Trade Names: Time-lapse photography business focuses on niche marketing

When Stephen Lecky wanted to find someone to film workers setting up the TEDxRVA event in March, he contacted time-lapse photographer Jonathon Hamer.


“A lot of people don’t realize what it takes to put an event on and make it happen,” said Lecky, festival manager for Venture Richmond, a downtown advocacy group. “On film, you get a cool perspective.”

Hamer used a fleet of digital cameras to take thousands of still pictures of workers over time building a stage, setting up bleachers and getting the all-day TEDxRVA conference ready. He edited the photos to create a time-lapse video.

“He has a good eye on what folks want to see and what is interesting to capture. He’s always easy to work with,” Lecky said. “It’s nice to have a vendor come in and know what the client is looking for.”

Hamer started RichmondTimeLapse.com in 2006 as a division of his Web-design firm, HamerDesign.com, which he founded in 1996.

He came up with the idea of using time-lapse photography after taking a job as a home-improvement salesman to supplement his income. He wanted to capture the building sequence on film and use it as a marketing tool. It took him a year to fine-tune the process.

“I was testing out different equipment, different cameras and webcams,” he said. “I was dealing with equipment housing and power issues, working out the kinks. I would work on a project at home and do time lapse so I could see how to put it all together.”

He created the tagline “Watch it happen” for his business.

“People look at the video to get a sense of how a project is done and what it looks like halfway through,” he said. “People like seeing the whole process from start to finish.”

Hamer’s work varies in content, from special events to home-improvement projects.

For instance, he has used time-lapse photography of construction of dorms at Virginia State University and Randolph-Macon College. His work can take from one day to a year to complete, depending on the scope of the project.

Most of his customers are in the Richmond area, but he has done work for companies as far away as Switzerland. He did a time-lapse video showing the retrofit of a gas turbine in Virginia for the international power company Alstom.

“A lot of people from out of town find us through our website,” he said. “Our name is getting out there.”

He worked on a project in San Francisco last year, showing sculptor Patrick Dougherty working on a sculpture for The Bay Area Discovery Museum. Hamer shipped his camera setup to San Francisco and worked on the project from his office in Henrico County.

“I am starting to ship equipment out of town for time-lapse shoots,” he said.

Last year, Hamer created a time-lapse video to show the construction of the Kroger Marketplace store on the site of the former Cloverleaf Mall off Midlothian Turnpike.

“That is the biggest job site in terms of square feet I have ever done,” he said.

His projects doubled in number from 2010 to 2011 and again from 2011 to 2012.

Customers of Roger McClure, owner of RBM Remodeling Solutions in Amelia County, enjoy seeing the building process in time lapse.

“I can’t tell you how many times people ask if I can build it that fast,” he said. “They get to see the process in an abbreviated timeline. They get to see it happening. That has done wonders for my business.”

He has a good working relationship with Hamer.

“He has been a dream to work with,” he said.

Mike McLeod, owner of ConcreteVa.com in Richmond, has worked with Hamer on a variety of videos.

“He is a professional,” he said. “He’s very trustworthy and honest.”

The videos have brought in new business.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said, noting that he gets most of his work from people who have seen the videos on his website. “People love them. They like to see how everything is done, and time lapse does that for you.”