Heading Image reads Long-Term Timelapse Calculating Data Usage

How to Calculate Expected Data Usage for Long-Term Construction Timelapse


A common error for photographers to make when doing long-term construction timelapse is failing to calculate how much cellular data is needed to upload photos each month.

Fast forward to your first data bill, and your charges are a digit or two longer than you expected.

It’s a situation no photographer wants to find themselves in, and it can be devastating to watch it cut into your bottom line.

But you can save yourself the grief by taking time to properly calculate your monthly data usage, and adjusting either your shooting regime or your data plan accordingly. 

The equation itself is simple:

photo file size   x   photos uploaded in a month   +   10% buffer
=   monthly data requirement

To make it even easier, we’ve done the hard work for you with the calculator below.

Just put in your numbers to determine your estimated monthly data usage, and read on below for a more detailed breakdown.

Man's hand writing on notepad next to laptop computer keyboard

Photo File Sizes

The size of JPEG files varies depending on the camera, the image settings, and the complexity of  scene being photographed.

To determine your JPEG file size, simply take some photos with your desired settings and check the size of the file.

If you can’t photograph the actual job site you’ll be shooting, we recommend taking photos of a range of scenes and taking the largest file size as your guide.

A good time to check file size is while testing your long-term timelapse equipment pre-installation. During this testing phase, note the size of the JPEGs your unit is uploading; you can easily work out your average file size from there.

A word on shooting RAW photos: We recommend you not upload these, as they tend to boast an enormous file size that will cause your data costs to quickly sky-rocket.

RAW files also can’t be viewed on the online web gallery, so there’s not a lot of benefit to uploading them. It’s a better idea to RAW files to the on-board SSD for periodic manual collection.

Closeup of hand changing settings on DSLR camera

Photo Uploads and Client Expectations

The frequency of shooting and photo uploads is something to discuss with your client.

Is your client satisfied with less frequent uploads, every thirty minutes or hour?

Or are they expecting constant uploads of their site, a snapshot of it in ten or even five-minute intervals?

Your client’s requirement is going to affect your data costs, so make sure you reflect that in your fees.

Consider charging a higher monthly fee for shorter upload intervals. This will push data costs back on to them and not on your bottom line.

One more thing worth discussing with your client is whether the installation site has access to LAN. If so, you may be able to connect to it and not have to worry about your data costs at all.

Shoot Only On Work Days

Make sure to discuss with your client which days of the week activity on their construction site will be taking place.

It’s not uncommon in some countries for work to be done six or even seven days a week.

In the photoSentinel Setup Portal  you can select which days to shoot, so uncheck the non-work days to ensure your not wasting data by uploading photos when nothing is happening on site. 

Construction Workers

Build In Some Buffer

You may be tempted, once you’ve calculated your data usage, to be frugal and select a plan which just meets the requirements.

For example, if you calculate that your data use per month is going to be about 4.53gb, you may begin eyeballing a 5gb plan.

Avoid that temptation; unforeseen variables can spike your data usage.

A client might suddenly come to you wanting to ramp up the photo frequency.

Or maybe a period of busy activity on the construction site demands shorter intervals for you to capture all the action .

Bad reception or service interruptions might also result in your unit making multiple upload attempts.

We recommend you give yourself a 10-20% buffer on your data plan so that you don’t have to stress about going over. (The calculator above automatically adds a 10% buffer.)

Selective Uploading

With the photoSentinel Mach II you can choose to upload only some photos, by setting the upload frequency to be less that the shooting frequency.

The large SSD storage of the Mach II Premium package also gives you a lot of flexibility in how you manage your files and therefore data costs.

You can upload at less frequent intervals, saving some or many photos straight to local storage for collection at a later date.

You can also remotely adjust your unit to increase or decrease upload frequency at any time, based on how your data usage is going.

photoSentinel 500GB SSD

Confidence in Your Data Budget

It’s worth setting aside the time to properly calculate your data usage. Double check you haven’t failed to ‘carry the one’ somewhere.

It’s a simple process, but time and again we’ve seen photographers caught off guard by a hefty cellular data bill.

Taking a few minutes to calculate your data requirements and your budget accordingly, will give you peace of mind and keep your bottom line safe.

Learn More

To learn how to avoid other common long-term timelapse mistakes, check out: