Camera Accessories

What is an Intervalometer – Do I Need One?

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Written By Nate Torres

What is an Intervalometer?

An intervalometer is a device that connects to a camera and provides precise control over the timing and frequency of shots.

It is commonly used in time-lapse photography and other creative photography techniques, allowing photographers to capture a series of images at specific intervals.

Think of it as a conductor orchestrating the shots of a camera symphony, ensuring each frame is captured at the perfect moment.

To give you a personal example, I recently used an intervalometer to capture a breathtaking time-lapse of a sunrise.

By setting the intervalometer to take a shot every 10 seconds, I was able to capture the gradual transformation of colors as the sun emerged over the horizon.

Without the intervalometer, I would have had to manually press the shutter button every 10 seconds, which would have been impractical and prone to human error.

An analogy that can help clarify the concept of an intervalometer is to think of it as a traffic signal controller. Just as a traffic signal regulates the flow of vehicles on the road, an intervalometer controls the timing and sequencing of shots on a camera.

It determines when each “vehicle” (in this case, a photograph) should be captured, ensuring a smooth and synchronized photographic journey.

By using an intervalometer, photographers can avoid vibrations, achieve sharper images, and have greater control over their photography, much like a skilled traffic signal controller keeps traffic flowing smoothly and safely.


Purpose of an Intervalometer

The purpose of an intervalometer is to provide precise control over the timing and frequency of shots taken by a camera.

This device, commonly used in time-lapse photography and other creative photography techniques, allows photographers to create stunning visual effects and capture unique moments that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve manually.

By connecting to a camera’s micro USB port, an intervalometer expands the capabilities of the camera’s default software and opens up a world of possibilities.

One analogy that can help understand the purpose of an intervalometer is to think of it as a conductor guiding an orchestra.

Just as a conductor sets the tempo and timing for each instrument to play, an intervalometer sets the timing and frequency for each shot to be captured.

It acts as a precise controller, ensuring that shots are taken at the desired intervals and with the desired exposure length.

This level of control is crucial in various applications, such as time-lapse photography, long exposure photography, and even for reducing camera shake and vibrations in regular photography.

Personally, I have found the intervalometer to be an invaluable tool in my photography endeavors. One of my favorite uses for it is capturing star trails in the night sky.

By setting the intervalometer to take a series of long exposures at specific intervals, I can create stunning images that reveal the mesmerizing movement of the stars across the sky.

Without the intervalometer, it would require manually triggering the camera for hours on end, which would be impractical and would risk introducing a camera shake.

With the intervalometer, I can simply set the desired settings and let the device do the work, allowing me to focus on framing the shot and enjoying the beauty of the night sky.

star trails at night
star trails at night

How Does an Intervalometer Work?

How does an intervalometer work? An intervalometer is a device that adds a range of features and functionality to a camera’s default settings by connecting it to the camera’s micro USB port.

It essentially acts as an external control unit, allowing photographers to have precise control over the timing and frequency of their shots.

To understand how an intervalometer works, let’s imagine it as a conductor orchestrating a photography performance. Just as a conductor dictates the timing and sequence of musical notes, an intervalometer sets the tempo and rhythm of the shots.

It instructs the camera when to capture an image, how long the exposure should be, and how much time should elapse between shots.

The intervalometer acts as a bridge between the photographer’s creative vision and the camera’s capabilities, enabling them to capture stunning time lapses, long exposures, and other creative photography techniques.

Personally, I have used an intervalometer during a beautiful sunrise shoot at the beach. By programming the intervalometer with a sequence of shots and a specific delay between each shot, I was able to capture the golden hues of the rising sun as it gradually painted the sky.

The intervalometer ensured that each shot was taken at the perfect moment, avoiding any vibrations caused by manually pressing the camera shutter button.

city skyline sunset
city skyline sunset

Benefits of Using an Intervalometer

An intervalometer is a valuable tool for photographers seeking precise control over timing and frequency of shots.

This device offers a range of benefits, making it an essential accessory for many photographers.

