Animating Sunrise & Sunset

If you’ve been following along

The last few posts covered some animation basics

However, if the animation involves photos

Some photography basics enter the equation, too

In today’s world apps like Instagram hide lots of flaws

But good photographers try to get it right in the camera


Approaching Dusk

10 images made at 5 minute intervals

Used proper camera settings to show progression of light



Approaching Dawn

5 images spanning 30 minutes from dark to near daylight

Incorrect camera setting to show the progression of light

Note the street and car lights (box at center at start)

At start the lights are on, it’s dark, & by #5 they’re off

However, the overall scene brightness is mostly the same

The camera’s meter + Aperture Priority maintain middle gray

Not so good if we want to show the progression of light

Note – the two final images sandwiched between the black sides

Show the start & end of the progression

Color shifts are from auto-WB


The above two examples illustrate a situation where

If you’re shooting a time-lapse sequence for animation

Understanding of camera basics is essential

In particular, if you want to show the progression of light

As you saw it in the approaching dawn or dusk

You need to understand how to control exposure

This is a case where “auto-anything” is not your friend

In the 2nd example above

Aperture priority kept the brightness constant

Auto white balance gave color shifts

Neither of which are wanted in this case


So what is the answer?


1. The absolute MUST for capturing the light progression is


To get started

Do whatever you want to get the 1st image’s exposure to look like what you see

I typically use a combination of aperture priority & exposure compensation to match what I’m seeing

Once you get this starting image –

Note the camera’s aperture & shutter speed settings

Then – switch to manual exposure and

Set aperture & shutter speed to match those settings

2. That’s not all – no auto white balance either.

Pick a manual WB setting like cloudy (& shoot RAW, too)

Note that shooting auto-WB and RAW (as I did for the sunrise)

Only solves part of your problem

The shot to shot color will still be changing, but

Good news – RAW allows you to fix it

Bad new – you have to fix every image individually

Why not go manual & have all the colors the same?

3. No auto-anything-else either. Like ISO for example.


These manual-everything guidelines apply to panoramas, too

Else, the images will vary from shot to shot and

The stitching won’t be seamless

Also for panoramas – NO polarizer

This may seem to be belaboring the obvious

Many novices don’t understand this


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