How to create an epic go pro time lapse

How to create an epic GoPro time lapse

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In Queensland, we’re big fans of our sunrises and sunsets, after all we don’t get called the Sunshine State for nothing.

Capturing these perfect moments brings travellers with GoPros in hand to the smorgasbord of photogenic Queensland destinations to set up and snap away.

Whether it’s clouds, stars, sunsets or city scenes, compressing hours of footage into a few seconds of visual narrative (aka time lapse) speaks right to heart of many creatives.

Thanks to the GoPro’s built-in functionality, time-lapse sequences are easy to shoot, simple to edit and beautiful to watch.

Here are five steps to building an amazing GoPro time lapse sequence that’ll give the BBC’s nature department a run for their money:

1. Set up like a pro

First things first: Get your camera level. Use a tripod or mount so you’ll have a consistent frame in each of your photos.

Think carefully about the framing of your shot – it’s the most important point. The focus of your shot should be an area where things are constantly moving. Try to have some action in the foreground like a tree moving in the wind, waves breaking on the sand or boats on moorings.

Use the preview screen, or iPhone App on the later models, to make sure everything is framed up as you want it.

Get up high. Looking down on a scene captures a much wider field of vision, so if you can shoot a scene from the first floor of a building or even higher, it will look more impressive than at street level.

2. Consider light and subject

Glass House Mountains

If you’re capturing a landscape then choose a day with lots of broken cloud or even a storm rolling in. The footage will look fantastic when sped up as the clouds twist, form and disappear. Blue skies might look good in a single photo but are rather boring in a time-lapse sequence!

Try shooting scenes on the banks of a river, at the entrance to a marina, busy road junctions, airports, or anywhere where there’s lots of activity. Having people, boats, cars or planes pass through your shot looks amazing when sped up.

The golden hour of sunlight at the start and end of the day looks even better when used in a time-lapse sequence. Seek out tall buildings that reflect the light well and cast long shadows.

Tick off these time-lapse bucket list shots:

3. Use the correct interval settings

Main Beach Gold Coast
  • Set the shutter speed relative to what you’re shooting i.e. sunrise/sunset happens slowly so a shot every 30 seconds would work, whereas a surfer on a wave moves much quicker so one every two seconds will capture the action well.
  • Work out how long you want your movie to run for and how many photos you’ll need i.e. 250 photos lasts 10 seconds at 25 fps (frames per seconds)
  • Take into account the standard GoPro battery only lasts between one to three hours depending on the model, you could add the extra battery pack or externally power it for longer sequences.

The best place to practice interval settings? Waterfalls of course!

4. Transform your photos into a movie

  • QuickTime 7 is a simple way to produce a seamless time-lapse sequence. Of course, Final Cut Pro and Premiere would do the job just as well (if you have the budget).
  • Select ‘Open Image Sequence’ from the File menu.
  • Select the first image from the folder that contains your images and QuickTime will do the rest.
  • Play around with the number of frames per second until you find the right speed for your sequence.
  • QuickTime will create a movie (.mov) file, which can be saved and uploaded directly to YouTube or used in your post-production editing software.

5. Give your time-lapse an edge

Why not add some motion within the frame to your time-lapse movie? Having the camera pan from one side to the other, or zoom into a certain point, isn’t as hard to achieve as you’d think. You can add these effects in most post-production programs.

You can even rotate your camera through 360° whilst it happily captures your time-lapse sequence over 60 minutes using a converted egg timer, cheap to make and it gives amazing results.

Adding a ‘Tilt Shift’ effect to your sequence by blurring the top and bottom of the image, along with increasing the saturation, can give the illusion that the subject has been miniaturised… like toy town!

Don’t expect to get everything right first time around. Trial and error is the name of the game! Keep trying different angles and locations, and play with your interval settings. Before long you’ll be able to create an entire movie based around time-lapse.

Looking for more photography tips?

What’s your GoPro tip? Feel free to share in the comments!

  • Phil

    Great article mate and very timely! I have been wanting to try out a few time lapse vids so will give the above suggestions a go.