1. Capturing Time-Lapse Photography

One of the primary advantages of using an intervalometer is its ability to capture stunning time-lapse photography.

By setting specific intervals between shots, photographers can create captivating videos or images showcasing the passage of time.

For instance, using an intervalometer, I was able to capture the growth of a plant from seed to full bloom over several weeks, resulting in a visually engaging sequence that would have been impossible to capture manually.

2. Increased Control

Another benefit of using an intervalometer is the increased control it provides in photography.

By automating the process, it helps to avoid vibrations that can result from manually pressing the camera’s shutter button. This ensures sharper images, especially in situations like long exposures or close-up shots where any movement can compromise the outcome.

It can be likened to using a remote control to operate a television. Just as the remote control allows you to change channels without having to get up from your comfort spot, an intervalometer grants photographers the ability to capture photos with precision and reduced camera shake without physically touching the camera.

3. Night Photography

Furthermore, intervalometers are particularly useful for night photographers.

They enable the capture of stunning star trail photography, where the movement of stars across the sky is recorded as mesmerizing streaks of light.

Additionally, intervalometers help reduce noise in high ISO photos, delivering cleaner and more professional-looking images. In my own experience, I used an intervalometer during a nighttime shoot to capture star trails over several hours.

The resulting image displayed the mesmerizing rotation of the Earth and the beautifully defined trails of starlight, greatly enhancing the overall impact of the photograph.

In conclusion, using an intervalometer brings numerous benefits to photographers.

It opens up creative possibilities, ensures precise timing and frequency control, minimizes vibrations, and enhances the quality of images, particularly in time-lapse and night photography.

Comparable to a remote control for a television, an intervalometer empowers photographers to capture their visions with ease and precision, expanding the range of possibilities in their craft.

Whether it’s capturing star trails, time lapses, or simply adding an extra level of control to photography, an intervalometer is an invaluable tool for photographers seeking to elevate their artistry.

Common Uses of Intervalometers

Intervalometers are versatile devices that have a wide range of applications in photography.

One common use of intervalometers is time-lapse photography. By controlling the timing and frequency of shots, photographers can capture the gradual changes in a scene over an extended period of time.

This technique is frequently employed to capture stunning videos of clouds moving, flowers blooming, or cityscapes transforming from day to night.

For instance, I recently used an intervalometer to capture the mesmerizing movement of waves crashing against the shore during a sunset, creating a stunning time-lapse video.

Another popular application of intervalometers is in the field of astrophotography, particularly for capturing star trail photography. By using long exposure times and precise intervals between shots, photographers can capture the apparent movement of stars in the night sky.

This technique creates mesmerizing images of swirling star trails. To visualize this, imagine taking a series of photographs of a spinning top at regular intervals.

When these images are stitched together, they form a beautiful, continuous trail of the top’s movement.

Similarly, an intervalometer allows photographers to capture the continuous movement of stars across the night sky.

In addition to these creative uses, intervalometers are also valuable tools for reducing camera shake and maintaining sharp images.

By using an intervalometer as an external shutter button, photographers can have better control over their shots, eliminating the risk of shaking the camera while pressing the built-in shutter button.

This ensures clarity and sharpness, especially in situations where a stable camera is critical, such as macro photography or when using telephoto lenses.

An intervalometer acts as a reliable tool in such scenarios, offering precise control over when and how the photo is taken, just like a surgeon carefully operates machinery to minimize any unwanted movement.

Overall, intervalometers are flexible devices that open up a world of creative possibilities in photography.

From capturing the passage of time to controlling exposure lengths and intervals, these devices offer photographers unparalleled control over their shots.

Whether shooting time lapses of landscapes, capturing star trails in the night sky or ensuring sharpness and stability in macro photography, intervalometers are essential accessories for any photographer seeking to push the boundaries of their craft.

Different Types of Intervalometers Available

Intervalometers are indispensable tools for photographers looking to enhance their creative possibilities and achieve precise control over their shots.

