Creating Easy Time-Lapse Movies In Lightroom 3.0

Creating Easy Time-Lapse Movies In Lightroom 3.0

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to create time-lapse videos and already own Lightroom 3.0?

Thanks to the hard work of Sean McCormack, your search is over. Being budget minded and already owning Lightroom, I came across Sean’s plugin and was pleasantly surprised at the price tag (free). While the plugin currently does not export to 1080p, only 720p, it makes creating these fun, and often stunning, videos a lot easier than previous methods.

What is the genius of this technique? No resizing or need to export RAW files. This, to me, is heaven. Resizing is not that big of a deal, but exporting hundreds of images to recompile takes more time. Don’t forget most techniques usually require the purchase of Quicktime Pro.

What is the downside of this technique? No music and no Ken Burns Effect as with other programs. This is a simple version for those not creating super-gloss time-lapse. It can, however, be used to create multiple smaller video that can be assembled, with music and Ken Burns Effect, using another program, such as iMovie (free with Mac computers).

First, for those not acquainted with the technique for shooting time-lapse, let me point you to two posts already covering the subject on DPS.

With your shots in hand, it’s time to use the power of Lightroom to make your task a whole lot easier. First, take a look at Sean’s post here on Pixiq for the download and install instructions.

Creating a time-lapse is now extremely simple and handled via the Slideshow module in Lightroom.

1. Organize your photos into a Collection

After editing images to your desired taste, highlight them all in the Library module. Then, click on the + next to Collections in the left information panel.


Next click ‘New Collection’ and then give your new Collection a name. Be sure to check the box for ‘Include selected photos’.

2. Switch to the Slideshow module and pick your Preset

In the Slideshow module, you will see the new Presets on the left. Select the Preset you desire and then make sure your recently created Collection is also selected.


3. Export and Enjoy

Lastly, click on Export Video, give it a name and pick a location and let Lightroom do the rest!


Some tips on shooting time lapse with examples.

I played with Sean’s plugin for only a few attempts before heading to Peru on a ‘vacation’ (in quotes because who among us with cameras ever really vacates that aspect of our lives?). I had the chance at Machu Picchu to sit in one spot high above the city and let my camera snap images while I relaxed for about four hours. I played around a little with different speeds. To give you some idea of the speeds at which to shoot, check out the attached videos below.

Shot at one frame every 30 seconds and assembled at 24 frames per second.

Shot at one frame every 10 seconds and assembled at 24 frames per second.

Shot at one frame every 3 seconds and assembled at 24 frames per second.

As you can see, one frame every 3 seconds doesn’t work so well with a fast moving train and I would have shot more if not for the warning to not put arms outside of the train. It’s rather hurried. The video with one shot every 10 seconds works for faster moving clouds. In the video of one every 30 seconds, because of the time gap and speed of the clouds, the action looks a bit fast.

Read more from our Post Production category

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • ccting December 28, 2011 05:54 pm

    Incrediblely compiling a movie.... my laptop is complaining...

  • Cécile December 2, 2011 12:53 pm

    I did not understand the music part. In Lr3 if you go to slideshow you can add a soundtrack . Is this function disabled with the plugin?

  • Marco Famà December 1, 2011 08:18 pm

    Ciao Peter,
    I am used to create short time-lapse videos using Lightroom + LRTimelapse, as mentioned by Nick.

    I'll give this a try, thanks for pointing it out. And, if I like it as well, I might write a little Italian tutorial for my community site Time Lapse Italia.

    Thanks a lot

  • Colin Edward December 1, 2011 08:05 am

    The templates can be easily modified to do 1080p video. If I remember correctly (it's been awhile) you open up the file with your text editor of choice, and replace 1280x720 with 1920x1080. You can also change the framerate while you're in there.

  • Sergey Orlov December 1, 2011 02:13 am

    I see... Sorry for misunderstanding.

    By the way, it seems that Nepal is a source of inspiration for both of us )

  • Peter West Carey December 1, 2011 01:40 am

    Thanks for the comment. I fixed the link.

    As for locking exposure, all those examples have the exposure locked. The change in brightness is because the sun got blocked and that's what the scene in front of me looked like. To me, it's ok if the brightness changes as long as that change really happened and, as you mentioned, isn't the result of the camera adjusting exposure.

  • Sergey Orlov December 1, 2011 01:04 am


    Two comments, if you don't mind:
    1. The link to the "Sean’s plugin" should be corrected to include initial "http://" part. Otherwise it will consider everything as DPS-related pages.
    2. I would suggest to lock exposure during shooting to prevents brightness changes across the whole video (like in your example video number 2). I had the same problem with my first time-lapse attempt :)

  • Nick P December 1, 2011 01:03 am

    You might want to take a look at "LRTimeLapse" too.

    It allows you to do a range of edits on a series of photos for timelapses including evening out the lighting (when you've got clouds going past the sun for example) and smoothly moving between two different crops.