Michron Bulb Ramping Tutorial



Basic Principles

Bulb Ramping ("Bramping") is a method by which the exposure length of your images is changed as your timelapse progresses. This is useful in situations with gradually changing light levels, like a sunset or sunrise. 

In general, the rate of change of light during a sunset or sunrise is exponential, not linear. The exact rate of change depends on your latitude and time of year, but for most regions, the light during a sunrise will fall somewhere between doubling and quadrupling every 10 minutes, for the duration of the sunrise. 

Please note that Bulb Ramping is a fairly advanced method and that a good amount of trial and error is necessary for the best results. We recommend attempting a few tests in your backyard to figure out the best settings for your camera and location before trying for the best possible shot. We recommend that you read this tutorial in its entirety as it contains some important information regarding the limitations of Bulb Ramping as well. 

Gear Needed For This Tutorial

  1. Michron 
  2. Device for Programming Michron
  3. Camera Cable
  4. Camera Capable of Operation in Bulb Mode

Setting the Michron App Settings

You can access the Bulb Ramping Settings Page via the "Advanced" button on Page 2 of the Michron App.


Duration :

This will depend on the duration of the sunset in your region (it varies by latitude and season). In the continental United States, 45 minutes is a good reference point, but even then you will need to vary it based on the time of year. 

Initial Exposure:

This setting will depend on your camera, but you will want this to be as small as possible, to minimize the length of your maximum exposure. Keeping the exposure duration as short as possible will also reduce sensor noise, which increases over time. If you are reducing your exposure over time, you will need to ensure that your final exposure is not too short for your camera. 

Exposure Change :

This will also depend on your latitude and season, but in the continental US, 1.9 f-stops/10 minutes is a good starting place. The App will give you feedback on what results to expect based on your input settings; in general you want to get your minimum exposure time as close to the speed limit of your camera as possible.

How Michron Controls Your Camera During a Bramp

Michron sends an electrical signal through the trigger port of your camera. This signal is based on standard protocols that were established long ago, and the signal is essentially the equivalent of holding your finger on the shutter button of your camera. This means that Michron cannot alter your ISO, aperture, or any other camera settings beyond the length of time that the shutter is open. 

When you put your camera into Bulb Mode, the length of time that the shutter is held open by the camera is equal to the length of time that your camera receives the signal from Michron (or from your finger being on the shutter button). If the signal coming form Michron lasts for 1 second, then your camera's shutter will stay open for 1 second. 


All cameras have some delay between the time that Michron sends the pulse, and the time that the action (shutter open or shutter closed) takes effect. This delay is camera-dependant, and is not consistent even within the same camera. This delay is generally fairly small (usually about 1/30 of a second) but if you are shooting with a short exposure time, you may notice "flicker" whereby some frames in your time-lapse are much darker or brighter than adjacent frames. This is why we recommend using 1/10 of a second as your minimum exposure time when Bramping, though some cameras you may need to use an even longer minimum exposure time. 

Calibrating your Camera

To figure out the minimum exposure time of your camera, the simplest way is to perform a few tests using the Hold Functionality in the "Advanced" menu. As you do this, please keep in mind that many cameras do not accurately indicate the exposure time when in bulb mode. Because of this, do not worry about what your camera's display says the exposure length was, just check for consistency between photos, and a change in exposure between different hold settings. In addition, please note that there is an error in Michron where the first image will not always be the correct hold length, so it is important that you disregard the first image taken when performing this test. 

Set up the tests as follows : 

  1. Set up your Michron and Camera as though for a bulb ramp, as described below. Make sure your are in an area where the light level will not be changing during these tests (indoor with artificial lighting is best)
  2. In the app, set the Hold time to 1/30 sec and a 4 second interval
  3. Upload the settings to Michron
  4. Let Michron command your camera to take 10 photos 
  5. Stop Michron, and preview your photos on your camera to check for variations in exposure between frames. If you see that there is a noticeable difference in some of your photos, you will want to go back to step 2, this time with a longer hold setting. Keep doing this until you find the shortest exposure length that results in little to no noticeable variation with your camera. 

Setting Up Your Camera

Set all of your camera's settings to Manual (this includes ISO, Aperture, WB, etc) and set up your camera so that the first frame will be properly exposed. You will need to set your exposure equal to the starting exposure you have set in the app, and then adjust your ISO and Aperture settings so that your images are properly exposed. Once this is complete, put your camera into Bulb Mode, and connect Michron to your camera to begin capturing your Bramp.  

Putting Your Camera Into Bulb Mode

For Michron to control your camera's exposure time, you will need to place your camera into Bulb Mode. The way that this is done varies based on your camera, and not all cameras have a Bulb Mode. Please reference your camera's manual, or do some searching online to find how to place your camera into Bulb Mode. 

Recommended Work-Flow For Starting A Bulb Ramp

Whew, that was a lot of information! While it's helpful, and sometimes necessary to understand the nitty-gritty of Bramping, here is a quick cheat sheet to get you up and running for your first sunset Bramp ( try this at home first! ) : 

  1. Frame your first shot, and set up your camera in manual mode, with the following settings
    1. Large aperture (ie a small F number)
    2. Exposure time (aka shutter speed) of 1/10 second
    3. Take a few photos and adjust your ISO until you get the correct exposure. In general it's best to start with a slightly brighter first image
  2. Switch your camera into Bulb Mode
  3. Set the Bramp settings to start with a 1/10 exposure, and set your duration and exposure rate according to your location. If you are just winging it, we recommend starting with 2 fstops/10 minutes rate of change, and 40 minutes duration.
  4. Program Michron, and connect it to your camera. 
  5. Ignore the first photo taken, but check the following photos to make sure that the exposure is correct. Most likely, things will be a little too dark since the error in most cameras results in shorter, not longer photos being taken.
    1. To compensate for this, just increase your ISO or Aperture (smaller F number) until the photos taken by Michron are properly exposed.
  6. Since you were carefully to show up early, turn Michron off and wait until the sun sets on the horizon, then turn it all back on and let Michron do it's magic!


Using a PC Sync Cable

You can use Michron with a PC Sync to 3.5mm cable in conjunction with the regular shutter release cable to achieve faster flicker-free shutter speeds. This is done because PC Sync cable tells the Michron when the camera has actually opened it's shutter (there is an inconsistent delay between the command sent by Michron and the actual shutter opening) ensuring that the exposure time set is actually the exposure time used for the image. In our testing we found that without a PC sync cable the resulting image has large amounts of "flicker" due to inconsistencies in exposure time between photos that should have otherwise identical exposure times. 


Have a question or need help? Contact us.