By Emeric Le Bars – December 29th 2021

Today, I want to share with you a few secrets about flicker, why you get brightness or contrast flicker on a time lapse video and how you can take care of it straight from your camera or using a few different softwares and plugins.

Flicker can occur at different steps in your workflow. It can be on your raw image sequence when you come home from your session, or it can show up after using softwares like Adobe Lightroom. But those are 2 different types of flicker. No need to worry as there is a way to get rid of it completely!

You don’t want to reduce the flicker on your time lapses, the goal here is to fully remove it at 100%. It does not look good and you can not share or sell your time lapse footage if there is any visible flicker, it’s not visually pleasing. Quality over quantity!

Shooting a Sunrise Timelapse in Chicago

1. Brightness Flicker

Caused by: fast shutter speed/aperture, exposure ramping, color correction

How to get rid of it:

1) Fast Shutter Speed: First of all, set your camera to Manual Mode and shoot with a slow shutter speed by using a ND filter during the day. Brightness flicker usually comes from your lens aperture that does not open the exact same way when shooting with a fast shutter speed, even if you keep the same value. Using a slower shutter speed will reduce or remove the risk of having flickering on your raw sequences and also create a nice motion blur look on the final footage.

You can also use another technique where you slightly disconnect your lens from your camera body (after selecting the right aperture). This technique will keep the aperture open all the time and help with the flicker. But obviously you cannot change your aperture at all during the time lapse, which means this is not a technique you want to use for a day-to-night. In my opinion, choosing a slow shutter speed will be the best option instead of disconnecting your lens, which I find a little cheesy.

The exposure ramping (blue) and the Holy Grail Wizard (orange) in LRTimelapse

2) Exposure ramping: When you do a bulb ramping (slowly changing the shutter speed, aperture and ISO) during a day-to-night or night-to-day time lapse, you will end up with brightness flicker you voluntarily created in order to keep the proper exposure as the light changes. To fully remove it, use the Holy Grail Wizard and Visual Deflicker of a program called LRTimelapse.

3) Lightroom: Doing some heavy color corrections with the program can introduce brightness flicker, usually created by the ramping between the different keyframes. You can easily get rid of it by using the Visual Deflicker of LRTimelapse or other plugins such as Flicker Free or Neat Video for After Effects and other editing softwares.

2. Contrast Flicker

Caused by: Lightroom contrast settings such as Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Contrast, Clarity and Dehaze. The software usually applies those settings in a non-linear way because it reads every single image separately from the next one.

Even though this is not an issue for still photography, it’s definitely not ideal for time lapse sequences made of hundreds of raw images where things are constantly moving and changing. The goal is to keep the exact same look on every frame with a smooth transition if needed.

Usually, cars, boats, people, clouds or a very bright source of light are the reasons why you end up with contrast flicker on your time lapses, as those are big elements moving quite fast.

How to get rid of it:

Contrast flicker is very annoying and very hard to remove. Though LRTimelapse will not get rid of it with the Visual Deflicker. The first step is to obviously shoot in Manual Mode and use a slow shutter speed as much as possible in order to blur motions, which will make big elements blurry or invisible on your image sequence.

Do not use the contrast settings too much on Lightroom. Use low values (maximum 10 or 15) and utilize the Tone Curve tool instead of Whites and Blacks to create contrast. The Tone Curve has a more linear way of applying contrast settings, which result in less contrast flicker.

I recommend watching the following video to learn how to detect what settings create contrast flicker on your timelapses using LRTimelapse!

If you still have contrast flicker after all of that, you can use a powerful plugin called Flicker Free by Digital Anarchy. It’s doing an amazing job cleaning up any type of flickering on your time lapse videos. This is a paid plugin (one time fee), but definitely the best investment I have made in my career after LRTimelapse. I highly recommend it if you are serious about your art work.

The 3rd type of flickering is what I call Natural Flicker caused by a natural light source in your time lapse that is constantly changing. This could be neon lights, a ferris wheel or a giant screen for example.

Watch the following video to learn more about flickering in timelapse photography.

What to remember

Ending up with a flicker-free time lapse video is not actually that hard. You just need to smooth out anything you can, from your camera settings to the color correction between the keyframes on Lightroom.

Slow down your shutter speed as much as you can with a ND filter during the day. If you don’t have a ND filter, close your aperture a little more. If you have LRTimelapse software, ending up with brightness flicker is near impossible as its Holy Grail Wizard and Visual Deflicker tools are very powerful.

Doing heavy corrections on your images can create heavy contrast flicker and it’s never a good thing. Purchase some of the Adobe After Effects plugins mentioned in this article if you don’t want to worry about it. You will definitely not regret your purchase!

Go easy with the exposure ramping between any keyframes, especially during a day-to-night timelapse, and you will see that creating flicker free timelapse videos is very easy.

If you want to learn more about timelapse flicker and how to properly clean your time lapse videos, check my Advanced Cleaning for Timelapse Photography class.

Related articles:

Emeric Le Bars
Emeric Le Bars
Timelapse Photographer

Emeric Le Bars is a French, now Los Angeles based, motion timelapse and hyperlapse photographer working in the industry since 2011.