If you want to level up your time lapse and hyperlapse game so you can charge more money and save hours of headaches and frustration. I have made a course for you that over 400 students have enrolled in!

I’m confident Hyperflow Masterclass will get you from zero to shooting like a pro or I’ll give you your money back!
Check out the course here to see if it’s right for you.


What is a Time Lapse Interval?

An interval is the amount of time that takes place between each of our photos.
Imagine you’re starving and waiting for pizza delivery. Of course, you keep checking your phone to see if the driver’s texted to let you know the pizza’s arrived. The time you wait between each time you check your phone is an interval. Which can feel like forever depending on how hungry you are.
Well in time lapse photography, the interval is the time between each photo, and it has a huge impact on how your video turns out.
If a short interval is like a hungry person checking the phone every second, you’re going to have more detail, but it can feel painfully slow. Like watching paint dry, or waiting for your pizza.
Whereas a longer interval is like a laid-back stoic checking their phone every few minutes. It feels like the pizza arrived sooner to the person waiting, even though it took the same amount of time.
So the rest of this article is going to help you understand how to choose the best interval for your specific situation.

What’s an Interval vs Shutter Speed?


An interval and shutter speed are both related to the idea of time in time lapse photography but refer to different things.
If an interval is the amount of time between each photo. The shutter speed is the amount of time it takes for the camera to take the photo.
For example, if we use an interval of 2 seconds and a 1-second exposure. Every 2 seconds the camera will fire a photo, and it will take a one-second exposure.  
Then in one more second (because one second has gone by already,) the camera will fire again.
There are three really important things to know here. 
First, our interval is separate than our shutter speed and it will not wait until the photo is done taking to begin counting. No, if our interval is every two seconds, it means two seconds.
Second, a good rule of thumb to aim for is to get the habit of getting our shutter speed to be half of our interval. This will give us motion blur. If you can’t quite get it to half, do your best, and maybe save up for an ND filter.
If we are doing a holy grail time lapse, which is where the sun rises or sets, we need to keep our interval in mind because our shutter speed will change throughout the shot and we don’t want it to interfere with our interval.
The easiest way to shoot a holy grail time lapse.

How to Choose A Time Lapse Interval


How to choose an interval is like asking what pizza should you get? 
It totally depends on where you’re ordering it from, who else is eating it with you, if there a vegeterian or like pineapple on their pizza, and how hungry you are. 
Each situation is just different.
Because if you choose an interval that is fast like one or two seconds, not a whole lot of movement is going to happen and people are going to feel like their watching paint dry.
It’d be like telling people to come over for a pizza party at 6, but none of the pizza shows up until 7. If they’re hungry, they might get bored and leave.
Problem is if you choose an interval that is slow like 30 seconds, 15 minutes, a day. Things might move too fast and the audience is unsure of what they even saw. 
This would be like if you had the pizza ready to go the second they arrived and tried cramming it in their mouths before they even walked in the door. Not a good look.
That’s why I’m going to give some of the most common subjects you’ll find and give you some great starting points so you can make your own decisions on time lapses.

Time Lapse Interval For Clouds


Just like pizza toppings, clouds are different. So for the sake of this we will cover three types of cloud formations.
For cumulus clouds, I call them the Simpsons clouds. These are the big puffy ones that kinda look like cotton candy.
A pretty view of the sunset in Sunset Park Brooklyn
These ones are slow, they look like their stuck in the sky. Since they move slower, we want a longer interval because otherwise, it will look like paint is drying. 
So for slow-moving clouds or cumulus clouds. I recommend an interval of 10-15 seconds.
But another common cloud is the cirrus cloud. It’s thinner, whispier, higher in the sky and moves a lot quicker. Because it moves so quickly, we want a shorter interval. I recommend 3-5 seconds for those.
The last clouds I want to cover are Storm Clouds. Storm clouds come in all shapes and forms but the main thing to know is they happen fast. So since they move and transform quicker than all the others I recommend using a 1-3 second interval.

Time Lapse Interval for Sunrise/Sunsets


For this I’m specifically talking about the process of seeing the entirety of the sunset or sunrise. 
For these we want to be there equal times before the sunrises or sets, and after. This way we have the full spectrum of colors and change. I recommend starting with an hour before the sunset and an hour after and going from there.
This means you’ll be shooting a two-hour time-lapse and if there are no clouds in the sky you can do a 15-20 second interval. 
But if there are clouds in the sky I might recommend a 10-second interval as you get some more interesting colors and changes.

