Time-lapse photo projects for beginners

Time-lapse photo projects for beginners

Explore the world of time-lapse movies within the comfort of your own home, or when you’re out with the family. Your Canon EOS camera can make it easy!

Two ice creams designed to look like slices of watermelon, melting on a plate.

Time-lapse is a creative technique that lets you reveal a hidden world on the move, and it can produce some surprising and rewarding results. From speeding up storm clouds as they unfurl across a landscape to recording the slow march of stars through the night sky, time-lapse lends itself to an epic canvas – but it’s a technique that’s equally effective with small-scale objects closer to home.

To demonstrate that you don’t need to travel far to get creative, we challenged two time-lapse photographers to shoot something beautiful from within the boundaries of their home.

Practise at home

Alex Nail is an award-winning landscape photographer and time-lapse filmmaker based in the UK. He is passionate about bringing the landscape to life and, as well as building an impressive portfolio of personal time-lapse projects, he has used the technique commercially for numerous organisations, including the British Tourist Authority.

Although Alex is normally found training his lenses on Europe’s mountain ranges, he says that staying closer to home is a great way to familiarise yourself with the time-lapse technique. He shot the day-to-night time-lapse through one of the windows in his house to show how easy it can be.

A composite image representing a time-lapse of the scene through a window from day to night.

“The home is the perfect place to learn time-lapse because it’s so convenient and controlled,” Alex explains. “In the outdoors, time-lapse becomes a little more challenging, with strong wind, rain or unexpected light changes. But you can easily develop your time-lapse understanding within the comfort of your own home. Even now, having shot time-lapse for eight years, I still test things indoors.

“Of course shooting indoors presents some challenges too. Homes are generally fairly static places, so it’s your challenge as a photographer to think about how you are going to introduce change or motion to a scene. You also might not live in a show home (I certainly don’t), but that doesn’t stop you capturing the motions of everyday life, or focusing on smaller details. If you’re shooting at sunrise or sunset, consider how artificial lighting indoors will change (or not) in comparison to the significant changes outside.”

Alex suggests using stationary objects to contrast against the motion you’re looking to capture. “For example, you can contrast the static nature of a window frame and ornaments with the haphazard motions of trees outdoors blowing in the wind, or clouds racing across the horizon. The static elements help to focus the viewer’s attention on the motion in the scene.”

Capturing the motion of animals

After graduating from Central Saint Martins Collage of Art and Design in London, Scotland-born Camilla Rutherford escaped city life to spend time taking photos and making films of adventure sports athletes “chasing the snow around the globe”. She subsequently settled in Wanaka, New Zealand, where she lives on a high country merino sheep farm with her family.

A flock of sheep grazing in a field of grass with brown hills in the background and blue sky above.

Camilla’s time-lapse captures the flow of a flock of sheep on her farm. The contrast in pace between the rapid pulse of the feeding animals and the slow rolling of the clouds adds visual contrast, while the quality of light and dramatic backdrop give a cinematic twist to this commonplace scene.

While you might not have this level of rugged beauty on your doorstep, it’s a technique that works equally well for capturing the comings and goings of a pet around a room, or birds visiting a garden feeder. Set up your camera on a tripod, set a lengthy time-lapse interval and record the daily movement of animals that you wouldn’t normally see.

Making your own time-lapse

So, you can see how effective a small-scale time-lapse can be. You don’t need an advanced camera or specialist lens either. If you have plenty of time on your hands and lots of patience, you can simply take a series of images at regular intervals and then combine these in video-editing software to create a finished time-lapse movie.

To make things easier, a number of Canon EOS cameras have a built-in Interval Timer that automates the whole process. Using this, you can specify how many images you want to take and how long a time interval to leave between each one – in seconds, minutes or hours. The camera will then take a sequence of shots at the preset intervals until it has taken your specified number of photos. These images can subsequently be used to create a time-lapse movie using suitable software, or the individual images can be used in other creative ways.

For the ultimate in convenience, some EOS cameras have a Time-lapse Movie option. This does all the hard work for you, as it combines the images in-camera and saves the finished time-lapse movie to the memory card, so that you can enjoy and share it straight away.

You’ll find one of these features – and sometimes both – in a host of cameras across the EOS range. The EOS 250D and EOS RP are two beginner-friendly cameras that enable you to explore the creative world of time-lapse movies at home. From flowers blooming and wilting, to melting ice-cream and the movement of sunlight around your living room, there is a limitless supply of subjects that can be turned into captivating time-lapse videos.