How to use time-lapse photography to take viewers on a journey

How to use time-lapse photography to take viewers on a journey

When Jen visited New York to write about San Antonio’s ties to High Line park, she called me and wondered if it’d be a good idea to make a time lapse-video of a walk through the mile-long urban park.


Time-lapse videos are full of awesome sauce. Most I’ve seen involve the placement of a camera in a stationary location. But another cool method is taking the camera with you and snapping a photo every few seconds. It creates a cool first-person view of a journey or event.

I’ve tried this technique a few times after seeing this video of a trip from Denver to Singapore by David DAngelo. I thought it was a cool way to show what the whirlwind journey was like:

This video by Express-News photographer Billy Calzada is about the difficulties kayakers face when they navigate a redeveloped stretch of the San Antonio River. About a minute into the video, Billy effectively used first-person time-lapse photography to show the hassle of being forced to take a kayak out of the river and walking about a mile to the next accessible location:

Jennifer Hiller
Jennifer Hiller

In New York, Jen started walking at the beginning of the High Line and took a photo every step or two. By the time she reached the end, she had taken 9,878 photos.

Most types of video editing software allow you to import a series of still images. When Jen got back I copied the photos to our hard drive at home and fired up Sony Vegas.

In Vegas you can import photos two ways. One is to go to “Options,” click on “Preferences,” then “Editing.” There you can adjust the sittings for the length of still images when you add them to your project. You can also have the images overlap slightly for a smoother look using cross fades.

For Jen’s project, the photos were at 3 frames per second:

How to import images into Sony Vegas

Another options is going to “Project,” then “Import Media.” Check the box “Open still image sequence,” then select the photos you want to import. Vegas will merge all those photos into a single file for your project:

How to import still images into Sony Vegas

The finished product gives people a taste of it’s like to walk the High Line in a way that a traditional news article can’t do very well. These kinds of videos aren’t just trendy — they help journalists tell better stories.