How to shoot smooth timelapse of fast moving subjects during the day

May 8, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to shoot smooth timelapse of fast moving subjects during the day

May 8, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Timelapses are a lot of fun to shoot. I don’t shoot them anywhere near as often as I would like, but I try to shoot them as often as I possibly can. Shooting them in daylight, though, can present some challenges, especially if you have fast-moving subjects like people or vehicles. Yes, when it comes to timelapse, people are fast moving subjects.

It often results in very jerky motion with one frame looking drastically different from the last, losing that flow of motion we like to see in a timelapse. There is a way to solve the problem. Two, actually. And in the above video from Fenchel & Janisch, Moritz Janisch walks us through both of them.

The first solution is to slow your shutter speed right down. This way, instead of each frame being a tiny frozen moment in time, you’re actually catching the motion blur of people, cars, boats or other objects moving in your scene. At night, getting long shutter speeds is easy, because there isn’t a lot of light.

In the daytime, however, this is difficult, because even if your ISO is as low as it can go, and your aperture’s all the way down at f/22, you’re still getting a relatively fast shutter speed. If you’re shooting with a 5 second interval and your shutter speed is 1/50th of a second, it’s not covering much of that movement. This is where neutral density filters come into play.

Neutral density filters lower the amount of light entering through your lens and hitting the sensor, allowing you to get much longer shutter speeds that you might otherwise be able to achieve. Personally, I use several neutral density filters when I shoot timelapse during the day, because I usually have several cameras running. I use Schneider 4×5.65″ ND filters in a Cokin Z-Pro holder, I have a B+W 10-stop and I have the new PolarPro Peter McKinnon Edition Variable ND filter (full review on that one coming soon).

The second solution is to shoot more often and then compensate in post by blending multiple frames together. This is something I do regularly with my vlogs. Instead of shooting a bunch of stills in rapid succession, though, I often just resort to shooting video with the longest shutter speed my camera will allow for the framerate. Then I speed it up using frame blending in Premiere Pro.

Premiere Pro CC also offers the Timewarp effect, which is what’s shown off in the video above to help give you even more control over this technique.

The second technique doesn’t give quite the same results as using ND filters, and certain things can cause some issues, but it’s useful in a pinch. And it’s certainly the easiest to deal with, because there’s less setup time involved. But, when possible, going with neutral density will almost always give noticeably better results.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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