Time-Lapse Photography with Creative Cloud

In addition to my addiction to aerial photography, I’m also fascinated by time-lapse photography. With time lapse photography, you set up your camera to take pictures on an interval. This could be every few seconds, every few minutes, every few hours, or heck, once a day. It’s really up to you how you want to set up your shots and what you want to shoot. In any case, you can end up with a lot images – each by itself could be great, but it only tells a limited story.  However, you can put all those images together in a sequence to create some truly amazing visuals. Subtle motion becomes pronounced, and you can clearly view the passage of time. Often, this ends up with an amazing visual story that would be hard to otherwise capture.

All that you need start diving into time-lapse photography is a camera that is capable of capturing images on an interval – normally there is some kind of time lapse mode that lets you set up your image frequency and duration. Then, once you’ve got your images, you can process them with Creative Cloud tools to bring out their full potential.

Here are two time-lapse sequences I created this week–one a snow storm, one a sunset.

Neither sequence required a lot of specialized or expensive equipment. I used a GoPro Hero 3 Black camera, set it on my window sill, and let it do it’s thing. (I do want to upgrade to better gear, but this still works fantastically, and I love the GoPro.)

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

The sunset was a ten second interval captured over about 2 hours and played back in 30 seconds. The snow storm was a 60 second interval captured over roughly 14 hours, played back in 40 seconds.

So, you’ve captured the images, what next? 

You can check out the video below, or read on for further explanation how I processed and assembled the images into a video sequence, complete with links to Adobe documentation and tutorials.

Before putting everything together as a sequence, I wanted to enhance the photos to bring out as much detail as possible. Here’s where Adobe Lightroom comes into the picture. I used Lightroom to import all of my photos, add them to a collection, and then perform bulk/batch processing to enhance all of the images.

Editing Photos with Lightroom
Editing Photos with Lightroom

First, select an image to use as your baseline for adjustments. I wouldn’t start with your darkest image, and I wouldn’t start with your lightest either. I normally start somewhere in the middle. Select the image, and then switch over to the “Develop” module. I use the basic panel to make adjustments to this image. For the GoPro, I like to bring up the shadows and bring down the highlights to pull out details out. If I’m shooting a landscape, I also like to bring up the clarity and maybe even the vibrance and saturation – just don’t over do it. You could also use one of Lightroom’s presets if you want; it’s really up to you. Just be extra careful that it is not too dark or too light b/c we’re going to apply these settings to all images in the sequence.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - Basic Panel
Lightroom – Basic Panel

If you want to adjust hue, saturation or luminance of specific colors, you can do that within the HSL/Color/B&W panel. Using this you can make specific colors more or less intense.  I normally try to tone down the yellows in my GoPro images after I’ve increased overall saturation.

Since I used the GoPro, there is a lot of fisheye distortion from the lens – the GoPro has a 2.77mm lens whichgives an ultra-wide 170 degree field of view. This makes for some awesome wide angle shots, but sometimes you don’t want that extreme distortion. This is where lens correction gets really handy. Next, I opened up the Lens Correction panel. As soon as you check the “Enable Profile Corrections” checkbox, Lightroom should automatically select the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition lens profile based upon metadata within the image. I didn’t want to fully flaten the image, just reduce the wide angle, so I turned down the distortion correction using the “Distortion” slider.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom - Lens Correction
Lightroom – Lens Correction

Once you have your baseline image the way you want it, you need to apply these settings to all of your images in the sequence. Just select them all, and then either click on the “Sync…” button in the bottom right of the Develop module, or use the Settings -> Synch Settings menu. This will apply you changes on this image to all of the images that were selected. This will happen automatically if you are using auto-sync. You can learn more about synchronizing metadata between photos in the Lightroom documentation.

Next, be sure to view several images in your collection, the lightest to the darkest, and make sure they all look decent. If you need to make any changes because they are too light, or too dark, or don’t have the right contrast, then now is your time to fix it. Once you’re happy with the images in your collection you next need to export them. I exported as JPG with 100% quality at full resolution with sequential names.

Now we’ve got a lot of processed images. What’s next? We need to make a video!

At this point, I switch over to Adobe Premiere. Premiere is an incredible tool for producing videos. It makes the process of arranging video compositions very easy. It’s easy enough for a beginner to use, yet powerful enough to create high-dollar Hollywood productions. If you haven’t used Premiere before, definitely check out my Crash Course in Premiere, check out Video Editing for Non-Video Professionals, and don’t miss the Adobe Premiere channel on Adobe TV.

The first thing to do is create a new video project, then create a new sequence. If you want full HD, you’ll want to select an one of the 1080p presets (or create a custom sequence). Once you have your sequence created, you need to import your images for editing.

To import your images, select the File -> Import menu, select the first image in your sequence, and select the “Image Sequence” checkbox. (DO NOT MISS THIS STEP!)

Premiere - Import Image Sequence
Premiere – Import Image Sequence

Once imported, the image sequence will be treated like a video clip within Premiere. Drag it onto your sequence timeline, then start editing. You can speed up or slow down playback with time remapping, apply color correction, add transitions, or more.  Then add a title, add some music, and export it.

Editing within Adobe Premiere
Editing within Adobe Premiere

If you’re wondering how I got the motion in the time lapse sequence, no I didn’t have the camera moving. There are devices which make this possible, but I just used a video editing trick. The images are 12 MP, or 4000 by 3000 pixels. A “standard” HD video sequence is 1920 by 1080 pixels. The image below reflects this scale – the red area represents the 4000 by 3000 still image, and the yellow represents the 1920 by 1080 video.

Video & Image Size Comparison
Video & Image Size Comparison

You’ll notice that leaves us with a lot of room to zoom and pan around the image. I zoom into the image so that it fills the entire horizontal space within the video sequence – you can zoom in more if you want. This leaves a fair amount of vertical content outside the clipping rectangle of the video. You can use this to your advantage by panning vertically within this area.  I just made the pan very slow and deliberate so it appears that there is constant motion of the camera throughout the entire video.

The final result is that the content in the video (yellow area) appears to move because the actual image sequence is moving relative to the video viewport.

  • John Dimick

    GREAT tutorial!

  • Johno Wells

    can you please explain how to do the zoom and pan movement over so many images? Are you putting in motion key-frames for every image? That would take hours…any way to automate the process? The motion in your videos looks great.

    • http://tricedesigns.com/ Andrew Trice

      You import the images as a sequence, and they get treated like a single movie clip. Then, set a keyframe at the beginning, and a keyframe at the end and add movement between the two keyframes. You don’t need a lot of movement, Just subtle movement over the duration seems to work pretty well.

  • Camera Man

    Nice smart phone controlled timelapse device with bulb ramping, sensors and pan/tilt/zoom

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/969220052/camsformer-high-speed-triggeringwireless-camera-co

  • Rachel Assendelft

    I was wondering how to have adobe Premiere treat the Lightroom edited images as a video clip. When I go to import them into Premiere I don’t have the image sequence button, but a numbered stills button. When I click this and the first image in the folder it doesn’t upload them all. And if I select all the images in the folder to upload I cannot check the numbered stills button.
    Any suggestions?

    • http://tricedesigns.com/ Andrew Trice

      Maybe it is getting confused by the format of your file names. Try having descriptive text, followed by the sequence number. Something like “MyPhotoShoot-1.jpg”. This tutorial was done with Premiere Pro – I think you are using Premiere Elements, but the process should be similar. See how the files are named here: http://helpx.adobe.com/premiere-pro/using/importing-still-images.html

      • Rachel Assendelft

        Thank You soooo much! Changing the file names worked!

  • Karl Leonard

    How do you get the white balance to blend from daylight to night correctly using this method of synching an image somewhere in the middle? Doing it as shown, the image in the middle has correct white balance, but all earlier images get shifted progressively towards the yellow, and the later images get shifted progressively towards the blue.

  • cjromb

    Thank you for taking the time to detail this out! What a fantastic tutorial! :)

  • Lisa

    Dear Andrew, this exactly what i was looking for! Thanks a lot for describing this in these clear steps!

  • Chloé

    I love the tutorial for the photo edits, I made it exactly the same settings as you and my photos look wonderful! Just about to try out the Premiere tuto, I just wished you had been more explicit in regards to how to make it zoom on the photo but I’ll work it out :)