Shooting Time-Lapse Photography at Night – Photography Tutorial
Shooting Time-Lapse Photography at Night – Photography Tutorial

– I can’t believe we’re giving this away
in August. I am so excited ♪[theme music]♪ – We’re here to teach you a little bit
about time-lapse photography, not just any time-lapse photography,
but nighttime time-lapse. Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today
on The Slanted Lens, we’re out here at Mono Lake. This is up around the
Mammoth area, more northern in California. We have come here, to Mono Lake, to be
able to shoot some time-lapse photography at nighttime. I want to get a great shot
of the Milky Way as it goes by these tufas. Tufas are a calcium, some kind of
deposit, I don’t know what it is, it’s a bunch of stuff piled on top of itself that
makes these neat looking structures. Our goal is to get a little bit of light on
the tufas, but get great stars and the Milky Way in the background. You need to
shoot in a dark place, not polluted by city lights. We chose Mono Lake because
it’s in a dark area and it’s a cool natural wonder away from all those city
lights. It’s dark with no ambient light, it’s a perfect place to do our time lapse.
First off, we have to know where the Milky Way’s going to be and what time it’s going
to come up on the horizon. You know, the reality is when people say “We’re going to
photograph the Milky Way” all the stars you see in the sky are in the Milky Way.
What most people think of as the Milky Way is that kind of cloudy area that comes
together. In order to figure out exactly how to find that, I did a little research
and found out that it’s basically the constellation of Scorpio down to Cygnus
and really around Sagittarius. Now, I’m acting like I know what I’m
talking about here, the reality is, I’m looking for that cloudy area that comes up
on the horizon. But in order to find that, I’ve got to find the constellation
Sagittarius and in that constellation is that cloudy area. You can check out an
article on for more information on finding the Milky Way. I’ll
put the URL in the notes. I do use an app to track the constellations, there’s an
app called StarTracker and Stellarium. I’m not an expert on astronomy, but those are
the apps that I use, there may be better ones out there, but those are the ones
that I’ve found. I also have a planisphere, which is basically a hard
copy to show you where the constellations are going to be on what day, so there’s a
couple of different ways to find the Milky Way. With our app, we’ve seen that the
Milky Way is going to come up here at about 10:30 on my right, it’ll go through
our tufas, our camera will be stationary, the Milky Way will just glide through
them, it’ll take about three hours. So we’ll start about 10:30 and we’re
going to go until 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning. It’s going to be a long
night. We brought our lawn chairs. We’re going to sleep a bit. So let’s get
started and see what we can do. The biggest question every time you shoot
time-lapse at night, when you’re trying to catch stars in the Milky Way, is “what are
my camera settings?” That’s the hardest decision to make. They are very simple and
easy to replicate. I’m going to shoot on manual, so I get a manual exposure. I’m
going to use two different lenses tonight. I’m going to use a 16 to 35, the reason
being is I want to make it as wide as possible to give me as much of the
sky as I can see, it’s a 2.8 lens so it’s pretty quick. I’m also going to
use a 24-70 Tamron lens, it’s also a 2.8 lens. It’ll give me a little tighter
view, but it still gives me a broad look at the sky. Both of these cameras
are going to be set at f2.8. We’re then going to do a 20 second
exposure and we’re going to set the ISO at 2000. A 20 second exposure
now will be followed with a 25 second time-lapse interval. So a 20 second
exposure, 5 second rest, another 20 second exposure. We’ll do that
consistently from 10:30 until about 2:30 in the morning. That’s
going to give us somewhere around 500 frames to make our time-lapse with. I’m
going to set my white balance on daylight, after all stars are daylight, I get great
results with these settings. To fire the camera, I’m going to use a
Neuro Trigger on time-lapse mode and the Canon TC-80N3. Do you know the Neuro
Trigger is $199 and the TC-80N3 is $169. The Neuro Trigger is well worth the extra
money. For one, it’s going to give me a preview every time it shoots an image,
it’ll put a preview up on the screen on the back of the camera. The Canon one does
not do that, so I get to see as the image progresses, I can see how it’s looking
each time. With the Canon one, I’ve got to stop the time-lapse, hit the preview
button, look at it. I hate that, I’m afraid I’m bumping the camera. The preview
alone is worth the extra $21. To focus, I’m going to set the camera on video and
magnify 10 times and then I’m going to focus until I see the dots become as small
as possible. If I’m having trouble with this, I’ll put my Zacuto loop on the back
to be able to see it as I focus. That’ll give me the option to be able to get that
as sharp as possible. For our format, we’re going to shoot both a JPEG and a raw
image. The reason for that is I want a JPEG to play with so I just want to get
it in and look at it, but I have a raw image that I can completely manipulate. I
can change the color balance, I can do whatever I want with it. That really is
valuable to me. We’re only shooting about 500 frames tonight, so it’s not going to
matter that much. You know, it’s not like we’re shooting,
you know, 2 and 3,000 frames like you do in some time-lapse. So that makes it very
easy for us to work with later in post, gives us a lot of options. So we’re going
to light our tufas tonight with a headlamp, nothing but a regular hiker’s
headlamp. We’re going to put it on the stand on the camera left side here. We’re
going to put three stops of ND on it and it’s going to knock it way down. You’ll
look at it and you’ll think “my word, it doesn’t even look like it’s on, ” but it
needs to be very dark. It’s a 20 second exposure at 2.8. It doesn’t take much
light to light something this close. Unfortunately, my headlamp started to lose
its battery and became dim after about three hours. So in the future, I wouldn’t
do that again. I’d bring a small LED like the Rosco battery-operated soft LEDs.
Those would’ve been ideal in this situation, I should’ve brought one.
It is important to scout your location ahead of time. You can’t just show up 30
minutes before it’s going to start, put your camera on the ground, and expect to
get a great shot. Get out there early, check out your location. Here’s a couple
of things that’ll make this experience a little easier for you: bring your
equipment in a backpack, because it’s a lot easier to haul it out to where you’re
going to have to be. Bring a lawn chair or a foam pad, something to sit on or take a
nap on, because you’re going to be there for a long time. Bring head lamps and
extra batteries, because you’ll use them as you pack up and back to the car. Also,
I found it very helpful, because any light in this area was too much exposure on our
subject, so I have a little flashlight and it has just a little red beam and that
little red beam made it so I could kind of move around in the background and not get
light on the subject matter. A head lamp was way too bright, it just blew
everything out. So there’s just two or three things that’ll help make that
experience a little bit nicer. You know, I didn’t choose to use motion with a Kessler
slider on this example, it was meant to be a very simple, straightforward example of
shooting the Milky Way, something easy that everyone can replicate. Be sure to
watch the next lesson to see my method of processing raw images and putting together
time-lapse sequences in Quicktime. It was a great time to be out in that place, it’s
an incredible place, sitting under the stars with my sweetheart, probably no
greater place in the world. It was a great experience that night. I do love
photography and video, man, where else in the world can you go out and have
these kinds of experiences? So get out there and keep those cameras
rolling. Keep on clicking. ♪[theme music]♪ You’ve only got two weeks left, August
31 to win your 70-200 mm Tamron 2.8 lens. This is an incredible lens. Do not miss
out. Go to, sign-up to win this, August 31st. Make
a great- looking image. We’re got a a guy joining us here on our
hiking, who loves us, evidently. You just made it on The
Slanted Lens. – Oh my goodness, you know I’m
going to have to Google myself here. – Absolutely. Say your name one more time? – It’s Ron Harris. – Ron, welcome to The Slanted
Lens. He will be a faithful Slanted Lens follower
after this. Right, Ron? – Darn right. I’m checking it out.

79 thoughts on “Shooting Time-Lapse Photography at Night – Photography Tutorial”

  1. Simon Anderson says:

    Great job

  2. Chrismzeller says:

    Thank you for your informative videos. You carefully walk us through everything so even a beginner like me can get it. Thanks!

  3. Bruno Passerino says:

    How many photos did you take to do the timelapse?

  4. Lucid Visionary says:

    This is awesome! I just uploaded my first time-lapse video, there is a little bit of everything from drive-lapse to star-trails and I would really appreciate it if you guys check it out. Great job on this video although I think its worth mentioning that the best time to view the Milky Way for the northern hemisphere is during the summer.

  5. Jim Keener says:

    Even if I had zero interest in photographing the Milky Way, I would be glad to watch this video. But I do have an interest and learned clear, simple steps to achieve good timelapse images.

    Plus. The passion and good spirit energized me and inspired me to get out more. Thanks for this.

  6. Kyle Kearns says:

    Hi ron

  7. Obi Kenobi says:

    Good tips, but I misunderstood your exposure? You say 20sec exposure followed by a 20sec interval or was that a 5sec interval, followed by your next 20sec exposure etc. I assume it was alternating 20sec exposure and 20sec interval?

  8. ERIKJK says:

    And this Giveaway is only for those who lives in USA ? Why not also Finland ? =)

  9. Reno Gregory says:

    Thanks for the great tutorial!
    I love owens valley and the sierras 🙂

  10. Kevin Atwell says:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to make this video, learned a lot of things that I may have been doing wrong. Will try them this weekend ( If clear ) .

  11. Shane Doyle says:

    I think Ron may be a little oblivious to sarcasm

  12. SyberPrepper says:

    Great information.  Appreciate all the great videos you give us.

  13. John Havord says:

    Great information as always.  Keep them coming, but next time, clear the sensor first 🙂

  14. bullsquid42 says:

    Pretty cool

  15. Peter Skrypnyk says:

    Tamron give away open to U.S. residents only….lol

  16. Michael Anderson says:

    Great, great tutorial.
    And hello Ron.

  17. Departed Productions says:

    What is this Melky Way and why do you keep talking about it?

  18. Rachel Shield says:

    If anyone is interested here is a time lapse I made of Nottingham in the style of the House Of Cards opening sequence 🙂 

  19. suzbah2 says:

    Do you focus infinity or foreground interests?

  20. Nishant Gogna says:

    Question: why use a 3 stop ND filter if you're having an ISO of 2000? Isn't that a lot of noise in the shot? Wouldn't it make more sense to remove the ND filter and lower the ISO?

  21. Waeel bin Ahmed says:

    Would you recommend us to use a 6PT Star Filter for such a kind of photography?

  22. Nishan A says:

    Could you please put the link to: how your process this on Light room. I couldn't find that video.

  23. Billy Coupar says:

    If the photos are shot at f2.8, and he's focused on the stars, should the foreground not be out of focus due to the small f number?

  24. Kketansa Art says:

    Hello, the exposure is 20 seconds, and 5 seconds rest? Means, if you are expecting another shot after 5 seconds to create another shifted stars frame, what will happen in 20 seconds? The stars would shift a lot and you will get -dashes instead of points. Or?

  25. bokeflo says:

    I've never tried a night time lapse, but you've inspired me to give it a go.

  26. Nate Kmusic says:

    I think this is one to the best tutorials I have watched on YouTube, because it is concise, strait to the point and you give me all of the exact info about how you did your night time time lapse.  It makes sense, is easy to understand, you didn't leave any info out, it's not an hour of blah blah blah and redundant info I already know.  I've taking pictures at night and done lots of time-lapses until night-time but previously was under the impression that I couldn't do a time-lapse after my shutter speed was under 10 sec. or something like that.  That was because I thought there was too much wait between each frame and the video would look jerky,  so I have yet to attempt a time-lapse of stars with a long exposure time.  But it makes sense that the starts are so far away the perception of motion is really slow so 25 seconds of time between each frame would be fine.  Thanks for this video,  I enjoyed all the info you shared in 7.49 min.  I am ready to go try this out.  One concern is that my camera is crop sensor so at 2000 iso I will get noise that your nice 5D Mark III doesn't get, so how should I comphensate for using a lower iso.  I don't want to lower my shutter speed to 30 seconds because I know from my pictures that that will produce short trails and more like blobs in the sky than stars.  Or since they are moving maybe in the final video maybe that doesn't matter at much?  I don't want to go below f/2.8.  The lens I will probably use is sharp at 2.8 but starts softening at 2 and is not good at 1.4.  I really don't want to go over ISO 1600 though, because my 70d will introduce a lot more noise than a full frame 5d Mark III

  27. REDSP1R1T says:

    Oh my god he said J.P Morgan Lmao. 