  • Ronen Hacarmeli

    Great guide! Thank! read it all and gonna try it out. will send you my video 🙂

    • Ronen,

      Absolutely, send me the link once you’ve done it and we can compare notes. It’s a lot of fun learning new tricks and I hope the blog post helps


  • AT

    Great post, do you mind if i feature it and source you on my blog – ?

    • Hi Andrew

      I’m glad you liked the post, please feel free to link through to it and spread the word of how much fun and how easy time lapse creation can be.

      Best of luck!


  • Grant Cooper

    Hi Ben… can believe it was you writing this… not that I can’t believe you could write this – just that I didn’t expect to come across this article – & you wrote it… you know what I mean!!!!!

    Thanks for the tips!

    Are you doing the Angel Flight Rally again this year in October????
    If so – see you there.

    Grant Cooper
    Gladstone Qld
    GAPDL Director
    Ex Angelflight Brumby Brother – now Outback Romeo.

    • Hey Brumby Driver,

      Yes I try and be all things to all people. Do you have a GoPro then? Maybe you should try and get a suction mount for this year’s car and try filming a time lapse of a day on the road driving through the Queensland Outback?

      Might see you there!


  • PhilD

    Hi Ben,

    I loved reading your guide.

    I recently purchased a Hero 3 Silver. And I’m just wondering is there anything that we need to change on the GoPro if I want to shoot a sunset?

    I took a series of shots (1.5 hrs worth) just before sunset, and towards the end of the timelapse, the pictures were overexposed, and it did not show the pretty red/orange colours of the sunset. Is there a sunset mode or do I need to make those changes in post?


    • Jaime

      Ben, you don’t need to change anything for shooting sunsets- the GoPro’s light meter reacts automatically. You can get filters that stick / fix on to the GoPro lens. They’re quite cheap, try your local camera store or GoPro stockist!

    • Hey Phil,

      With the later GoPros (Hero2 and 3) the sensor within the camera is much better than before. As Jaime mentions below, the light meter will change the exposure levels automatically so you don’t even need to worry about that side of things.

      I’m playing around with ND filters at the moment on a quadcopter which is another world of video for the GoPro so will try and get a post up about that sometime soon.


      • Ramboscie

        Just need to be aware TimeLapses with the sun shining directly on the sensor will cause sensor burn. This can be seen as yellow lines on future videos and photos ( see attached photo).

  • Pat Henry

    Hi Ben,

    Very interesting article. How do you do the panning time lapse? I’ve seen the egg timer version for panning round in a circle but how do you do the side to side effect such as in the beach shots in the first video of your blog?



    • Now that’s a whole new expensive world of control motors Pat! I’ve bought a slider by a company called Edelkrone, that fits into my backpack. They’ll soon be selling a timed motor system for them and I can’t wait.
      The sideways motion can be achieved in post-production however. I use Final Cut Pro X and add the Ken Burns effect (sideways pan) very effectively. Just make sure you shoot in a high-res as possible.
      Hope that helps

  • Wulfric Blackwell

    Cheers man, I will give this a go. Been interested in trying out a time-lapse with the Go-Pro and your write up seems pretty useful. I’ll show ya the results sometime 🙂
    I hope you’re well dude, all the best m/

  • Future Assist

    So good! we just took your advice and shot a 24hr time-lapse of Southport where our office is located. the time-lapse will be made into our new header of our homepage:

  • Malcolm

    May I ask how does one do a time lapse of more than the 1-3 hr battery capacity? Do I recharge/replace and reset the camera then continue on my way? I’ve read others say they’ve done a 24 or 16 or 8 or whatever hour sequence and wondered how to achieve this with only the 1-3 hrs of a go pro charge…..anyone? Thanks in advance x

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  • mathew

    Thank you! First time i tried timelapsing with my gopro and i love it. Thank you for this amazing and good “tutorial”. Cheers!

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  • Russell Black

    Here’s a GoPro Timelapse. Take-off and landing at Brisbane Airport.

  • Hi Ben, this is Dean from, thanks for the shoutout in your comments below.. I thought that I would let you and your readers know we just released a new GoPro Time Lapse controller called Blink for long term timelapse which can be programmed via a little web app on your phone. Go for days and months!

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