Introduction: Timelapse Photos With Your Camera - - - - the Easy Way - - - -

Picture of Timelapse Photos With Your Camera - - - - the Easy Way - - - -
This instructable shows you how to take timelapse photos with almost any camera. The best part is you do not have to tear your camera apart and it is low cost.

This is really a motorized finger that pushes the button of your camera for you. The time between shots is determined by the speed of the motor. By hooking up different battery combinations you can change the voltage to the motor and change the speed of the motor. You can create some great looking timelapse movies just like the pros at a very low cost.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

Material List

1 X 4 wood scrap 18 inches long

1/4 inch plywood or equal 4.5 X 5 inches

Scrap 1/4 inch plywood to make spacers

Scrap 3/4 thick oak to make offset cam

(1) 1/4 bolt X 2 inches long camera mount

(1) 1/4 bolt X 1 inches long rotating cam mount

(2) 1/4 hex nuts

(3) 10-32 machine screw 1 inch long

(1) 10-32 machine screw 1.5 inches long

(1) 10-32 threaded rod or cut head off of a 2 inch screw

(8) 10-32 hex nuts

(8) flat washers for fit 10-32 screws

(1) 1/4-20 threaded brass insert to allow mounting to tripod

(2) # 8 wood screws about 1 inch long

(1) Light spring

(2) Small eye screws for spring mounting

(1) 4 RPM 12 VDC gearmotor or other very slow speed motor.

Item number 5-1587

Scrap of plastic to make round disk that rubs against cam wheel

Wire to connect to a battery

Battery holder or plug to connect to auto 12v outlet

Solder to make connection to motor

This is most of what you need for the cameras I used. Adjustments will be needed for

larger or smaller cameras. I have two cameras that will work but the finger that

pushes the camera button will have to be adjusted.

Tools Needed


Jig saw

Miter saw is nice but all of this can be cut with the correct hand saws


Hole saws 1-1/8 and 7/8 inch



Drill press makes it easier to cut spacers but it can be done with a hand drill
(Center pilot drill is removed to cut little wheels out)
You can also use a stack of washers for spacers.

Drill bits

10-32 Tap and #21 bit

1/4-20 Tap

soldering iron

Step 2: PDF Templates

The PDF files are drawings of the different parts that are needed. The PDF files
are full size drawings that should be printed out and used as a template to make
your parts.

Use the templates to cut out the parts keeping in mind that you may have to make some parts larger or smaller if your camera is different. The two Olympus cameras that work on mine measure 2.65 (D-550 zoom) and 2.8 (SP-500UZ) inches from the bottom of the camera to the top of the trigger button.

Also included is a PDF that relates motor rpm to the number of seconds between pictures.

Step 3: Soldering Wires to the Motor Terminals

Picture of Soldering Wires to the Motor Terminals

The motor has terminals that extension wires need to be soldered to. This will allow you to connect to different types of power sources.

The motor is opened by prying on the small latches on the outer edges of the case.

I used a 2 wire cable and used heat shrink between the terminals and around the wire to prevent any short circuits.


Step 4: Tap the Motor Shaft

Picture of Tap the Motor Shaft

The motor shaft is plastic and needs to be tapped with a 1/4-20 tap to allow the offset cam wheel to be mounted to it with a 1 inch long 1/4 inch bolt.

The hole does not need to be drilled out. I used a cordless drill to tap the threads in the existing hole. Install the tap in your drill and slowly run the tap as straight as possible into the center of the plastic shaft.

Step 5: Making the Offset Cam Wheel

Picture of Making the Offset Cam Wheel

I made the offset cam wheel out of oak because I wanted a material that was fairly hard. It needs to be cut with the 1-1/8 inch hole saw without the pilot bit. This can done in a drill press or you have to holesaw a hole through a scrap piece of wood and then champ the scrap piece to the oak. Then place the holesaw without the pilot bit this time in the hole of the scrap to cut the oak clamped below it. The scrap wood holds the holesaw centered so that you are able to start the holesaw without a pilot bit.

The .25 inch center hole needs to be offset from center 3/32 of an inch. A drill press is helpful to get this drilled straight and with the correct offset.  The outside is rough when cut by a holesaw so it needs to be sanded to make is smooth.

I added  pictures for those who may want to take pictures faster by using a cam with two lobes. Also look at the PDF file on step 2 for more information.

Step 6: Assembly of Parts

Picture of Assembly of Parts

The following pictures show some of the assembly steps. Refer to the notes on the pictures.

Step 7: Making Adjustments

Picture of Making Adjustments

The threaded 10-32 finger rod needs to be setup loose first and the slowly adjusted so that the camera takes pictures. Do not damage your camera by forgetting this adjustment.

