A Complete Guide to HDR Motion Time-lapse
If you take a photo of a sunset, you’ll notice that it will be either blown out in certain areas so you can’t see any detail or way too dark – that’s because the exposure range your camera can usually capture is limited and it had to (very basically) choose what to expose. With HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, your camera captures multiple images at different exposures allowing you to later merge them together into one single image that represents the best exposure of everything in the scene.
The value of HDR as it’s commonly known is a bit contentious because often photographers crank the contrast far too high, making the scene look completely unrealistic. That being said, with the right editing, and reserving it for the right situation (like sunset), HDR can make for some pretty incredible images. Or in our case – time-lapses.
If you use this method of photography when creating a time-lapse, you’ll end up making a film with a whole heap of depth to it that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
For the sake of using your time wisely, it's usually best to use HDR for a solution to a problem, which is when the light range of the scene you’re shooting exceeds the dynamic range of your camera. If this isn’t the case, you generally won’t be adding much to your time-lapse by making it HDR.
It is a really useful skill to have when you do need it, though, and one you may not know you’ll need until you’re lining up the shot, so we suggest getting in and learning it early so you won’t be caught out on the day.
Our first Quick tip takes you through the process of setting up and shooting your motion controlled HDR time-lapse, from understanding the bracketing to setting up the movement and capturing your final time-lapse.
Fez’s scene looks great to the naked eye, but through the lens of his camera, the clouds really start to blow out while the foreground stays too dark, so it’s this type of situation that using HDR is perfect for.
Working out your exposure and interval times can take some time to get your head around, but once you get the concept of your interval/HDR time equalling all your exposures plus some buffer for processing, it’s fairly straight forward.
The second Quick Tip shows you the most efficient way of editing using some simple free tools and DaVinci Resolve.
Initially we set out to walk you through this process in Lightroom, but without batch processing being available, it ends up being quite complicated so instead we opted for the simplicity of DaVinci Resolve. It might seem a little confusing at first as it’s not laid out the same as Lightroom, but once you get a handle on where everything is you’ll be off.
Got Flicker? Check Your Lens
So you’ve shot your first HDR time-lapse but despite having all your setting on manual, you’re still getting some flickering? There’s a pretty straight forward reason for this and usually only happens when shooting with a high aperture. Electronic apertures aren’t precise every time and your camera won’t always close the aperture to the same size every time, meaning there’s slight variations in the amount of light that hits your sensor throughout your time-lapse, hence the flickering. You won’t have this problem if you’re using a manual lens.
The quick fix for this is to set your aperture, then unlock and twist your lens slightly to disconnect it from your camera’s electronics, locking the aperture blades in place. Your aperture will show as ‘00’ on your camera.
Our 5 Top Tips for HDR Time-lapse
- Don’t take to many HDR brackets – keep it to 2-3 maximum,
- Use large steps in exposure of around 2-3 stops to really get the range of light in the scene,
- If you’re ramping exposure, be careful as your HDR time will quickly become faster than your interval as your settings change,
- Only bracket using ISO and Shutter – bracketing with aperture will cause flickering,
- There's usually a time and a place for HDR so we suggest not going overboard but that's just us!