Time-lapse photography is a technique where the scene being captured is at a much lower frame rate as compared to normal video photography. When this is then played back at a faster (real time speed) sequence, the result is playback footage where time appears to be moving faster than normal.
Speeding up time brings a surreal quality and perspective to a scene. Things that are normally not obvious at real time speed become more pronounced during time-lapse photography.
By adjusting the frame rate of captured scene or/and the playback sequence, the results of the time-lapse footage can be very different.
Time lapse allows the viewer to observe movements in the environment or changes to a subject faster without having to sit through the entire time that the changes are happening.
As an example, a recording of the sun’s movement from sunrise to sunset can take anywhere from 4 to 17 hours, depending on the latitude (and excluding the places where the sun doesn’t rise and set at all!); viewing the entire footage is boring and the changes from frame to frame in normal photography is insignificant and unnoticeable.
However, if the same footage can be viewed in 10 seconds and at a much lower sampling rate, things start to get a lot more interesting and entertaining for the viewer!
Anything that moves or changes slowly makes a good time-lapse subject. For example, clouds, snails, caterpillars, tides, flowers, candles, grazing animals, cake or bread rising in the oven. The gradual movements over a long period of time is a lot more interesting to watch as a time lapse sequence than a normal photography footage.
Busy scenes also look great in time-lapse video. For example, people shopping, rush-hour traffic, children running around in the park or an army of ants going about their business.
Put simply: Time lapse is like a manipulation of time. Objects and events that would normally take minutes, days, hours, or months can be viewed to completion within seconds. Due to the way the subject’s movement is captured and sped up in playback, movement or changes that are usually barely noticeable with the naked eye are revealed.