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How I Shoot: @sweatengine on Capturing the Perfect Time-Lapse Video

How I Shoot is a series where we ask Instagrammers to tell us about the set-up and process behind their photos and videos. This week, Kevin Lu (@sweatengine) shares how he captures time-lapse videos. See more of Kevin’s tips on his website.

Since the launch of video on Instagram last year, New York Instagrammer Kevin Lu (@sweatengine) has been on a quest to perfect the art of capturing time-lapse videos with his iPhone. “Time-lapse" describes the technique of creating a video by stitching together a large sequence of photos taken over time, which makes slow changes appear to happen faster. These days, Kevin’s feed is full of spectacular time-lapse videos from around New York City.

For those interested in trying their hand at capturing a time-lapse video, Kevin provides these tips:


iPhone (4 or later recommended)

Vantage Point

"Choosing an appropriate vantage point is crucial to the success of the result. Often the subject of a time-lapse video is movement itself. Pick a subject that changes, moves slowly over time or makes intermittent, unpredictable movements for interesting results.

"As a rule of thumb, each frame of a time-lapse video should also be as good as a still photograph."


"There are many time-lapse apps available in the App Store. I personally prefer TimeLapse (iOS, $4.99) for its user interface and control settings. Lapse It (iOS and Android, Free) is another popular choice. They all do similar things—the difference is usually in control or output resolution.

"When shooting a time-lapse video, pay attention to the following technical details:

  • Secure the iPhone (on a small tripod or solid object) to eliminate camera shake.
  • Turn off iPhone’s auto-lock feature.
  • Make sure the iPhone has enough battery power.
  • If possible, from your time-lapse app lock the exposure settings before you start shooting. This will get rid of a distracting effect called ‘flickering’.

"The shoot duration, final length, and shutter speed all contribute to how the final video will look. For a final video length of 15 seconds, I typically use the following shoot settings for duration:

  • 5-10 minutes for slow to average city traffic
  • 10-15 minutes for pedestrian traffic
  • 15-20 minutes for clouds
  • 20 minutes or longer for sunrise/sunset

"Of course, as I mentioned earlier, these are not strict rules for this is a dynamic and creative process. It takes patience and practice to get it just right. Some apps let you adjust shutter speed as well. In general you can leave shutter speed on ‘auto.’"


"I do the majority of my editing with an app called Videon (iOS, $4.99). Videon allows me to straighten and sharpen my videos, as well as make adjustments to important parameters such as exposure, contrast, temperature and saturation.

"My editing usually begins with straightening my video, followed by slight sharpening and brightening underexposed shadowy areas. After these adjustments, I trim the video to 15 seconds before exporting it to camera roll. I then use another app called Lumify (iOS, Free) to pair my video with appropriate background music. Frequently I put on an Instagram video filter before I share.”


Ringing in 2014 on Instagram

To see more photos and videos from some of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world so far, check out the location pages for the Auckland Sky Tower, Sydney Opera House, Kuala Lumpur City Center Park and Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港).

As the year draws to a close across the timezones, crowds are gathering around the world for firework displays and parties at some of the globe’s most famous landmarks.

Want to see photos and videos from New Year’s Eve celebrations in your city? Try searching your city or landmark’s name on Instagram with a hashtag in front of it (eg. #singapore or #timessquare). If you find a photo or video with a location tag, tap the blue text above the photo or video to see even more.


@ThugLifeForevs and the Art of the #ChameleonPortrait

Emily Blincoe (@thuglifeforevs) is an Austin, Texas-based professional photographer and a prolific creator of creative, thematic hashtags.

"Instagram really sparked my interest in doing things in a series," says Emily. "Hashtags make it easy to group the photos together and to check out what other folks are contributing to the pool."

"My idea of fun is taking one simple idea and seeing how many different ways I can rework it." From #colorsorganizedneatly to #thisampersandthat to #sayitwithscissors, Emily’s experimentation has sparked the creativity of her followers and has created communities around the themes she’s imagined. “There have been some really creative contributions!”

A favorite theme is the #chameleonportrait, where the subject of Emily’s photo blends into the background.

"The first few chameleon portraits I took were self portraits," says Emily. "I was up late one night and the idea just popped into my head and I got to work on it. After my first few #selfies I transitioned the subjects to my friends and family."

Chameleon portraits allow Emily to experiment and add a twist to a classic genre. “I love shooting portraits more than anything. I think they are really important and lasting and meaningful.”

Emily offers some tips for those who want to try their hand at a #chameleonportrait:

"There are many simple ways to blend into your background for one of these portraits. You could simply wear a yellow shirt while standing in front of a yellow wall. Wear green clothing and lay in some lush grass or wear a floral dress in front of some floral wallpaper. Stripes on stripes, polka dots on polka dots, fabric, paint, nature, paper."

The most important thing, Emily says, is to not worry too much about the outcome. “Every idea is worth exploring a little and you never know what it might turn into.”

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