Sunset Time lapses or Holy Grail time lapses are some of the most difficult to shoot. I have multiple tutorials dedicated to helping get the best results with the least amount of effort. Learn how to shoot a sunset time lapse like a pro, and the easiest holy grail settings.

Time Lapse Interval for Capturing the Color of a Sunrise or Sunset

Now if you’re specifically after the colors of a sunrise or a sunset. This change is only dramatic for like 15-20 minutes on a really vivid sunset. So you will want a much faster interval of like 1-3 seconds.
You may want to stay after the sunsets as well because then you enter Blue Hour which can often produce some absolutely stunning colors and beautiful vivid blue that is just beautiful.

Time Lapse Interval Traffic

Traffic is pretty frenetic, so I recommend using a fast interval like 1-2 seconds. My favorite time to shoot traffic is at blue hour. 

Time Lapse Interval for People

Just like traffic people and cars tend to move quickly. If I’m just specifically shooting people I’ll do a two-second interval. 
If cars are involved as well I’ll do a one-second interval.

Time Lapse Interval for Sun/Moon on Telephoto Lenses

Depending on how big of a telephoto zoom lens you have you’re going to want a fast interval because if you zoom in really close to the sun or moon, it’s going to be in and out of your frame pretty quickly. 
I’d recommend anywhere between 1-3 seconds for that just depending on how big your zoom is.

Event Time Lapse Intervals

This one will vary quite a bit depending on what you want to show.
If you are trying to show the event being built, then ask how long the install will take, remember you want 10 seconds of footage and work backwards.
So if they said it’s going to take 8 hours, and I want 240 photos. Since there’s 60 minutes in an hour and I multiply that by eight. 8×60 equals 480 minutes. Meaning I’d want one photo every two minutes.
But if I am specifically after the performance, or a crowd during a single performance I’d want a much shorter interval of like 1-2 seconds.
Lastly, maybe I want to see the people arrive, the whole performance, and then the people leave. For this I’d ask the people hiring me what time doors open, and in experience what time they think they’ll be done for the day and ready to go home.
Then reverse engineer it with that information.

Time Lapse Intervals for Stars

Since I live in Brooklyn and don’t ever get to see the stars. My bias is I tend to err on the side of getting as many star photos as I can. So I shoot with a 20 second interval. 
But I know many talented time lapsers use 30. So go with 20-30 second interval.

Long term Time Lapse Interval for Plants

This will depend on if you are trying to watch a plant grow from beginning to end, see a flower bloom, and how long each plant takes.
You’re going to have to research the plant type and how long it takes to grow and reverse engineer it to get to 10 seconds of video.
But you might be looking at intervals as fast as an hour, or as slow as 24 hours.

Long Term Time Lapse Interval for Buildings

This is very similar to plants, are you trying to see just the passage of the people doing the construction or do you want to see the entire building?
A good interval might be every hour so you have progress stamps to show to the client to see how it’s progressing. 
But if you’re doing a home DIY project you might want to reverse engineer how long it will take you to finish the project and choose whatever interval gets you to 240 photos.

Should I Use A Time Lapse Calculator?

A frequently asked question I get is should I use a time lapse calculator.  A time lapse calculator is an app, or any calculator that will divide the amount of photos you take, and the duration of the time lapse and tell you the interval. 
I personally don’t ever use one since I know how long I want my finished video to be which is 10 seconds. If it takes longer it’s typically boring.
Even if I end up with a time lapse that is 60-90 seconds long, I know I’m either going to choose the best 10 seconds of the clip or speed it up by deleting photos or simply speeding it up.
It’s a personal choice, but I think it’s pretty useless if I’m being honest.

How to calculate a time lapse interval?

A Samsung Smartphone taking a time lapse of clouds.
The way you want to calculate a time lapse interval is like mentioned above with the specific types of subjects you want to shoot. It’s going to take trial and error and experimentation. 
Get a feel for the different types of movements of subjects at different speeds and see which ones you like. Remember to err on the side of caution and that it’s much better to have too many photos than not enough. 
It’s really ugly and jittery to try to slow down a time lapse but you can always speed one up.

6 Things to Consider when choosing a time lapse Interval 


Lights role on your time lapse interval

A major consideration in choosing a time lapse interval is what is the light going to be doing and it’s impact on your shutter speed.
If you have a one second interval, and a half second shutter speed and are beginning to shoot a sunset holy grail time lapse. It’s eventually going to get so dark that your exposure time is going to be well over a second. 
This is a problem because if your interval is only one second, that means that when your interval hits, instead of taking a photo it will skip it because it’s busy.
This will result in inconsistent intervals and will look really stuttery in the final video.

