GoPro Time Lapse:

The Definitive Guide



When things get really slow, a Time Lapse will speed them up!

Making beautiful Time Lapse videos with GoPro will become easy once you learn few golden rules about settings, shooting and editing explained in this article.

This is exactly what you are going to learn today:

  1. What is Time Lapse Photography?
  2. GoPro Time Lapse Settings
  3. How to shoot a Time Lapse with GoPro
  4. How to edit a Time Lapse
  5. Time Lapse in motion: Hyperlapse
  6. 3 accessories to make amazing time lapse

Awesome, let’s begin!

What is Time Lapse Photography?

Time-lapse photography is a technique in which images taken at an interval (once every 5 seconds for example) are played back at in increased rate, resulting in a lapse of time.

The image below shows a number of photos taken at a set interval of time throughout the day and night. That is a perfect example of time lapse.

 

➡️ Best Scenarios for a Time Lapse

Imagine a timelapse being the opposite of Slow Motion.

While slow motion is used to capture fast actions and re-play them at a lower speed, timelapse is used to capture shots over a long period of time, where elements move quite slow.

These are the most popular Time Lapse scenarios:

Sunrise, Sunset, Day and Night Timelapse, Stars, Plants, People, Traffic, Landscape, Clouds, Tides


GoPro Time Lapse Settings

GoPro offers three main Time Lapse modes: Time Lapse Video, Time Lapse Photo and Night Lapse Photo.

 

Let me explain what they are used for.

 

🎥 Time Lapse Video

GoPro takes and processes all the pictures taken during the shooting of the time lapse and makes a video out of it. All done in-camera. Your output file will be in video format.

Advantages:

This option is good for when you need an easy and quick solution to shoot a time lapse and do not intend to do much editing.

➖ Disadvantages:

You have minimal control over your camera time lapse settings. There’s no Protune option available here. This means that, since GoPro sets Exposure and ISO at the beginning of your Time Lapse Video sequence, those settings will remain the same for the entire shooting. Therefore, if your ambient light conditions will vary throughout the shot, this is not a good solution.

 

➡️ How to select Time Lapse Video:

This option applies to GoPro Hero 5 and Hero 6, but may be similar to older GoPro versions.

  1. Switch to Time Lapse setting by clicking multiple times on the Power button (the one on the side) until you find the related section.
  2. Then click on to the time lapse photo icon (bottom left corner of display) to access the Time Lapse sub menu.
  3. Choose Time Lapse Video.

Your GoPro Home Page should now look something like this:

Now choose a value for Resolution, Interval and FOV depending on what you are shooting.

 

Pro Tip: If your GoPro version offers 4k resolution, I would suggest you to stick to it when shooting time lapses. This gives you the freedom of zooming into videos during post production and still keep a high resolution. Pan and zoom in/out effects are amazing to use in time lapses.

 

📷 Time Lapse Photo

This option will take a number of pictures with a set interval and will output JPEG or RAW files.

You will need to join all the pictures together in post production to obtain a time lapse video effect.

➕ Advantages:

  • You will get a higher result since you have full control over the entire image sequence in post production, leaving more space to creativity.
  • The Protune option is enable for you to take control over Exposure, ISO, etc.
  • If your interval is of at least 5 seconds, then you will have the RAW photo option enabled! It’s great for color grading your time lapses in post production.

➖ Disadvantages:

  • This option requires more effort: you will need to import all the photo files into a computer and use a video editing software to create a time lapse sequence.

 

🌃 Night Lapse Photo

This option enables longer exposure times in your time lapses, allowing you to capture better time lapse images in low light conditions.

When you switch to Night Time Lapse, you should be able to select a long shutter speed from the home page menu like below:

 


How to Shoot a Time Lapse

For GoPro owners, creating time-lapse videos seems relatively easy. You just need to turn on your GoPro, switch to Time Lapse mode and shoot.

How cool!

But then you come back home, watch the clip, and ask yourself:

“why is it shaky?”

“why is it not looking amazing like the time lapses seen on Youtube?”

and so on.

So, here I will list some key tips for you to get better at shooting time lapses:

 

1. Stabilize Your Time Lapse

When you shoot a time lapse make sure your camera is sitting down steady on something. Ideally on a tripod or a flat surface.

Make sure wind or other external factors will not interrupt your shooting by moving your camera.

You do not want to end up waiting 2 hours for a time lapse shot and then find out that the camera accidentally moved angle half way through the shooting.

It’s happened a few times. And it was frustrating. That’s why, always think beforehand and get yourself a mini tripod for GoPro.

Like this one for example:

 

We love it. It’s a mini GoPro tripod that converts into an extendable GoPro stick and Grip:

Amazon link to GoPro Shorty (Mini Extension Pole + Tripod)

 

 

2. Watch out on battery life

Make sure your battery is fully charged before committing on a time lapse.

