A Time-Lapse Helper

I’m just now beginning to do some experiments into the world of time-lapse photography.  Nothing to show or report yet, but I’ll return to the topic later, when (and if) I find enough success to talk about.  But, in the beginning stages, I found out that one of the first challenges is to determine how many exposures, over what period of time, how long the video result will be, and at what framre rate.  I visited a few tutorials and even attended one of the feature sessions on the subject at Photoshop World.  Alas, I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one who struggled a bit with even figuring out the initial stats without a calculator.

So, I created this little helper for myself.  I shared it with a few friends and found out that others might find it useful.  I printed it out in color, trimmed it to 4″x6″, laminated it, and keep it in my bag as a “Cheat-Card” to get me to first base in shooting time-lapse.

In short, it is a two-part chart where I can start with the time-span I wish to cover (such as the two hours of sunset, or the 6 hours of a storm event, etc.).  Using that as a starting point, I determine (guessing would be more accurate) of what the interval should be for the exposure frequency.  There are a number of guidelines out there for various intervals paired to the type of situation (such as moving clouds, slow construction, etc.), so for now, I won’t comment on that until I have more time-lapse experience.

After chossing the desired time-span and shooting interval, the chart shows (Side 1) the total number of exposures to be taken.  This may not sound important, but I quickly found that exposures numbering in the high-hundreds or even over a thousand, one has to take memory storage and power supply into account.  Taking the time-span and shooting intervals used from Side 1, the second chart (Side 2) shows the ultimate video play-length based on one of the most popular frame-rates of 30fps.  I’ve also included the formulas to help me determine time-spans, shooting intervals and frame-rates not charted (in case I have my iPhone calculator handy!).

It’s not meant to be a complete tool, but again, was originally intended for my personal use, so please don’t expect it to tell you how to do time-lapse, or anything else other than basic data.  All I ask is that you do me the favor of replying that you’ve downloaded it, and of course, to let me know of any errors you find or comments that you have.  Oh, and by the way, since most of us don’t expect to shoot more than 1,200 exposures, or to want final video times of less than 2 seconds, I’ve blanked out cells outside these ranges in the charts to make them less cluttered.  If you’re interested, it can be downloaded by clicking this link:

Download TimeLapse Helper (PDF)


Hope you find it helpful.




  1. Jim,

    Thanks for the helper card. I too have been trying to dip my toes into time-lapse but am finding that, like everything else, there are so many options it’s difficult to know where to start.


    Jim Kirkpatrick
    Walnut Creek, CA

    • You’re welcomed. I hope it is useful.
      By the way, there is an interesting site out there if you use Lightroom. It is http://www.lrtimelapse.com. I’m not sure whether the presets are still free or not, but his tutorials are very informative, and his software is not like others I”ve seen. Not too expensive either.

  2. Hi Jim,

    I saw Julieanne’s post about this and think it will come in quite handy. Thanks very much for sharing.

  3. Thanks Jim. This is very helpful. BTW – found your site from the link on Julieanne Kost’s Blog. Thanks again.

    • You’re welcome. I appreciate Julianne’s posting. I’d love to hear about your successes, whether with TLapse or otherwise.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to prepare and then the willingness to share… a community of minds working together is always better than struggling in isolation…

    • Thanks for the kind comments. I hope it is useful. I’d love to hear about your successes, whether with TLapse or otherwise.

  5. Thanks for allowing me to download your calculator. I’ll give it a try. Just started playing around with time lapse … bought an intervalometer and I’m heading out to the field next week. FYI – Got your blog from Julianne Kost’s blog …
    Have Fun!!

    • I hope it is useful. Let me know if you’re successful in your efforts. By the way, what Intervalometer did you get?


  1. A Time Lapse “Helper” to Calculate Frames Needed « Julieanne Kost's Blog - [...] on his blog for us to download in case we find ourselves in the field without a calculator. (Click here …

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