Learn How to Shoot & Edit a Smooth Day to Night Time-Lapse

Shooting a time-lapse is a little tricky to begin with, but things get even more complicated when you shoot one from day to night.

The major hurdle you have to jump through when shooting from day to night (or vice versa) is adjusting your camera settings according to the light change as the sun dips below the horizon. Here to show you how to prepare for, shoot, and edit this type of challenging time-lapse is Cal Thomson. Check out his helpful tutorial below:

Here are the tools Cal used in his tutorial:

  • Canon 6D
  • Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 IS
  • Manfrotto 501HD Tripod
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • LR Timelapse

The tutorial is pretty straightforward, but here are a few things to keep in mind as you get ready to shoot a day to night time-lapse:

Get the right gear

This can really go without saying, but shooting a time-lapse without the right gear is just -- silly. Get a sturdy tripod and head. Get an  intervalometer. Nobody wants to babysit, count intervals, or risk shaking your camera by hitting the record button. (Because you will shake your camera by hitting record, and it'll mess up your shot big time.)

Give yourself enough time to make adjustments

Most time-lapses allow you to more or less set it and forget it, but if you're shooting day to night means you have to account for the light change -- meaning you have to change your exposure. Set your intervalometer to where it gives you enough time to make any adjustments that you need to, but don't make the interval so long that you miss too much of the action. Cal sets his at 10 seconds.

Head into post to smooth out the jumps in exposure

As Cal mentions in the tutorial, as your exposure changes, you'll see little "jumps" in the image. To make your time-lapse look a cleaner, more sophisticated look free of those jumps, open whichever post program you use (Cal uses Lightroom) and adjust the settings to match the exposure of all of your images. Cal manages to avoid having to editing over 800 images individually by utilizing a plugin called LR Timelapse. Using the metadata from its "Holy Grail" workflow, you're able to go into Lightroom and see which images need adjustments, rather than having to guess or, god forbid, smoothing out transitions on every single one of your images.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to shoot a day to night time-lapse? Let us know in the comments below!     

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Your Comment


Sony's made waves with its built-in time lapse app. As well, updates along the way have added things like sunset and sunrise modes that automatically adjust exposure based on incoming light. The app doesn't yet give you the freedom that an intervalometer and the method in this post hash out, but it does have a much simpler workload.

November 24, 2015 at 9:15PM

Sean Korbitz
Director of Photography

Here is a quick fix method to consider if flicker isn't too bad to start with, works well on GoPro timelapse sequences:
1. Import sequence to After Effects, FCP, or whatever.
2. Duplicate 4 times so you have a total of 5 layers.
3. Keep bottom layer in place and offset each layer above by one frame. So layer 4 starts one frame later than layer 5, layer 3 starts one frame later than layer 4, etc...
4. Set opacity of layers 1-4 at 25%. Layer 5 100%.

This will make clouds, water, any movement a little softer but should combat flicker. I use this in a pinch and it works fairly well...

November 26, 2015 at 5:58AM

Ben McAllister

I have a Panasonic agac 160a which has over/undercrank capability. It has a 3 position ND filter that I use for timelapse. I have major flicke/exposure problems as well. Does anyone know of a good tut for video cameras, because I've searched high and low, to no avail! Thanks!

November 27, 2015 at 10:47AM


I found Panolapse, despite being a bit cumbersome, overall more reliable than LRTimelapse.

December 4, 2015 at 5:23AM