  28. Josue Garcia says:

    Am i too late for the giveaway? darn… does anyone have any extra lens they are willing to give away?

  29. LifeWithJordan 22 says:

    The iphone has a time lapse and if you all wanna make a lapse you should try it. Its helpful

  30. Alex says:

    I liked the geology lesson!
    Little correction: not everything you see at night is IN the milky way but most visible stars are.
    Thank you for making and sharing these tutorials, they're appreciated.
    Alex, from Montreal.

  31. SongstaForLife says:

    Thank you SO much for all of your amazing videos. Your channel is my all time favorite photography channel. I recently had the opportunity to shoot my first long-exposure starlight shoot while on vacation not long ago, but I wish I'd seen this video first! I was taking 30-second exposures at ISO 800, cause I was afraid of the extra noise (I shoot on a t3i). As is, I had to do a lot of noise removal in post to bring it to a presentable level. Would it have been better for me to crank the ISO up and reduce the shutter speed as you did to reduce the noise?

  32. lee taemin says:

    I doubt I can do this with kit lens. so disappointing

  33. glyn whittington says:

    hi can you send me a link to the processing video plz 

  34. TheGiedow says:

    For the people who don't know: you can get a remote of ebay/amazon for less than $20

  35. Ovidiu-Alexandru Lupascu says:

    or you can install Magic Lantern (works with canon) and save up some money instead of spending them for a trigger. It has an intervalometer and u can take up to 10.000 photos. Works perfectly for me. I have a canon 600 D , 18-135mm.

  36. Emil Naydenov says:

    I wish i saw this video a week ago.. I drove to Red River Gorge in Kentucky for that purpose and was totally under prepared hahaha.. Learned a lot from the experience and your video though. Thanks!

  37. Matías F. says:

    *Those formations are Cyanobacterias, and their 'history' is quite interesting.

  38. Mathieu Descombes says:

    Beautiful!! my TimeLapse Milky Way:

  39. Eldiablo says:

    nice tutorial, unluckily i am one year late for the giveaway. 🙂

  40. Richard Unger says:

    That was the best lesson on timelapse.

  41. Ari K. says:

    It's not "melky way" it's Milky Way

  42. Ngoc Tran says:

    You're great.  Love your tutes – very informative.  Keep it up!

  43. Ruth Marina Guzmán Nieves says:

    Me gusta música de Cristiana letra

  44. AdaptiveActions says:

    Great video! Just to clarify, if you are taking a 20 second exposure, it is the intervalometer that you set to take a photo every 25 seconds? I wasn't sure if you do that, or if you set the intervalometer to take a photo every 5 seconds, thinking that it might account for the exposure time. I realize it's basic stuff, but I am new to this.

  45. D.J.L Hayes says:

    What would your (or anyone else out there) advise be on settings shooting with an aperture of F4.0 (I have a 5d mkII)

  46. ulises yaniz says:

    This was shot on one or two cameras?

  47. metals says:

    Thanks for the excellent tutorial. What do use to protect against the mosquitoes?

  48. 121mojoe says:


  49. Antonio Andrade says:

    To much advertising. Besides with Pentax K-1 I have all I need to create a time lapse without those expensive material you  advertisse.

  50. Kafi Anan says:

    I have a Canon 80D body with a 18-135mm lens… Can i take such photos??

  51. 김재신 says:

    For a tutorial, there are waaaay to much jargons and acronyms in this video. :

  52. HipStar says:

    Thank you so much for a wonderful video, I am completely new to this and just dialled in your settings to my canon g7x11 and doing a time lapse as I write. Amazing thanks again.

