How to Shoot the Perfect Night Sky Time-Lapse

Looking to learn the basics of time-lapse photography? Outdoor photographer Corey Rich is your new best friend –– especially when it comes to setting up a successful night sky time-lapse with your camera’s built-in interval-o-meter. Check out Corey’s tips regarding this popular genre of landscape photography below, and then head to the great outdoors and start snapping pictures of that gorgeous starry sky!

(Note: Corey shot his time-lapse with a brightly-lit tent in the foreground, and used a Nikon D800 HD-SLR with a 24mm 1.4 lens and an ISO of 800.)

1. Set Up Your Composition

There are a few methodical steps you should take before shooting your time-lapse. First, find a compelling composition for your photo and set up a tripod. Oh, and do yourself a favor by performing both these steps during the day –– no one wants to be fumbling around with camera equipment in the middle of the night! By preparing in advance, all you have to do when it’s time to shoot is sit back, relax, and let the camera work its magic.

2. Set Up Your Camera

Remember, your time lapse consists of individual photos shot in a RAW file format. Your camera will be rapidly firing them off one after the other, so the key to success is correctly setting the “interval time” between photos. “What I’ve learned over time is that we need to make certain that you’re setting the interval-o-meter duration greater than your exposure,” Corey explains. So, if you’re doing a 30 second exposure, your interval-o-meter duration should be somewhere around 45.

3. Light Up Your Tent

Want to follow Corey’s lead and include a brightly lit camping tent in the foreground of your photo? You’ll need to light it up with an adjustable, daylight balanced LED. “The beauty is I can put an enormous amount of light into the tent, or very little, and what I’ve learned doing time-lapse is you need very little light inside of a tent because the reality is we’re doing a 30 second exposure.” While a tent isn’t necessary, having something unvarying and static in the foreground of your photo will help balance the movement of the stars and clouds in the sky.

4. Cozy Up In Your Sleeping Bag and Let The Camera Do The Work

Before you hunker down for the night, double check your camera’s exposure, ISO and interval-o-meter; switch both the camera’s body and lens to manual focus; and make sure your battery is fully charged. Now just activate the timer and you’re good to go! “The best part about shooting time-lapse is that once the camera’s set up correctly, you have the exposure correct and you hear that shutter releasing, your only job is to crawl into your warm sleeping bag and allow the camera to do the job for you.” Not only will you end up with a gorgeous time-lapse photo to frame on your wall, you’ll also get a video clip of the night time sky. Otherwise known as a win-win!

For more of Corey’s valuable tips, check out his CreativeLive course “Storytelling on Location,” where you’ll learn how to bring your stories to life with both video and photography.

Mehera Bonner FOLLOW >

Mehera Bonner is a freelance lifestyle and entertainment writer. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and two children.