Time lapse photography is a technique that allows to quickly and visually convey processes that take a long time in real life. For example time lapse photography can shrink to 10 seconds the complete process of building a new bridge. Although usually used in videos time lapse can also be used in still digital photography.

The idea behind time lapse is simple. You want to capture a change that usually takes a long time in real life. In order to accomplish that you take photos either every fixed period of time or every time there is some change in the real life process. For example you can take a photo once a week to document the building of a new bridge, or you can take a photo every time a new floor is built in a new skyscraper. When viewing these photos in sequence the feeling of the actual real life process and its magnitude is very effectively conveyed.

Time lapse photography is mostly known for such scenarios as the process of building bridges and buildings or the process of flowers growing. There are however other usages to time lapse photography that are more relevant to the amateur home photographer. Here are some examples:
# Moving apartments: You can document your moving to a new apartment using time lapse techniques. In this scenario it is best to take photos based on events and not every fixed period of time. For example start with a photo of the apartment you are moving from. Then as you start packing take a photo every time you pack a box. When the movers show up take photos as furniture are moved away from your apartment. Do the reverse in the new apartment. Take a photo of it being empty. Then start taking photos as furniture move in and finally take photos as each single box is opened and put in its new place. Taking the time to take such photos can be a great way to capture memories for years to come.
# Renovating your house: Similar to moving, renovation can be documented using time lapse techniques. Take photos as significant changes are made to your house. Take the first photo before any work is done. Then continue taking photos as renovation progresses, for example when a wall is taken down. Take the last photo when the renovation is completed and the house is ready.
# People and kids: You can use time lapse techniques to document how your kids are growing up or other changes in people you care about. One way to accomplish that is by taking a photo of your kids every 6 months or a year. It is a good idea to take the photos in the same place and in the same position as it will intensify the effect of the changes happened to them over that period of time.
# Your garden: If you are working on your garden, maybe planted a tree or some special flowers you can use time lapse techniques to document the progress of your work. Take a photo every fixed period of time, depending on the time it takes for the tree or plant to grow this can be a few days or a few weeks.

Professional photographers sometimes use special equipment that can automatically take photos every certain period of time. For most amateur usages manually taking the photos is good enough. Some things to care about when taking time lapse photos: try to take photos in the same time of the day and with the same lighting – this will intensify the effect as the difference between the photos will be mostly the changes that you care about and not other external factors like lighting that can draw unwanted attentio

Ziv Haparnas is a technology veteran and writes about practical technology and science issues. This article can be reprinted and used as long as the resource box including the backlink is included. You can find more information about photo album printing and photography in general on http://www.printrates.com – a site dedicated to photo printing.

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 31 July 2006.

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13 Jun 2007