  53. iNoahASL says:

    Loved this video! I'm planning to get Canon EOS Rebel T5i. Is it good for timelapse at night? If so, is there any way to film it all night without the battery dying?

  54. Abhijit Patil says:

    Great video for the stars time lapse? I am wondering how to use this to shoot a star trails time lapse? What settings would be different?

  55. Scott Redford says:

    Would you use all the same settings for the northern lights?

  56. tookamooka says:

    How did you keep power supplied for such a long shoot? You said that you used two lenses. Wouldn't switching out lenses cause aligning your time-lapse to be off?

  57. Chip Chelios says:

    The camera that you shooting yourself seems like the whites are not balance

  58. Robert Grenader says:

    Was the internal camera battery sufficient?

  59. Paul Taborovsky says:

    Spectacular video!

  60. Chase Kay says:

    What gb sd card did you use and how did you have enough battery time

  61. Ali Ahmad says:

    I am a newbie at photography but wanted to do some time lapse of the stars. thank for the video i have couple of questions. does auto white balance screw up the time lapse? you mentioned that you use white balance to day light.another question is regarding the mirror opening before each picture. I have heard that here is small camera shake when that happens? would it not be better to keep the mirror locked open?

  62. C.A. Huddleston says:

    Hey guys I'm sorry for my grandpa ron. He was on a three day bender during that time and we like to have never found out where he was or what he was doing until watching this video. We put the pieces together and now understand. Also, if you are reading this and have seen my grandpa ron in or around your area, please respond to this post.

    P.s. No matter what he says…do not give him ANY alcohol.

  63. vonshango says:

    you note a zakuda loop' at 4:33, what is it?

  64. TheKing0fHalo says:

    2000 iso? My 70d would show nothing but noise with that lol.

  65. shivercanada says:

    Great job, now I know how you pro's do it!

  66. Yang says:

    Can I do this with my Canon T7i with a 50mm f1.8? Please reply.

  67. Paul Martin says:

    Melkyway? Or milkyway? 😂

  68. Gryff says:

    How can you shoot for so many hours if the Canon 5D has only a battery life of ~ 400 shots?

  69. Leroy Plummer says:

    Very good video ,

  70. TheIndianBlader AshtonPinto says:


  71. TheIndianBlader AshtonPinto says:

    Jesus bless

  72. TheIndianBlader AshtonPinto says:

    Hello, i wanted to get an intervalometer for my Canon 200D. Can you recommend one ? I tried searching the net.. but couldn't find anything 🙁

  73. yadvendu sen says:

    i think it was not focused rightly

  74. Low ranking loooser Mustard says:

    I felt like I was watching a movie there were so many logos

  75. Dave Dyck says:

    Thanks for posting, this made things a lot clearer for me. One question I do have though. I will be in a situation where I can only get to my spot a little bit before the night shot. no way around it. What advice could you give me in order to max out the opportunity and get the best shot possible?

  76. Freddy Acosta says:

    Just point towards the south, south-east during the summer. Actually if you locate Saturn, the Milky Way is just to the left.

    Actually 30 second exposure and a 1600 ISO will work great, 2000 ISO adds to too much noise.

  77. Jason Blankenship says:

    What would cause a camera to not take the specified amount of pics for long exposure star timlapse for instance i set 800 pics and it only took 144. 20 second exposures 3 seconds apart with a 14mm 2.8 manual focus. It has done this several times throughout the night it never finished the specified amount of pics i set it too. Any help whould be awsome thank you. Iam using a panasonic g7 m4/3

  78. nrlondon7959 says:

    I have been attempting time lapse of stars lately with minimal success. Focusing is an issue in many cases. In fact I deleted 500 photo time lapse near Arches because of focus. Questions – Did you say that you put the ND filter on the headlamp or the camera? Also, I have seen some folks talk about the rule of 500 or else you start to see star trails. You settings exceeded this rule slightly. (I am assuming you are using a full frame camera) Is the rule of 400/5002 not as important for time lapse. Thanks.

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