The Easiest Holy Grail Time-Lapse Photography Settings

The holy grail of time-lapse videos is smooth day-night transitions. Could it be as simple as a few settings on the right camera?

Time-lapse photographers know that changing lighting situations can be a challenge to meter and expose smoothly over the length of a video. In this video, time-lapse photographer Mattia Bicchi explains how he sets up his Sony a7 III and a7R III to create "holy grail" time-lapses with ease when compared to his previous camera.

The Challenge of the Holy Grail

Time-lapse photographers typically set their cameras to manual and have the exposure ramped up or down using an external device that controlled the camera's exposure. Alternatively, they would make manual changes to the exposure whenever it changed by more than 1/3 of a stop.

The resulting raw files are processed in software like LRTimelapse (via Adobe Lightroom), the video is de-flickered to avoid small variations in exposure, and finally, the video is rendered.

As you can see, it can be a complex and time-consuming process to make these videos. Quite a few things have to go right, giving them the moniker "holy grail time-lapse."

With the process detailed in the video, Bicchi shows how all this can be made redundant if your camera has a few features that allow for smooth exposure transitions.

Features Needed

For all of this to work, your camera needs to have a few features built in: 

  • Auto ISO: with the ability to set a range
  • Auto exposure tracking sensitivity
  • Shooting interval priority: to prioritize the interval over the exposure duration
  • ISO auto minimum shutter speed: to ensure that shutter speed is ramped before ISO

While Bicchi shows us how to do this on his Sony camera, these settings are also available on cameras made by other manufacturers. They may have slightly different names, though.

Watch the video for a detailed explanation of how to set it all up and a beautiful clip of this feature in action.

Susheel Chandradhas's picture

Susheel Chandradhas is a professional photographer and filmmaker based out of Chennai, India. He has a background in advertising and graphic design.

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He does not mention a problem with his method when there is any water in the frame.
He sets it to first change the shutter speed so in sunset TL you wil start with sharp/frozen water and soon end up with milky/blurred water and this looks quite bad. If you manually set the shutter time and just change iso you can minimize this at least.

Thanks for pointing this out to our readers. Yes, This is a fair observation, and probably something that should be mentioned... I think that he had more of a concern with noise from high ISOs.