Noise Reduction

If you’re noise reduction is turned on, and we have a long exposure, it’s going to take twice as long to write the photo, which could also make you miss an interval.
This is why I recommend turning off noise reduction when shooting a time lapse because it can be done in post.

How long do you want the final project to be?

While I will always recommend aiming for a final time lapse to be 10 seconds, there are many reasons why you might want it to be longer. But it’s important to think of how long you want the final sequence length to be.
Without knowing how long you want it to be, you don’t know how long to shoot for. 

Camera Battery Life

An example of Battery and SD card Storage
This is easy to overlook or lose track of during the day but making sure you have enough battery life before beginning your time lapse is going to be important.
You’d hate to drive to a location, hike to a spot, get there and then half way through the sequence have everything turn off.
I recommend buying extra batteries and just being in the habit of always be charging.

Storage Space

Just like batteries, this is another easy sneaky one to miss. There have been countless times where I haven’t realized I began a time lapse with a 32gb card, or accidentally forgot to transfer the footage from the SD card to the hard drive.
In these situations I have to try to time swapping the SD card in the middle of the interval and risk bumping my camera and then have to go through the hassle of organizing photos on two different SD cards and renaming the entire file system so I can edit them correctly. 
It’s super annoying and tedious and easily avoidable.

Desired Outcome

A photo example of why you don't leave as soon as the sun sets.
The last and most important thing about choosing an interval is going to be your desired outcome. If you have a specific vision in your head for how you want things to come out (and you should.) Then you need to make the best decision for that.
For example, a client might want it to look smooth and silky. This would mean you’d want to emphasize the motion blur and have a shorter interval. 
But another client could want to show how chaotic something is, which could mean less motion blur. 
This is going to come with experimenting and time. 


What is a Time Lapse Interval?

A time lapse interval is the interval of time that takes place between the start of each photo. It affects how quickly we see the time lapse of our subject.

What is a Time-Lapse Interval in a Video Recording?

A time lapse interval in a video recording is 1 divided by whatever shutter speed your filming at. So if you are filming a video at 24fps it’d be an interval of 1/24th of a second. 

But this isn’t a good question because you don’t take time lapses from video.

What is a Time Lapse Interval in Camera?

A time lapse interval in a camera is the interval of time that takes place between the start of each photo.

How Long is A Time Lapse? 

This question is like asking how big is a pizza. It really depends on the size of the crust and the oven.  A time lapse can be as long, or as short as you want.

What does Time Lapse Interval Mean?

It means the amount of time that takes place between the start of each photo.

How Does One Calculate The Interval Time For Shooting a Long Exposure Time Lapse?

Great question, the easiest answer is by making your interval DOUBLE your exposure. The reason you’d do this is to get a nice motion blur.

This s the same reason why video that is recorded at 24 fps is shot at 1/50th of a second. So we get nice motion blur.  

How to Change the Time Lapse Interval on iPhone?

On the native iPhone app there is no way to change the interval. If you want to change the interval I suggest purchasing the app Lapse it Pro.

In there, you have an option to change the interval to anything you want from as short as 100 milliseconds to as long as 100 hours.

Are Intervalometer Mode VS Time Lapse Mode the Same Thing?

Yes they are the same thing.

Do Time Lapse Videos Take a Lot of Storage

If you are shooting photos in RAW, then yes having hundreds of raw images takes up a lot of space. But if you are shooting with your native smartphone app, it compresses it into a video file that is much better optimized for storage but you don’t get a high-quality time lapse.

What is the longest time lapse you can take with the built in iOS camera app

Apple says you can stretch this out to capture 30 hours at 10 frames a minute.

How long is a 4-hour time lapse.

A four-hour time lapse is about 24 minutes. Smartphone time lapse is 10 times the normal speed. SInce an hour has 60 minutes we multiply 60 x 4 to reach 240. We divide this by our normal speed which is 10. 240/10= 24.

If you want to level up your time lapse and hyperlapse game so you can charge more money and save hours of headaches and frustration. I have made a course for you that over 400 students have enrolled in!

I’m confident Hyperflow Masterclass will get you from zero to shooting like a pro or I’ll give you your money back!
Check out the course here to see if it’s right for you.