Holy grail is one of the basic techniques every timelapser should know. It lets you create smooth day to night (or night to day) transitions, so it’s perfect for shooting sunrises and sunsets.

This week I visited Wrocław again. I had some plans for a few shots, however the weather made me change those plans. I ended up with this static, short day to night shot of the city hall. It was quite a pleasure to shoot, because together with my wife we found a beer garden next to the city hall, so I could sit next to the tripod and relax during the shot 😉

So, check out the shot below and then read my mini tutorial on holy grail technique.

This is a shot from my 52 Timelapse Project. You can check out the details of the project or full list of the shots.

Holy Grail technique – basics

I call it a mini tutorial, because there are more techniques for day to night timelapses, here I will cover the one I use mostly. Basically, holy grail is a technique, in which you manually change the camera settings during the shot, then compansate the exposure jumps in post production. So, you’re watching the camera lightmeter, histogram or just a photo you have already taken and if it’s getting too dark (in case of day to night shot), you compensate this change with shutter speed, aperture or ISO.

Other techniques are mentioned at the bottom of the article

Personally, when I use my mirrorless GH4 I like to use zebra stripes for checking exposure. With a DSLR camera I use just a built in lightmeter.

I’m trying to do the exposure jumps smaller than 1EV (1/3 or 2/3 EV). I’ve got more jumps to compensate in post, however the difference is not that big, which is good for the result 🙂 In the city hall shot above I was trying to stay with the shutter speed around 1″, so I was changing mostly the aperture and a few times ISO. I wanted to keep the nice amount of motion blur – shorter shutter speed would make people blink in the frame, and longer would make them less visible 😉

You can automate this process using the DSLR Dashboard app for IOS and Android, however it works ‘just’ with Nikon, Canon or Sony cameras. It costs around 10$ and it’s a really nice app 😉 For details you can check their website: https://dslrdashboard.info

Day to Night Post Production

Basically there is one proper software that most of the timelapsers use: LRTimelapse. It’s a great piece of software from German timelapser Gunther Wenger, which allows you to create super smooth day to night transition, add keyframes and ramp the Lightroom settings within your shot and remove aperture flicker. There is a free version with a limitation of non-commercial usage and up to 400 pictures per shot, so definitely check it out! 😉

The workflow can be tricky, but there is a couple of nice tutorials from Gunther, you can find it here: https://lrtimelapse.com/tutorial/. There are generally a few steps for this:

  1. Import and initialize files into LRTimelapse,
  2. Add keyframes (pretty much like in After Effects – you set the value  and it ramps smoothly between keyframes),
  3. Save the metadata (here’s how the software communicates with Lightroom – LRTimelapse saves the settings into .xmp files, which you read inside LR)
  4. Import pictures to Lightroom
  5. Read the metadata for all the pictures
  6. Edit keyframed pictures and save the metadata (it can be just for the pictures with keyframes – keyframes are shown in Lightroom as stars)
  7. Reload sequence in LRTimelapse
  8. Calculate the transition for the keyframes (also here you deflicker the shot)
  9. Save the metadata in LRTimelapse
  10. Read the metadata in Lightroom for all the pictures
  11. Finally export the files

Well, to be honest it’s longer than I thought. However, maybe it sounds complicated, but once you learn how to do it and what is the metadata, you won’t have any problem with jumping back and forth bewteen LRTimelapse and Lightroom.

On the LRTimelapse website there are specific tutorials for every workflow, so check it out if you want to start working inside that software.

Other ways for sunrise/sunset timelapses

Some people use semi-automatic modes, like aperture priority for that. I’ve heard that Sony cameras are so good in that, that the shot is usable straight out of the camera. I haven’t used Sony for timelapse, so maybe you know something about that? Let me know in the comments 😉

There are also a few hardware solutions, like Timelapse+ VIEW or Ramper PRO. I haven’t use any of this so I won’t tell anything about that, however still even pro license for LRTimelapse is cheaper than those solutions 🙂 I would love to test those someday, but for now I’ve got more important things to spend my cash on 😉

Do you have your holy grail shots? Share them on my Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/timelapse.hyperlapse/

See you next week! 🙂




  1. Tomasz,

    I use a technique that requires me to change the intervals only while in manual mode. works with minimal flicker:

    Here’s a straight Av mode day to night:


    and another one:

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  4. Hi Tomasz, great tutorial.. But for me as a novice there is one crucial info missing, how do you shot day to night timelapse with or without ND Filter and if you use one, do you remove it if the scene gets darker or you leave it on for the entire shoot?
    Thank you for you answer in advance

    Kind regards from Switzerland

    • Tomasz

      Usually I shoot without ND. It depends on what do you have in your frame. Sometimes I shoot with ND8 and keep it all the time o I the lens, and UT in bright environment, such as city Centre. Removing ND is also an option, but you have to be careful with it. It can cause some color shift change or you can just move the camera.