Step 8: Power Options

Picture of Power Options

The motor is rated at 12 VDC and only draws 10 milliamps at no load. A 9v battery will run this but may slow down as the battery loses voltage. But you can use 9v batteries in parallel (two 9v batteries) to increase life. See the pictures for different power options.

Step 9: Learn and Make Some Money

Most people use Apple's Quicktime Pro to make a series of pictures into a movie. It costs about 30 dollars but I hear it works well. I recently downloaded Google's Picasa 3 which also does timelapse movies and it is free. The timelapse video on the first page was created with Picasa 3.

To use Picasa select your timelapse pictures. Click on create at the top and select movie
in the drop down box and then from selection to use the pictures you first highlighted.
The transition style should be set to timelapse and you decide on the size and if you want an audio track to play with the timelapse video. Just under the transition style is slide duration which determines the number of frames per second. Preview your video at different settings to get the effect you want. Click create movie to save it when you are happy with the look of it.

Search the internet and places like You Tube and Vimeo for timelapse. There are experts that are willing to share information on how to set your camera up and take great pictures.

There are even some places like Shutterstock and Pond5 that pay you when you upload timelapse video and it is purchased by one of their customers.


Constructer (author)2011-01-05

Thank you all for your comments.

runcio (author)2011-01-04

A good project, but how you regulate the time between pictures?

CHDK - only for Cannon cameras!

Constructer (author)runcio2011-01-05

The speed of the motor determines the time between photos. I did some testing in response to your question. I checked the time in seconds based on the voltage applied to the motor.

Volts Seconds
15 11

12 14

9 19

6 29

3 70

1.57 196
So in the first case 15 vdc gave me 11 seconds between photos. If this is not fast enough you can add another cam lobe so that there are two camera activations per rotation. I have done this and it works fairly well. You have to be sure to accurately cut the cam so that the time between lobes is the same. The video of the lake and clouds was with a two lobe cam. Thank you.

markst66 (author)Constructer2011-08-24

Great! I love this project. Please recommend a motor, or battery and motor combination for one photo every fifteen minutes.

Constructer (author)markst662011-09-01

Sorry it took so long for an answer. One problem with digital cameras is they tend to auto power down to save the batteries. So 15 minutes would be more difficult to do with most cameras. Some digital cameras with time lapse mode built in actually power down and then power up again when it is time to take the picture. Some have limits of only 99 pictures which may or may not meet your needs.

One work around for cameras without time lapse built in is to determine how long your camera will stay powered up. For example if your camera will stay powered up for one minute take a picture every minute and then only use the saved pictures that are spaced 15 minutes apart. I know its a waste of memory but it is a low cost solution. The motor I used took a picture at about 196 seconds when it was powered with 1.57 volts dc. Look at one of my earlier replies. It is also possible to use a timer to activate the motor at set times.

If you need a list of cameras that have time lapse built in let me know. If anyone has an interest in the list or how a timer could be used let me know.

ppsailor (author)2011-03-01

Hi ! Constructer !!
Great Idea!
I have myself much funny in constructing it, using elements found in my home. This it is my project:

Thanks !

samando (author)2011-01-15

It's a great idea. I don't want to burst your bubble or anything but the Olympus SP-500UZ already has a time-lapse function programmed into it. Still a good idea for those cameras that don't though.

Constructer (author)samando2011-01-16

You are correct, but the shortest time between pictures is one minute and up to 99 pictures can be taken. Most timelapse photos I take are about 5 seconds between pictures and 300 to 600 total pictures. Thanks

olio (author)Constructer2011-02-08

I got SP-500UZ and if you connect it with PC over Cam2Com you can make more than 99 picture timelapse and it saves pictures directly to PC

munymuny200 (author)2011-01-29

its revolutions per minute but wat the heck great project good uses for it

OhMike (author)2011-01-21

Out of all the Instructables in the Epilog Challenge finals… This is the best one… WHY???

Because it is well designed; it is not complicated; it is functional; it is not expensive and it would be fun to use.

I think there are way too many people that over think their projects or show off talents of projects that the average person obviously has no chance to build; but worst, people that over criticize without actually considering what “a” constructer is presenting.

Great user name by the way and GREAT project too.

big-jamie (author)2011-01-10

i need a time lapse camera for a project in school, so i asked my photography teacher and she says her cameras dont have a time lapse setting and i'd have to have someone pushing the button for me. i dont think someone would want to stay over night in my school just to take pictures for me...

so i thank you Constructer, im going to speak nicely to my technical teacher and see if i can make this !

andrew.spencer.2 (author)2011-01-08

really clever idea, I used a little worm drive and a single AA, it takes a shot about every 20 seconds. Thanks!


I love that you used parts you had on hand and made it work. Thank you for sharing your pictures with us. Hopefully others will do the same.


