First - I've 30 yrs shooting experience.
Not a novice. But, total Newbie to Time-lapse.

Just did my first couple of tests yesterday. My wife was shopping - had to occupy myself....
I kept them short just to practice the technique
5 min shoot time/ 1 shot/sec for 300 frames
D800/24~70mm @ 24/ .9 ND filter so I could shoot at slower shutter speed - 1/40th sec midafternoon (May 12 ~2:20pm) Beautiful big fluffy clouds & blue sky.

Here's the problem- when the sun was direct on the scene it was probably a good 2 stops brighter than when totally behind the clouds.
So if I make the sunny parts look good, the shady parts looked pretty dull & dark.
Trying to go in between made the overall scene low contrast with neither the full sun or full cloudy looking good.

I also realize that doing a dusk shot to night or sunrise the change will be smoother and more gradual than fast moving clouds midday - but I'm sure this problem will come up & need to know how to deal with it.

I did a test with RAW files and one with JPGs. The first one Im working on is from the JPGs, adjusted in Lightroomm 4.
Realizing that the files from the RAW will be much better - but I want to get the general technique down before spending that much time on another test.
Looking at it again, it's not too bad. In Lightroom I selected sequences of the "Cloudy" parts & bumped up the exposure & contrast a bit, and did similar adjustments to the full sun parts. But I think it can be better. I'm used to final still images from RAW that look great in both Highlights and shadows - not a moving image going back & forth.

Dynamic range isn't the problem, but even in a short (10 sec) Time-lapse, due to moving clouds there were large parts of each - nearly full sun and nearly completely "cloudy". Everyone seems to feel that totally manual is the best quality (no flicker) look, but how does one deal with large alternating light shifts as opposed to a gradual change in one direction?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Questions on Stack Exchange are best if they ask just one thing at a time - this is generally quite good in that it's about timelapse, but the last bit about Photoshop would be better as a separate question (which may have be asked already; I haven't checked). Would it be possible for you to split it into two? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ About the video itself, I needed to use Aura video converter to see the video. I try to keep from installing too many fancy videomodes and especially from too many video players, so it sometimes happens that I need the converter. Most common file format is .avi video, which again does have many different ways of storing video data, but a decent pack of codecs can easily handle that lot. MP4 should be common enough, but .avi is just better for large distribution. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13, 2013 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could also make the exposure of the camera based on one part of the image not changing too much (like a part in the image which is constantly in the shadow), resulting in smooth exposure changes instead of sudden and abrupt ones with change of lighting. - in your example video the tree in the corner would have been an excellent target \$\endgroup\$
    – SinisterMJ
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


The simple answer is change the exposure based on metering if consistent exposure is what you want to accomplish. Most likely, changing the shutter time would be the best bet, though if there was any motion effects in the time lapse (such as running water) then the change in shutter speed might throw it off some. ISO is likely to cause issues with varying noise levels. If things are out past infinity focus, then adjusting the aperture may have the least impact on the sequence.

Otherwise, if you want to keep exposure fixed, then doing what you did with shooting RAW and then adjusting the exposure in post is the best you are going to be able to get as far as I can figure.


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