Night time-lapse settings


macrumors 601
Original poster
Feb 26, 2003
around the world

I want to create a night time-lapse video and I would like to understand what kind of settings I shall use
- with moon and
- without moon

I would like to understand basically all settings
- aperture
- exposure
- focal length
- ISO setting
- camera setting like manual exposure or which priority setting etc
- and of course interval

If anyone knows or has a link to a good tutorial would be very much appreciated.

Thanks a lot.

- La Forge
Last edited:


macrumors 68020
Nov 18, 2010
With moon, you probably want a fast shutter speed so that it doesn't appear as a gigantic blob on the photo, but then you'll be sacrificing the stars. Actually, I would like to know how this is done as well...

Without moon, use the Rule of 600. Divide 600 by the full frame equivalent of your focal length to get the maximum exposure time without the stars moving. So if you're using a 60mm prime, then the maximum shutter speed before trails appear is 10 seconds. You can go even shorter. It is imperative that you use a long exposure for star photography, because at shorter speeds the light difference between the night sky and stars are miniscule. By exposing for a longer time, the gap between the two increases.
To stars our, you might want to set ISO to auto and use Tv (Shutter priority). Use evaluative metering, or point metering if you can set the point to the night sky. Experiment with the exposure compensation until you get a good exposure. Then set the same settings on manual mode to prevent any discrepancies in exposure and use an intervalometer for continued shooting. Because the exposure time is so long, you'll find that it usually becomes the interval between shots. Which is better because it should in a smoother movie.
After some practice you'll start to get an idea of which aperture and ISO to use. Then you can just permanently use manual. I prefer to use the larger apertures as smaller ones tend to make the stars look like bursts instead of pretty little circles.

Fundamentally all time lapses are the same. Set the settings so that it fits the length of your desired movie. You also have to decide on the framerate of the movie: 24fps, 25fps or 30fps. That is up to you and is fairly easy to calculate. Interval (e.g. 10 seconds) * framerate (e.g. 30fps) * length of movie (e.g. 60 seconds) = length of your shoot (in this example, 18,000 seconds or 300 minutes or 5 hours.)

Of course, if this fails, you can always stack the photos into a spectacular star trail photos. You can google how.

And as mandatory with all time lapses, USE A TRIPOD! And an AC adaptor if possible.

*HINT! If you use Canon, Magic Lantern has a built-in intervalometer. It's superb. Saves you some bucks, too.
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