Time-lapse photography of the Milky Way and more

Time-lapse photography of the Milky Way and more

Taking multiple images while shooting the Milky Way opens up more possibilities for creative projects. You can stack images for noise reduction. Combine photos for time-lapse. When the sky changes at night, make sure you already have clean photos ‘in the can’.”

Interval meter

Many cameras today have a built-in intervalometer. This allows you to take multiple photos without touching the camera. Whatever settings are used, the camera will continue to make additional copies. You can program the camera to take images that can be combined for a time-lapse video. The story you can tell with multiple photos is very different from the still image.

If your camera doesn’t have this feature built in, you can get one. Even if you have one intervalometer built-in, if you want to do a lot of time lapse, you may want a tool as an add-on. These tools can be generic or OEM. The generic versions work fine, just make sure you get one that is compatible with your camera’s external port.

With an outdoor unit, you don’t have to touch the camera to activate, which can be useful if you’re shooting stacks of images for noise reduction. See the still images below:

Time lapse


How do you know how many photos are enough to make a time-lapse? Depends on the story you want to tell. The length of time you want your video to run determines how many frames you need to capture. Most time-lapse videos use 24 frames per second. You don’t want to bore your viewer, so time lapses are usually between 10 and 20 seconds with a minute on top, unless you’re doing great stuff. I tend to take more photos than I think I need. (Of course I was limited to 120 images this time.) Images can always be left on the cutting room floor.

Determine how many frames you need by multiplying the time by 24. For example, if you need 20 seconds, 20 x 24 = 480 frames. The shutter speed you’re working with determines how long it takes to complete your session. Clouds on a sunny day you are done in less than 10 minutes. Milky Way stars can be 20 seconds or more per frame. 9600 seconds equals 160 minutes or more than two hours for the same 20 second video. My video was rendered up to 17 seconds at 4K resolution. I processed that video in Screenflow, a MAC screen capture program, adding pan, zoom, and slow motion to extend the runtime to 25 seconds.

TLDF (Time Lapse Deflicker)

A great APP to clean up and process your time-lapse videos Time Lapse Deflicker. Often you will get a slight change in exposure, resulting in an annoying flicker in your movie. I found this APP is super for processing. You can try it for free and use it with 720p files. You can dial in higher resolutions by investing a little in upgrades. I recommend going all the way to the full program as it only costs $34.99 for full size files. You can get 1080p capabilities for a lower price. But if you have a full-sized video file, you can pan and zoom if you’re working on a 1080p timeline.

Still images and noise reduction

Multiple images can be used to tame the noise caused by long exposures at high ISO. For Mac users, the program is called Starry Landscape Stacker and costs about $40. PC users have a free program called Sequator. Both software take multiple photos, align them so that the stars are aligned. At the same time, anything that is not a star is considered noise and removed. You have to play with different numbers of images to stack to find your happy place. Technically, more stacked images equals less noise. You’ll find there’s a point where less noise reduction becomes apparent by adding more images.

The air noise has been reduced in this image by using Starscape Stacker. It’s $59.99 for MAC. It’s worth it if you make a lot of these kinds of images. Read more about my use of Starry Landscape Stacker here. PC users get a free download of the Follower program which does about the same thing.

Multiple cameras

When photographing the Milky Way I like to work with multiple cameras. This allows for different compositions, lens choices, time-lapse and more. While I enjoy working with two cameras, I’m not a fan of carrying two full-sized tripods. Platypus come to the rescue. I used a Platypod eXtreme plate with two Platypod handles and a Benro ball head. This gives me the ability to mount the camera from almost on the ground up to 22 inches above it. It comes in at just over two pounds, but breaks down for easy storage in the camera bag.

1688073614 23 Time lapse photography of the Milky Way and more | Theedgesm
Platypod eXtreme base with two Platypod handles and a lightweight Benro ball head was used for my second Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark III camera mount and the time-lapse footage.

Milky Way workshops in Sedona

These are just some of the concepts and ideas we’ll explore during the Milky Way Sedona Workshops I on. You can learn more at successful-photographer.com. If you don’t see a date that fits your schedule, please contact us and let’s see what we can do in a private workshop.

Yours in creative photography, Bob