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When discussing shoot duration, there are two different types of shoot duration that we're talking about. The first is the actual duration of the time lapse itself. How long is the entire time lapse going to be running? Is it going to be running two hours, three hours? This all depends on a number of factors. The second duration is your exposure duration. How long will each frame actually take? second, two seconds, a minute? It all depends. When trying to figure out the duration of my time-lapse shot, the most important thing I try to take into consideration is what my subject is doing, and how fast my subject is moving.
If my subject is a city-based, fast-paced moving subject, usually my time lapse is very short, ten minutes, 20 minutes or so, is enough to cover all the action I need in the scene. When you're shooting something like clouds, the duration of your entire time lapse is usually stretched out a lot longer because clouds take much longer to progress in the entire scene. It can take sometimes as much as two hours, three hours, to actually capture all those clouds in your shot. Stars, much longer than clouds. Sometimes four to five hours to actually get a really good progression of the stars moving throughout the scene.
So, those things are the first things you want to think about when you're setting up the duration of your actual time lapse shot. Another thing to take into consideration is an event-based time lapse, things like a stadium filling up or the moon rising. Things that you can't control and you only have a short window of time to actually capture that time lapse. The time of the event will set the duration of your time lapse and tell you exactly how much time you have to make your time lapse happen. Besides the duration of your actual time lapse, the second thing you have to take into consideration is your exposure duration. How long is your actual exposure of your shot going to be? Is it going to be 30 seconds, two seconds? When capturing your image you have to take into consideration the exposure triangle.
What's your shutter speed going to be? What's your f-stop going to be? And what's your ISO going to be at to capture the exact shot that you want? Once you have all those settings factored in, make sure to shoot, always in manual, to avoid any type of flickering or inconsistencies from shot to shot, and with that, you should be good to go.
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