One of the best of the lesser-known features that most of the Nikon Cameras I use is the “Interval Timer Shooting” menu item found in the shooting menu. This menu item, allows you to program the camera to automatically take photos at an interval that you set. For example, you could set the camera to automatically take a photo once every three seconds. There are many uses for this technique but my two favorites are creating time-lapse videos and as a substitute for the self-timer, wireless remote or wired remote when trying to do family self-portraits.

The latter use comes in handy when you want to take photos of yourself or your family and you have no way to trigger the camera and get the photo. Most people will use the camera’s self-timer feature to do this, but with most cameras, you set the camera to self-timer, than run to get in the photo, then go back to the camera to re-fire the camera. Not exactly convenient when you want to shoot more than one photo. The uber-cool Nikon D7000 has a self-timer setting that allows you to shoot multiple frames, that removes the need to return to the camera to shot more than one frame. Another way to do this is to to use a radio remote to trigger the camera, but not all cameras have the necessary connection to work with a radio remote.


St George Island Time-Lapse from Michael Schwarz on Vimeo.

Using the Interval Timer Shooting setting, you can get your group ready, set the camera to shoot, say one frame every 2 seconds, then run into the frame while the camera shoots photos of you and your group. When you think you are finished, just run back and turn the camera off. It is also possible, with a couple of additional steps, to set a maximum number of frames shot or delay the beginning of the shooting to a time you set.

The more common use for Interval Timer Shooting is to create time-lapse videos. To do this, set a frame rate depending on what you are shooting. In the video above, I placed the camera on a tripod and set the camera to shoot one frame every 2 seconds for 999 frames. In preparation for this, I set the camera to manual focus and set the focus. I also set the exposure mode to Aperture priority. It is important not to use Shutter priority, because this will create a situation where your Aperture may change if the lighting changes. If this happens, your depth of field may vary within the time-lapse. I also set the camera to cloudy white balance, avoiding auto white balance to eliminate the possibility of variations in white balance. SInce I was shooting 999 files and not planning of doing any serious video editing, I set the file format to JPG, file size to small and compression to normal. That’s a much smaller file than I would normally shoot when shooting stills, but plenty of resolution for video.

After the shoot, images were downloaded and converted to a time-lapse video using Quicktime Player 7 Pro Version. File > Open Image Sequence, set to 12 frames per second.

This page has some great examples of really creative time-lapse videos.

Michael A. Schwarz Photography
Michael A. Schwarz Wedding Photography
Michael A. Schwarz Digital Photography Training


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