Tutorial Shows You How to Quickly Create Beautiful Time Stack Composites

In November of 2012, we posted an article featuring impressionist-inspired photographs by photographer Matt Molloy that were created using a method called time stacking. The resulting images are quite beautiful, and in the tutorial above Molloy will run you through how to create them for yourself.

We actually shared a brief explanation of Molloy’s methods in the original article, but that explanation wasn’t nearly as detailed as this tutorial, and besides, it’s always easier to understand when you have some visuals to work with.

So watch as Molloy runs through the most time- and resource-efficient method he’s come across for creating these eye-catching time stack composite photographs.


Before: a single image from the collection


After: all of the images from the collection overlaid to create the finished “time stack”

It’s a short watch — coming in at only two and a half minutes — and as you can see from the before and after images above, the results are impressive.

Molloy goes into further detail in the full blog post over on the 500px Blog, so if you’re wanting more info on how he captures these photos and creates the final composites using them, we suggest you give that a read.

(via 500px Blog)

  • Adam Correia

    I personally find the sky far too distracting.

  • guest

    Agreed. Longer individual exposures would really help.
    Also, in Photoshop, there is the “Layer Mean” function that does the same thing but actually blends the layers together. Note that it can take a while…

  • Adam Cross

    I don’t know, I think it looks horrible, looks like when a video feed lags and glitches across the screen. each to their own, I guess.

  • Kyle

    I also feel the same. I’d rather just wait for a better cloud formation to shoot this with. Doing this just makes it look over-processed.

  • solid snake

    if you aren’t already using basic actions like these to perform extremely repetitive tasks… well lets just say look into actions a little more.

  • Guest

    The sky looks somewhat like this:

  • Frank McKenna

    Its a great tutorial. I like how he gets right to the point and gives various ways to do it. I’ve seen far easier photoshop trick tutorials that go on for 10 minutes or more and never get to the point. I’ll keep this and try it since its something cool to try.

  • Bujia

    The best way to ruin a beautiful photography

  • Mik

    This tutorial show an interesting way to stack photos, but I find the final result hideous.

    The good part is that it inspired me to use this technique in another contest.
    Actually, I think this may work really really well summing multiple exposures for a light painting composite.

  • Cynical Bloke

    Let’s hope this doesn’t become popular like HDR.

  • @JacksonCheese

    There should be a way to block certain users on this blog.

  • Cynical Bloke

    I’m not a ‘user’. If you like that effect you should go ahead and do it, I will then be happy all your work (just like HDR photographers) are ruined by this terrible effect. The only shame is it can be undone in about 10 years time when everyone looks back and realses how s*** it looks.

  • Donald

    Matt Molloy’s work is beautiful. It’s always surprising that with some simple techniques something new can be created.

    There are many different methods to composite images in Photoshop and similar editors. Anyone attempting such work should do so only with suitable computing resource as compositing high multiples techniques can become very demanding.

    Also, defaulting to Adobe Photoshop actions is usually a self limiting method, average techniques quickly exhaust resulting in average images, experimentation is required. There are myriad compositing techniques: logarithmic, declining percentage, opacity screening, etc. Notice Matt’s “background” layer start, he’s experienced at high multiples compositing techniques, some things are not obvious. Blending modes tends to work better with effect layers, for high multiples compositing, as opposed to image layers, except for Matt’s and similar HDR style of essentially one image with exposure differential.

    I’ve spammed here before, sort of, on Bill’s articles, but high multiple image compositing is all I do.

  • Scott

    Actually he can easily undo this effect but simply selecting on of the original frames he used to build the image…