Peter Sanders (author)2011-01-08


An excellent insrtuctable. Simple, effective and does the job well, One of the best instructables I have read. :)



Vivavetal (author)2011-01-08

It is very simple and effective tool. Good job! Thank You!

Ryutso (author)2011-01-06

Could we use a higher RPM motor and just stick a potentiometer switch in there to limit power throughput?

Constructer (author)Ryutso2011-01-07

That will work to a certain extent and I have used that method. But you will find that the speed control at slow speed will not work so well. As you turn the potentiometer down to slow the motor it will just stop. Then as you turn it up to start the motor again, it will run faster then you wanted it to. The problem is using resistance to change the voltage to the motor. After you add so much resistance your current level drops to the point that the motor does not have enough power.

It best to have an adjustable power supply. You can find 120v household or 12v auto power supplies that have a switch for changing the output voltage for example 1.5,3,4.5,6,9,12 volts. See the picture of the 12v auto power adapter. When you have the voltage close to the speed you need, then a potentiometer could be added for fine tuning.

If you try to run a motor at much lower speed then it was rated for you may have trouble getting it to run or run consistently. If you already have a motor that might work test to see if you can get the rpm level you need. Generally the motor will require some gear reduction to get the speed you need.
Thank you.

sockless (author)2011-01-06

Won't the video look funny if we use a point and shoot because of the auto adjustment?

Constructer (author)sockless2011-01-07

Yes your ability to take great timelapse pictures is limited by your camera. Most pros use manual settings to keep everything in control. In auto mode you may loose focus of your subject or the lighting will change the look you want.

If your camera has mostly auto settings you are going to have to experiment to find out what works. My camera has a landscape mode which is how the video above was taken. So you might try that if your camera has that mode. In landscape mode I have lost focus due to fog on a lake I was shooting. But even if I was in manual the fog may have been out of focus due to being closer to the camera then expected.

My intent for this instructable was to be able to use the camera you have which requires all of us to experiment and share what we learn to help others. I am learning all the time and would suggest searching "timelapse camera settings" on the internet. We just have to adapt our setup according to the equipment we have. It will not be perfect but it will work for making an instructable or for a school science project.

I am looking forward to seeing what others do with this idea and what some of you photo experts recommend regarding camera settings on point and shoot cameras.

Thank you, that is very good question.

leendertbob (author)2011-01-06

Wouldn't it be easier to first fit the camera attachment and then fit the camera push button finger.

Constructer (author)leendertbob2011-01-07

Yes, you are correct. I used CAD software to draw things out to get everything placed where I wanted it. But others making this would most likely build the base and motor mount and then change the arm to fit their camera. Thanks for your comments.

hairybaroque (author)2011-01-06

There have been some beautifully presented 'ibles on the site recently; this one is the best one I've encountered!

Thorough instructions which show the thing has actually been made and tested; ready to print templates for all the difficult parts (not that there are any) and alternative suggestions for those of us not too well endowed with toolset -


Bilal Bin Siraj (author)2011-01-06

Well i must say thats a nice instructable showing how to time-lapse with out messing with the camera.

this instructable has just found its place in on the top of my to-do list.


dacker (author)2011-01-06

You have a very nice design following the KISS philosophy and avoids specialty and hard-to-find components and materials.  Kudos

Just a thought, but you might consider adding a small bubble level to help adjust the camera and fixture to be level with the horizon, which can be difficult to do precisely.  It could save a lot of cropping later on.

I've seen small 1" 1-axis levels packed with wall mounts for HDTV. Here is a 3-axis model at Amazon for $4 which mounts on the hotshoe but could be mounted on the fixture itself:

Phil B (author)2011-01-02

This is a neat project. I have thought about something like this for some Instructables photos where I need both hands to be involved with the items in the photo, but want to squeeze off just one exposure. I once did an Instructable on adapting an old bicycle helmet to hold a camera while photographing an Instructable. That works, but this could be operated by a foot pedal. The cam could also open some contacts that would break the circuit and stop the motor for just one exposure. Thanks for your Instructable.

Constructer (author)Phil B2011-01-05

Thank you for your kind comments. I tried a limit switch as you mentioned and I can see where that would work well for taking one photo or several photos by holding the foot switch down. You could catch several angles or different steps of motion. Great idea.

tato312 (author)2011-01-05

very very nice idea! I love the simplicity of the mechanism. nice work!

tinstructable (author)2011-01-05

I would try this, but my camera is broken and would cost as much to fix it as to buy a new one, so now i'll save up to my upgrade DSLR : )!

Ranie-K (author)2011-01-03

Nice! I used CHDK and put my camera in a box:

PeckLauros (author)2011-01-02

Verry good project.

Fizzxwizz (author)2011-01-02


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