If you are shooting a long time lapse, you will want to consider getting yourself an external power source and keep the GoPro connected to it during the entire shooting.

This will avoid any interruption caused by battery drain.

The chart below shows the average battery life of a GoPro Hero 4:

 With Wi-Fi OffWith Wi-Fi On + Using Smart RemoteWith Wi-Fi On + Using the Capture app
Video ModeEstimated TimeEstimated TimeEstimated Time
4K 30fps1:050:550:50
2.7K 48fps1:051:000:55
2.7K 30fps (4:3)1:101:050:55
1080p 120fps1:101:051:00
1080p 60fps1:201:151:10
1080p 30fps SuperView1:301:201:15
720p 120fps1:501:401:30

An external power source connected is also convenient when you shoot both Videos and Time Lapses. On higher resolutions, like 4k, your GoPro battery will drain very quickly.

I simply solved this frustration by investing about 30 dollars on a GoPro housing that contains an extra battery.

It’s definitely worth every single dollar.

 

➡️ This is what we recommend for HERO 5, HERO 6 and HERO (2018)

Amazon link to ORBMART Extended Battery

➡️ This is what we recommend for Hero 4, Hero 3+ and Hero 3 

Amazon link to Suptig Protective case with open side

 

3. Get the Interval Time right

Interval time plays a main role when producing Time Lapse videos. You set Interval Time based on the nature of the shot. Typically, longer shots (construction or artwork timelapse) need a longer Interval Time than shorter shots (sunset timelapse).

GoPro manuals suggest the following intervals for your activities:

IntervalActivity
0.5-2 secondsSurfing, biking or other sport
2 secondsBusy street corner
5-10 secondsClouds or outdoor scenes with long durations
10-60 secondsLengthy activities, such as construction or artwork

 

4. Get a fast SD Card and free it up

Time lapses, especially if shooting in raw, take up a lot of space.

So, always make sure you have enough space in your SD card. I can tell from experience that it is extra frustrating realizing that you run out of space half way through a great shot! aaaggh!

Also ensure that your SD Card Speed is compatible with your GoPro model. You can check this in the GoPro Manual of your camera model.

These are the Top 3 SD Cards suggested by GoPro. Tested and approved by Project GoPro Team:

 

SanDisk Extreme 32GB (Good price for value)

 

Samsung Pro Plus 64GB 95MB/s (Fast! Perfect for 4k 60fps)

 

Lexar Professional 1000x 128GB 150MB/s (For Pro Heroes)

 

5Shoot in Time Lapse Photo Mode

That’s right. Learn Photo mode and you will win.

Unlike the automated Time Lapse Video mode, Photo mode gives you more freedom and creativity.

If you are shooting a time lapse of a sunset or sunrise, for example, you must shoot in Photo mode, or else your time lapse will look too dark or too bright.

Why?

This is because Time Lapse Video mode adjusts exposure automatically at the start of your shooting and keeps it unchanged throughout the shooting. Even if light changes.

But we do not want that.

Instead, we would like this result:

So, select Photo mode if your ambient light changes.

 

➡️ Suggested Time Lapse Photo Mode Settings

Keep ISO Min at 100 for best quality in any occasion.

Set ISO Max considering how dark your scene will get throughout the time lapse. But try not to exceed 800 ISO Max or else you may experience noise in the shadows.

Enable RAW Photos when you can (min. 5 seconds interval).

 


How to Edit a Time Lapse

Editing. This is where the magic happens.

There are two ways to edit GoPro content: on Smartphone or Mac/PC.

 

➡️ Quick Way – GoPro Quick App on Smartphone or Tablet

Simple and easy. But limited in functionality. It’s a mobile app after all.

Quik App allows you to create easy editing on the go and share with family and friends. You can cut and join different video clips with your video time lapse and add music to it. Remember that you need to shoot in Time Lapse Video mode to be able to edit a time lapse within the App.

Follow these simple steps to start editing on your Quik App:

1. Download the GoPro Quik App

Android device → [Download]

iOS device → [Download]

2. Turn on Bluetooth and Wifi on your phone

3. Enable Wireless connections on your GoPro

On Hero 5 and Hero 6 swipe top to bottom and click on “Connections”, then Wireless connections ON.

 4. Open the Quik App and start editing

Add your time lapse video to a new project, choose a theme and enjoy the editing process.

 

➡️ Pro Way – Editing software on PC or Mac

I call it the Pro Way as you can express your creativity like a Pro here. By editing your Time Lapse on a professional editing software, you will be able to learn and step up your editing skills. And, of course, your Time Lapses will look way better.

