll try to keep this section short. So I’m just going to list off my set up and a really quick note about why I got each piece. Feel free to pick and choose whatever things you want to start with and then if you like it you can build the collection.

  • Accessories kit: $17 – This is a cheap way to get most of the way there. In this kit you will get plenty of mounts, straps, and handles. However, this is just the one that I got, if you want more there are plenty of options for kits like this.
  • Clamp: $15 – To attached to signs or trees. I would choose this over a tripod any day. You can raise, lower, bend, and twist this thing to any angle shot you want.
  • Cooking timer: $11 – Put a GoPro mount to this thing and you have a cheap panning mount.
  • Tripod: $12 – You know what a tripod is. :)
  • Skeleton housing: $16 – Use this with the external battery below. This allows you to have a mostly protected GoPro, but now it is able to record close to 10 times longer without having to switch you the battery.
  • External battery: $16
  • Extra batteries + charging hub: $27 + $18
  • Case: $48 – For all of your new gear!

Note: These are affiliate links. But I really did get all of my stuff from Amazon so I figured, “why not”.


Looking for interesting timelapse shots is part of the fun, it gives you a reason to find the beauty in your city.

I’ve found lots of interesting places I never knew existed within only miles of my house just from going around looking for places to timelapse.

So while the things you find will be different from what I’ve done, here are some ideas of things to shoot.

  • Sunset/sunrise in different areas.
  • Boats
  • Traffic
  • Stars
  • Airport
  • Events like races or festivals
  • Clouds (common, but my favorite)
  • Flowers growing/dying
  • You having fun with your friends, dog, etc at a park

These are all of the go-to things to shoot, but I’m always thinking about different things I’d like to do. So if you have any idea’s feel free to comment with them below!

One thing I would like to do more are nightcaps shots, but I live in the city so it’s hard to find a place that isn’t drowned out with other lights. Now that it’s getting warm I’m hoping to get some good nightlapse videos camping at Red River Gorge.

That reminds me. We should probably talk about how to shoot…

Again, this will be in the context of the GoPro Hero 4 Silver.


The button on the front of the GoPro changes the camera mode.

The 3 modes are Video, Photo, and Multi-Shot mode.

Go to video mode and hit the button on the side of the camera. This is the options button.

Once you hit the option button you will be in the video settings.

Now the button in the from of the camera turns into the down button, there is no up button, and the top button is select or change.

You will change the the first item in the list, “Mode:” to “Timelapse Video”.

Change the “Interval:” to 0.5 seconds.

And change “Resolution:” to 4K.


Even if you don’t have a monitor that can support playing 4K, go ahead and shoot in that because you will in a couple years.

This also makes cropping in to a tighter shot easier because you can crop in 25% in post and still have a 1080p video.

Interval is how often the camera takes a picture. Video is just a series of pictures. A typical camera shoots around 24 frames per second, we are going to shoot at 2 frames per second. That way when we speed it up to 24 frames per second it looks like the beautiful timelapse video you are looking for.

The reason I always have Interval set to .5 seconds is because if I want it faster later on I can do that in post. The only reason I would shoot at a slower speed is if I was shooting something really slow over an hour or more so that I don’t fill up my SD card before I get the shot I want.

And at this speed I usually shoot each scene for at least 15 minutes. I’ve found this is a great place to start to get videos in the end that are between 10 and 30 seconds (depending if I speed it up in post or not.)


Nightlapse video has a couple more steps but is still pretty easy.

There is not a nightlapse setting in the video mode. So you are going to have to go to the camera and hit the Mode button until you get to the 3rd mode, which is Multi-shot mode.

This will literally be taking an image at set shutter speeds continuously.

Where as in a normal timelapse it takes 2 images per second and when you stop recording you end up with a video file, with a nightlapse you will end up with hundreds or thousands of separate image files.

Aside: GoPro has free editing software that notices it was shot in Multi-Shot mode and groups all of those image together automatically, so unless you have professional software, I highly recommend using the GoPro editing software over something like iMovie. I tried using iMovie for this and it took a while to speed it up fast enough and in the end it messed up and I had weird sections of my video that were the whole screen was just green.

But back to how to shoot in Nightlapse…

Once you get to Multi-Shot mode hit the option button on the side of the GoPro.

The first item will be “Mode:” again. Hit the button at the top of the camera until you see NighLapse.

Set the “Shutter:” to Auto.

And “Interval:” to Continuous.


You are now all set to shoot a Nightlapse! The GoPro works surprisingly well for these late night shots and the auto shutter speed works just great!

If you are interested in manipulating things like shutter speed, ISO, or aperture to make these shots even better, in the settings you will see a setting called Protune.

Turn that setting on and it will open those options up.

There isn’t a great way for me to tell you how to change those settings. It all depends on the shot really. But if you are interested in playing around with these more pro settings there is a really great video here that explains these things better than I ever could. This is the video that helped me out when I was learning how to tune these settings in.

But the auto settings above get you 95% of the way there in most cases.

Mounting/Panning the camera

When it comes to mounting the camera, the thing I use the most is the cooking timer from Ikea. (Mentioned in my gear list above.)

All you do is put one of the mounts your GoPro Comes with to it so you can attach the GoPro to the top.

This does two things, it allows you to just set the camera down anywhere for a static shot.

Or you can turn the timer on and get a slow pan up to an hour. There are plenty of panning tools you can get build specifically for this, but this timer is just as good but it’s only $11.

Eventually I would love a panning tool that I can control the speed of, but this is just fine for starting out.

The panning effect is really awesome though and brings a lot of life to a timelapse.

The next most important mount to me is the clamp from the gear list above. I find this much more useful than a tripod because all I have to do is find a sign or tree and I can mount the camera that way.

It’s easier to carry around than a tripod and is much more versatile.

Finally, the suction cup. This is one of the mounts that comes in the start kit above and has come in handy when none of the other mounts would work.

I’ve used this for timelapsing charity events, a 10K race, and in the car.

Where ever there is glass, you have a canvas to put your camera wherever you want.


I hope this helps some of you out when getting into this new hobby. It’s been a great way to relax, get away from all of the distractions of life, and just enjoy the outdoors. (After you set up your camera of course.)

I highly recommend finding a nice place to shoot, turn your phone on do not disturb and just listen to music and look around. Disconnect yourself while you do this.

If you have any questions or recommendations for me, let me know in the comments below!


To close this out, here are a couple videos I’ve done. All of these are just going to be the end result timelapse with no music or editing. If people like this post perhaps I’ll go over interesting ways to edit these in another post.


Thank you for reading,


This is shot on top of the Ikea timer I was talking about.

This one was just shot on my iPhone from a meeting room at work during a meeting. I think it turned out pretty cool.

There is an airfield near by for personal planes. For this I set the GoPro just inside the fence.

A boat starts going by at around 1:40 on this one. That part ends up being pretty cool.

There are really bright parts of this and really low light parts. I set the nightlapse to auto shutter speed and really low ISO. This could probably turn out better but I’m still figuring the best way to do nightlapse’s. :)

Finally, this one is just of a new sign in Cincinnati on a day with really cool looking clouds. Seeing the clouds move like that make you feel so small in the world doesn’t it?!

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