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What Are The Ideal Settings for Shooting a Timelapse?...

December 27, 2012 Comments (11) Views: 22 Blog, Timelapse

Timelapse Photography – What Drives Me

Finding a passion in the work you do is an essential part of living a satisfied life. Being able to take your passion and turn it into a job is what many people strive for.

For any freelancer hoping to make a full time living in their craft, they must be determined, dedicated and continually pushing to learn and evolve. In this post, I want to share the experiences I have gone through in my short time as a freelancer as well as the passions that drive me. This content will be broken down into seven sections as follows:

  1. Where I Started
  2. The Turning Point
  3. The Process
  4. Finding A Passion
  5. The Skill Set: Why Timelapse
  6. Honing a Niche: The Client Experience
  7. Going Forward

Where I Started

I have not always had a passion for filmmaking.  Out of high school, although having a passion to produce art, I wanted to be an optometrist and started to go to school to be one. Soon I realized my heart wasn’t in it and switched to a four-year Media Production & Studies degree, not realizing it was actually a film degree. It was during my experiences at school where I developed a passion for filmmaking.

While in my fourth year of film school, I started to produce a short film a day for a year because I wasn’t getting what I was hoping to from school. During this time, I managed to get a job (a friend recommended that I apply) with the Ministry of Education developing educational resources for teachers and students. I decided to take time off in my last semester because I had a full-time job with a pension and benefits and didn’t want to pass up the job when I was offered it – and didn’t want to quit the film-a-day project.

When I hit the seven month mark of the short film project, I was given the opportunity to work with Philip Bloom on a documentary in Lewiston, Idaho. I took a LOA from the government job and went on the road for three weeks to help Philip and focus on the 3 Minute Short project. This experience was unforgettable and it was here where I realized that it was possible to make a living as a freelance filmmaker.

When I got back to work with the government job, I started to freelance with a local production company. I was working about 90 hrs a week between the government job, the production company and my short film project. I soon grew tired of the repetitious work with the government job and was not being fulfilled. As the work started to increase with the local production company, I decided to quit the government job and freelance fulltime.

The Turning Point

The turning point for me was when I started to shoot a film a day. Although it was a lot of work and at times was extremely overwhelming, the whole process was extremely rewarding. I quickly realized where my passion was and the types of films I enjoyed producing. It also opened my eyes to what is possible with hard work and dedication.

The Process

The entire process was a learning experience. There were many times during the process where I was feeling overwhelmed and wanted to give up. However, I am extremely happy to have stuck with the project where I realized that you can make a living as a freelancer. When I look back at my experiences since high school, there have been many starts and stops and many obstacles I had to overcome.

Finding A Passion

Finding a passion that is marketable is one of the hardest challenges to overcome. If you are struggling to determine what to do with the rest of your life or how to make a living as a filmmaker, you are not alone. You will feel:

  • Uncertainty
  • Apprehension
  • Stress
  • Doubt

My recommendation is to not let these feelings get in your way. You will experience many stops and starts and the process will be stressful but stick with it.  If you are dedicated and determined, your chances at success are high. 

For me, I have developed a strong passion for telling stories and finding ways to tell these stories in new ways. I have also developed a passion for shooting timelapses because of the experience and the effort that is required to capture these shots.

The Skill Set: Why Timelapse

Timelapse photography requires a unique set of skills and also requires a high level of patience AND dedication. I started shooting timelapses about four years ago using the HVX200 and D80, although didn’t commit to the task completely until about a year ago. Like my journey into filmmaking, falling into timelapse photography was a happy accident.

There are three main reasons that I shoot a timelapse:

  1. The Experience
  2. The Journey
  3. The Result
The Experience

The first thought of many is that shooting a timelapse has little payoff for the time that is required to capture a shot – especially when shooting an astro timelapse.  However, the second you see the final shot, it makes it all worth it.

There is nothing like going out into either an urban or rural environment and taking in your surroundings.  It is the one part of shooting where you actually sit and are able to experience a place. Typically, when I get to any environment, I will sit for at least ten minutes and observe my surroundings to see how all the action flows.  I then determine the best way to capture these shots. Most timelapses last at least 30 minutes. Once you have set the shot up, you then are able to observe and take in the experience that is present in that given environment.

Unlike most other high-paced film environments, when you shoot a timelapse, you are able to take a step back and focus on capturing the perfect shot.

The Journey

I started traveling extensively at the start of 2010. Since then I have seen a lot of locations.  When I first started filming, I shot timelapses but not to the extent that I do now. I feel I didn’t totally take in a location I was visiting. However, when I started shooting timelapse films, I feel I was finally able to fully appreciate the environment.

Half the pleasure of going out to shoot is the journey that is required to get to the location. The better location, the harder it is to access. I have found myself questioning why I put the effort in that I do when accessing unique locations but when I see that final shot, it makes it all worth it. Although many people don’t totally understand the amount of time and effort that is required to capture the perfect shot, the pleasure I get from shooting a timelapse makes the effort worth it.

The Result

Once the timelapse has finished, the first time you look at the shot and see the result, it is extremely exciting and re-motivating. Being able to then share this work with others and see their reaction is what keeps me going out and exploring.

Honing a Niche: The Client Experience

Relationship building is by far the most important skill you need to develop.  If you aren’t good at dealing with people, your chances at successfully freelancing full time are reduced tremendously. For me, I feel the best way to impress a client is with transparency and a quality product.

Going Forward

It is extremely important that you continue to refine your craft/skill set with every film you produce. For me, my goal is to refine my skills as a filmmaker and find ways to push myself and my skill set. My goals during the film-a-day project was to share everything that I was producing. However, as I move forward and push my skill set, I am focusing more on perfecting my shots and the work I share needs to reflect that. With each film I produce, it is key that I try something new. I am still learning and growing and will continue as long as I am able to.


If you would like to find out more, I have other helpful resources available on this website. My hopes with this website is to help provide a few resources to help with your journey. These resources will be available through The Academy as well as the Tool Box.

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11 Responses to Timelapse Photography – What Drives Me

  1. David Gibson says:

    Thank you, Preston, for continuing to share with and inspire us. Good words here.

  2. Troy Church says:

    Thanks Preston. “The Experience” section and the “Niche” sections resonate most with me.
    Slowing down enough to really see and experience something is becoming a lost art these days. And you’re right on the money about building relationships. Such trust-building is key to a growing career.

  3. Frankie Pretorius says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your work and energy is very inspiring. I hope to upload some timelapses of my own soon – your influence:) Also love the concept of a ‘short a day’, amazing how the commitment and hard work of doing the ‘short a day’ helped you to focus on what you wanted to do. I wish you great success for the new year.

  4. Brian Wilson says:

    Thanks for all you do Preston~You are an inspiration and a heckuva nice guy! Keep up the outstanding work-

  5. Charles Mackenzie-Hill says:

    Thank you Preston for sharing your experience. Experimenting with time-laps as we speak. Having trouble to be honestest as its day to night. From a terrace with tungsten light and wanting to keep the sunset colors for the exceptional view. So bracketed for the 3 exposures. Have LR4 , Potomatix and PS5 bet getting in a bit of a tangle. Any thought’s would be really appreciated. Thanks in advance

    • Yeah, that’s a tough one. TBH, in those situations, I would not shoot bracketed (but that’s just my style). I feel I can achieve the look I want without bracketing but many shooters will disagree with me there. Would either shoot manual, changing exposure about five times during the sunset or shoot aperture priority and deflicker after. Best results are always from manually changing. If your shooting RAW, you can do WB shifts throughout the shot.

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