You can add effects, zooms, pans and cut your Time Lapses to the rhythm of the music.

 

➡️ Free editing software (PC/Mac)

1. GoPro Quik – Desktop Version [Download]

This is the Desktop version of the GoPro Quik App. It comes with GoPro and the basic version is free.

You can accomplish simple edits with the desktop application: import files, cut, trim and join video clips, edit and adjust colors to photos, videos and time lapses. Then decide to save your edited content to your computer or share it with your friends on various socials.

Watch:

 

2. iMovie (for Mac only)[Download]

Simple video editing application for mac users. Easy to learn and make simple videos.

3. Windows Movie Maker (for Windows only)[Download]

Same simple editing application as iMovie but for Windows.

4. DaVinci Resolve (free professional software) – [Download]

Start learning and using this application if you are serious about video editing. This is actually a professional software that gives you freedom to creativity.

5. Lightworks[Download]

It has been rated as the best free editing application for Windows and Mac in 2018.

 

➡️ Professional Editing Software (not free)

1. Final Cut Pro (for Mac only)[Download]

A classic. It’s a must have application if you use Mac and intend to be serious about video editing.

2. Adobe Premiere[Download]

It’s the most used editing software along Final Cut Pro. This is available for Windows and Mac.

3. LRTimelapse (time lapse editing, keyframing, grading and rendering)[Download]

Unlike other video editing software listed above, this software was specifically designed for time lapse making. It has some time lapse extra features that are worth to check out.

 


Time Lapse in Motion: Hyperlapse

Here is where things start to get super dynamic!

Simply speaking, hyperlapse is a technique used by photographers to create time lapse motion shots. This is achieved by setting the GoPro on Time Lapse mode and taking every shot on a different location.

A hyperlapse looks something like this:

 

➡️ 7 Tips on how to make a Hyperlapse with a GoPro

  • Set your camera on Time Lapse mode
  • Choose an interval that is long enough to allow yourself to move the camera by a couple of steps before every shot is taken (eg. 3-5 sec).
  • Think beforehand what you would like to capture and make sure that you can reach all the different camera locations to frame your subject
  • Position your GoPro on a tripod, point your subject and start shooting the time lapse sequence.
  • Move the camera by a few steps during the interval times.
  • Take some reference points on your GoPro display framing the subject and make sure that every time you move the camera, the camera points the same angle. Remember, the more accurate you frame your subject at every shot, the smoother your hyperlapse will appear. This is key.
  • If you shot in Time Lapse Photo mode, import the photo sequence into an editing software and join all the pictures taken to make a hyper lapse video.

 


The 3 Must Have Time-Lapse Accessories

1. Tripod

This is a must have accessory when it comes to time lapse or hyper lapse photography.

We recommend a Manfrotto Compact Tripod. It’s a lightweight aluminium tripod, extendable up to a height of 61” or 155cm. It’s well priced and adapts perfectly for GoPros, Smart phones, compact cameras and mirrorless cameras.

Amazon Link to Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod

 

2. 360° Time Lapse mount

Motion can make time lapse more compelling. This is the simplest auto panning/rotation mount that allows you to capture stunning 360 time lapses panning shots. I love this accessory.

We use it with GoPros and also with Sony mirrorless cameras.

Amazon link to Movo Photo MTP2000 Panoramic 360°

 

3. GoPro Karma Grip

This is a great tool to make your GoPro videos even more stable! The Karma Grip is a motorized 3-axis stabilizer for GoPro. So, other than making your GoPro videos super smooth, it allows you to take incredible straight Hyperlapses without a tripod.

Simply walk steady with it, keep your subject into frame and bingo!

Amazon link to GoPro Karma Grip


What we’ve learned today

  • The basics of time lapse photography
  • Best scenarios for a Time Lapse: Sunrise, Sunset, Day-Night, Stars, Plants, People, Traffic, Landscape, Clouds, Tides.
  • The 3 Tie Lapse Modes: Video, Photo and Night. Along with their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Tips on how to shoot a time lapse (better to use TL Photo mode, Shoot in RAW, keep a power bank connected to GoPro, etc)
  • Shooting intervals for most GoPro common activities
  • How to edit a time lapse on mobile and PC, along with best editing softwares
  • What is a hyperlapse and tips on how to make one
  • GoPro accessories to help you make better Time Lapses

 

If you enjoy learning with Project GoPro don’t forget to check out more articles linked below or consider downloading the GoPro Settings Cheat Sheet here. It can be printed or kept on your phone so that you will never miss the best GoPro settings for your activity.


Related Articles:

 

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About Author



Hi! I'm Andrea Magrì - Videographer & Entrepreneur.


I write all of the content you'll find on the Project GoPro blog.


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