These devices come in various types, each offering unique features and functionalities suited for different photography needs.

1. Wired Intervalometer

The first type of intervalometer is the wired intervalometer.

As the name suggests, this device connects to the camera via a cable, allowing photographers to control their camera remotely.

Wired intervalometers are a reliable and affordable option, offering a wide range of features such as self-timer, long exposure control, interval timing, and shot quantity.

For instance, when I was capturing a stunning sunset landscape, I used a wired intervalometer to program my camera to take a series of long-exposure shots at specific intervals.

This allowed me to create breathtaking time-lapse footage of the changing colors in the sky.

2. Wireless Intervalometer

Another type of intervalometer is the wireless intervalometer.

This type provides the convenience of controlling the camera wirelessly, usually through a radio frequency or infrared connection.

Wireless intervalometers offer similar features to their wired counterparts, including long exposure control and interval timing.

Think of a wireless intervalometer as a photographer’s remote control, enabling them to trigger the camera from a distance with ease.

Whether capturing time-lapse sequences of stars or controlling multiple cameras simultaneously, wireless intervalometers provide flexibility and freedom of movement.

It is worth noting that some camera models have built-in intervalometer functions, eliminating the need for an external device.

However, third-party intervalometers are often more affordable and offer additional features that may not be available in the camera’s default software.

When deciding on the type of intervalometer to use, considerations such as personal preferences, camera compatibility, and specific photography needs should be taken into account.

Features to Consider When Choosing an Intervalometer

When choosing an intervalometer for your photography needs, there are several features that you should consider to ensure that it meets your requirements.

1. Compatibility with Camera

Firstly, it is important to evaluate the device’s compatibility with your camera model.

Some intervalometers are specifically designed for certain camera brands or models, so it is crucial to check whether it is compatible with your camera’s micro USB port or any other connection method it requires.

2. Shooting Modes and Functions

Another key feature to consider is the availability of different shooting modes and functions.

Look for an intervalometer that provides a wide range of options, such as a self-timer, delay setting, long exposures, interval timing, and shot quantity.

These features allow you to have more control over your photography sessions and open up possibilities for creative effects.

For instance, the ability to set long exposures can be invaluable for capturing smooth and flowing water in a landscape shot.

Personally, I have found this feature particularly useful when photographing waterfalls, creating an ethereal and dreamy effect.

3. Ease of Use and Ergonomics

Additionally, pay attention to the ease of use and ergonomics of the intervalometer.

A device with intuitive navigation buttons or a joystick can make it more user-friendly and convenient to adjust settings on the go.

Consider whether the intervalometer has a locking mechanism to prevent accidental changes to your selected settings.

An analogy would be comparing it to a car’s steering wheel lock, ensuring that your precise settings are safeguarded throughout your photography session.

These user-friendly features can greatly enhance your overall experience and efficiency when working with an intervalometer.

In conclusion, when selecting an intervalometer, it is important to take into account its compatibility with your camera, the availability of different shooting modes and functions, and the ease of use and ergonomics.

By carefully considering these features, you can choose an intervalometer that best suits your photography needs and elevates your creative capabilities.

How to Use an Intervalometer Effectively

Using an intervalometer effectively can greatly enhance your photography experience, particularly when it comes to time-lapse photography or capturing long exposure images.

To make the most of this device, it is important to understand its features and how to use them efficiently.

Let’s delve into some tips on how to use an intervalometer effectively.

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Settings

Firstly, familiarize yourself with the settings on your intervalometer.

These settings typically include the self-timer, exposure length, interval between shots, and the number of shots in a sequence.

Adjust these settings according to your creative vision and the specific photography technique you are aiming for.

For example, when capturing a time-lapse of a sunrise, you may set a longer exposure length and a shorter interval between shots to create a smooth transition of light as the sun rises.

2. Consider Benefits Outside of Time-Lapse Photography

Secondly, consider the benefits of using an intervalometer beyond time-lapse photography.

For instance, an intervalometer can serve as an external shutter button, allowing you to control your camera remotely and reduce camera shake.

