Day-to-night time lapse: how to do it?

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If you’re doing a city time lapse, your best bet would be to do a day-to-night time lapse. You will be able to show the city with the clouds moving during the day, then switch to a golden twilight, during the blue hour, when the lights start to come on, to finish with a city fully lit with different colors. And all this in a single video! It’s a bit risky technique because the light changes a lot. You will need to adjust the aperture to change as the light changes too, to get a smooth video without abrupt changes in light.

We will show you two methods in this article. In the first, we’ll use the camera’s aperture-priority mode to change the exposure as the light changes. In the second method, we will use an accessory such as the remote control to control the exposure and make videos with smooth transitions.

What do you need to achieve a day-to-night time-lapse?

You’re going to need some basic props to complete a day-to-night time-lapse. For both methods, we recommend that you have the following accessories in your equipment:

A DSLR or mirrorless device with a wide angle lens

It is better to have a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a wide angle lens in your camera equipment if you want to achieve a time-lapse. Why a wide angle lens and not another? Because with a wide angle lens, you will be able to capture a much larger part of the image and make your time lapse even more spectacular. Check for more on

A stable tripod

You probably already have one, but if you don’t, now is the time to incorporate a tripod into your gear. It is a basic accessory that will prove to be just as essential for making a time-lapse of transition between day and night.

A remote trigger

To avoid vibrations and involuntary movements, it is essential to perform the time-lapse with a remote shutter release. Both for the aperture priority method and for the automatic method – and especially in this case – the shutter release is an accessory to absolutely have in your equipment.

How does the aperture priority method work?

To apply this method, we will use the camera to calculate the exposure value. First place your camera on your tripod and make the frame. You will need to shift focus to manual mode and focus that way. Then switch to aperture-priority mode, set the aperture to around f / 8, ISO to 100, and white balance to daylight.

You will then have to calculate, at this time, the number of triggers you expect to achieve, as well as the time interval between two shots. To calculate all of this, you’ll need to know in advance how long the video will end up and how many hours you’ll want to capture in the time-lapse. Once these parameters are well defined, use the following formula to calculate the interval between two triggers. 

Time interval = video duration (final video duration x frame per second)

Let’s say that we are going to start making the time-lapse at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and that we will end it at 8 o’clock in the evening. The duration of the video is 3 hours, in other words 10800 seconds. You want the final video to be 30 seconds long. The standard for “frames per second” for a movie is 24. The time interval would then be: 10800 / (30 × 24) = 10800/720 = 15 seconds.

You need an interval of 15 seconds between two triggers. To do this, you will have to program a 15 second countdown on your mobile phone, then trigger your camera each time these 15 seconds have elapsed.

Advantages and disadvantages of the aperture priority method

The advantage of this method is that you do not need any special accessories. A camera and a tripod are sufficient. But the downside is that if you’re going to do a day-to-night time-lapse for three hours, you’re going to have to be there all the time to be able to take each photo. Not to mention that you will have to ensure that the exposure calculation by your camera is done correctly. Indeed, if ever a photo turns out to be underexposed or overexposed, the final video will not present a smooth transition.

Not to be forgotten for a day-night time-lapse

Trigger in RAW format

You should always take your photos in RAW format. In this format, you will be able to modify any defects that may appear in the image, such as underexposure or a problem with white balance, for example.

Always carry a spare battery

When you make trips for a long time with your camera, the battery can be discharged, due to the successive releases but also to the time interval between them. If you have a spare battery, you can change it between two triggers and thus benefit from all the energy necessary for the entire session. Find an additional battery for your device by clicking on the link below:

Turn off the camera’s LCD screen

To reduce the energy consumption of the battery, we advise you to carry out your session by turning off the screen of your device. You won’t need to change any camera settings between trips, so you won’t need to turn it on. And if you want to check the result of a photo, you can turn the screen on to turn it off again after viewing the photo.


Of course, both the aperture priority method and the automatic method have their advantages and disadvantages. If you have basic equipment, your best bet will be to do your day-night time-lapse with the aperture priority method. But if you have a remote control or have been planning to get one for a long time.

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By aamritri

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