Macro time-lapse and time-lapse – what’s the difference?

What is macro time-lapse and how is it different to regular time-lapse photography? We consider the subtle but important characteristics of this specific genre.

What is macro time-lapse?

Macro time-lapse is a technique within time-lapse photography that involves the camera taking photographs of objects with a ratio of 1:1 or larger. Simply explained, it is where small objects appear life-size or larger. Macro lenses allow for closer focusing distances than normal lenses, which means the photographer can get even closer to the subject. This genre of photography can create beautiful images of a microscopic, unseen world.

The same basic principle for regular time-lapse capture applies to macro time-lapse: images are taken of a particular subject at regular intervals using a mounted camera, but this time with different lenses and equipment. To get detailed, up-close macro images means that specialist lens and artificial lighting are important as are composition, shutter speed, and aperture.

Nature through a macro lens

This type of photography allows access into the microscopic wonders and beauty of the natural world.  A stunning example of the effective use of the macro lens in time-lapse photography is “-N- Uprising” by Thomas Blanchard which draws on the cycles of nature. Filmed in 8K over seven months, he beautifully captures the detailed developments and behaviour of insects and flowers. He includes the full life cycle of a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and edits it into this short time-lapse sequence.

Animals & their behaviour magnified 

An unexpectedly charming example of microscopic photography of an animal, is of a snail eating lettuce. Normally unseen by the human eye, the face is in full view as it munches through a sheaf of greenery.

Even amateur time-lapse can effectively show detailed behaviour of the natural world, such as in this sequence of ants eating a hotdog.

Underwater in ‘Slow Life’ by BioQuest Studios, ‘slow’ marine animals reveal their secret life. Under high magnification, the detailed movements of corals and sponges, as they build coral reefs are exposed through time-lapse sequences. Their ‘slow’ motion is only detectable at different time scales to ours, so time-lapse is required so it can be seen.    

Macro time-lapse of flowers and plants

Something as simple as a flower bursting forth from a bud can be meticulously captured through this genre of photography.

This video by Federico Chierichetti shows the beauty of unraveling petals through sped-up sequences.  

With a macro lens and patience, the development of seeds into seedlings and then plants can be mesmerising as Daniel Csobot shows in this video that magnifies and speeds up nature’s processes.

Further uses for macro time-lapse

Others have been more experimental as to what they put under the macro lens.

Who knew that dissolving MandM sweets could be so captivating when magnified, as shown by Beauty of Science? Or that medical pills dissolving could form such striking imagery under a macro lens? Photographer Ben Ouaniche took on this challenge, and along with lenses, Syrp Genie motion control device, lighting, and a time-lapse control he needed plenty of patience as some took up to 10 hours to fully disappear.

The genre is so popular now that there are YouTube channels such as MacroRoom dedicated to it, covering everything from pills dissolving to Ink in Motion to simple yet effective Icecream Melting in Macro.

Why use macro time-lapse photography

Through magnification and editing, macro time-lapse photography can reveal previously unseen images to the human eye. It can create beautiful visuals yet also be insightful into the microscopic natural world. With advances in digital photography, cameras and the arrival of new lenses, macro time-lapse photography has become more advanced as well as more accessible for beginners to have a go.

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