This is especially useful when capturing self-portraits or group shots. Additionally, the intervalometer can be used for long-exposure photography, where it automates the process and ensures precise timing.

Imagine you are photographing a waterfall and want to capture the flowing water as a soft, silky stream.

By using an intervalometer, you can set a longer exposure time and take multiple shots at regular intervals, resulting in a beautifully blended image of the falling water.

In conclusion, using an intervalometer effectively requires understanding its features and customizing the settings to suit your photography needs.

Experiment with different settings and techniques, such as time-lapse photography, long exposure shots, and remote triggering, to unleash your creativity and capture stunning images.

Just like a conductor who orchestrates each note to create a harmonious melody, the intervalometer allows you to control the timing and frequency of your shots, enabling you to create captivating visual stories with precision and artistry.

Tips and Tricks for Intervalometer Photography

Intervalometer photography can open up a world of possibilities for creative and unique shots. To make the most of this tool, here are some tips and tricks to enhance your intervalometer photography skills.

1. Planning is Key

Before you start shooting with an intervalometer, it’s essential to plan your composition and setting.

Consider the subject, lighting conditions, and desired effect.

For example, if you’re capturing a time-lapse of a flower blooming, choose a location with good lighting and set the interval to capture the gradual unfolding of petals.

Planning ahead allows you to achieve the desired result and saves time on unnecessary retakes.

2. Experiment With Intervals and Exposure Settings

With an intervalometer, you have precise control over the timing and frequency of shots.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different intervals to achieve the desired effect.

For instance, a shorter interval can create a fast-paced time-lapse, while a longer interval can capture slower changes over time.

Similarly, play around with exposure settings to capture the perfect amount of light.

Just like a conductor sets the rhythm for an orchestra, the intervalometer helps you set the rhythm of your photography.

3. Minimize Vibrations and Camera Shake

The use of an intervalometer can help eliminate vibrations and ensure sharp images. However, to further reduce any movement, it’s advisable to use a tripod or stable surface.

Additionally, consider using a remote shutter release or the intervalometer’s external shutter button as an alternative to pressing directly on the camera’s shutter button.

This will minimize any accidental camera shake and result in clearer, more professional-looking shots.

Think of it as having a steadying hand guiding your camera, allowing for crisp and well-focused images.

In conclusion, mastering intervalometer photography requires careful planning, experimentation with settings, and the use of stabilizing techniques.

By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to capture stunning time-lapses, long exposure shots, and more. So, brace yourself, get creative, and let the intervalometer be your assistant in capturing those magical moments through your lens.

Frequently Asked Questions About Intervalometers

Intervalometers are versatile devices that offer precise control over the timing and frequency of shots, making them a popular tool in photography.

However, many photographers have questions about intervalometers and how to best utilize them for their creative needs. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding intervalometers:

Can I create my own intervalometer?

While there are professional intervalometers available on the market, some individuals have successfully crafted their own using a scientific calculator and their ingenuity. By programming the calculator, they are able to control the timing and frequency of shots. However, it’s important to note that creating your own intervalometer requires technical expertise and may not provide the same level of features and convenience as a dedicated device like the Canon TC80N3.

What are the different applications for intervalometers?

Intervalometers are commonly associated with time-lapse photography, allowing photographers to capture the passage of time in a visually stunning sequence. However, their applications extend beyond that. For instance, they can be used to automate exterior house lighting by programming lights to turn on and off at specific intervals. Additionally, intervalometers are useful for capturing self-portraits, stop-motion photography, group shots, and long exposure pictures, providing unparalleled control over the shooting process.

Are all intervalometers wireless?

No, not all intervalometers are wireless. While wireless options are available, there are also wired intervalometers that connect directly to the camera’s micro USB port. The choice between wired and wireless depends on personal preference and compatibility with the camera. Wireless intervalometers often offer the convenience of remote control through smartphone apps, but wired options may be more reliable in certain situations and don’t require additional battery power.