How to Take Awesome Time Lapse Videos on the iPhone

The iPhone makes it easy to automatically create time-lapse videos right in the Camera app without you having to do any video editing afterward. It’s as easy as pointing and clicking, like any other photo or video on the iPhone. However, you’ll want to get your time-lapse recording right the first time because it may not be possible to recreate the event, so it’s important to plan ahead. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to operate the Time Lapse feature of the iPhone and give you tips for making sure they’re awesome on the first try. 

Related: The iPhone Camera App: The Ultimate Guide to Taking Photos & Videos

A time-lapse video is a compressed video of an event that happens gradually, basically a collection of still images taken every few seconds that give the impression of sped-up video. Time lapse is great for capturing scenes like a sunset, ocean tides, a plant leaf unfurling, or city traffic at rush hour — things that would take too long to watch at regular video speed. Time-lapse videos are popular, especially on social media, because they are brief and often humorous.

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How to Use Time Lapse Video Mode on the iPhone

  1. Open the Camera app.

  2. Swipe through the shooting mode until you land on Time Lapse.

  3. Tap the part of the screen you want to record. This will automatically focus the iPhone camera on your subject.
  4. Optionally, after tapping, swipe up or down on the image to adjust the exposure on the iPhone camera and make the video darker or brighter.
  5. Tap the red Start button.

  6. Hold the iPhone in place at least 30 seconds (ideally 30 minutes or more) to capture an event.
  7. Then tap the same red button to Stop. The result will be saved in the Photos app.

4 Tips for Taking an Awesome Time-Lapse Video on the iPhone

  1. Select a subject with strong contrast between moving and static objects. The best time-lapse recordings capture the contrast between moving and static objects, for example a seedling growing in a still pot or shoppers moving about a perfectly still store.
  2. Keep the iPhone Stationary. When you're recording, keep the iPhone stationary for the best results. Better yet, instead of holding the iPhone or resting it on a surface, invest in an iPhone tripod. A small, inexpensive tripod will work wonders. 
  3. Plug in your iPhone. While time-lapse videos are designed to use less memory than a regular video, note that they do use substantial battery power. If you want to record a 30-hour time period (the maximum amount of time allowed), you’ll want to plug your iPhone into a power source.
  4. For more advanced time-lapse options, consider a third-party app. On the iPhone, you don’t have control over how often the video grabs new images — twice per second, every two seconds, etc. That is all done behind the scenes. For greater flexibility and functionality, such as adding music, there are many time-lapse apps available on the App Store. Hyperlapse and Frameographer are two good choices.

Time-lapse recording is a creative way of shortening an event that takes place gradually over a period of time without truncation or huge gaps in footage. Thanks to the built-in Time Lapse mode in iPhone’s camera, all the work is done behind-the-scenes, so you end up with a beautiful, quick, sharable video.

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Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both's picture

Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both

Amy Spitzfaden Both is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life, an award-winning novelist, and an iPhone enthusiast. Over the past decade, her work in the publishing industry has included live coverage of industry events including the Yale Publishing Course and Magazine Innovation’s ACT 9 Experience, providing editing services for several start-up publishing houses, and acting as newsstand consultant for magazines such as The Old Farmer’s Almanac and The New York Review of Books. She graduated from M.I.U. with a Bachelor’s in Literature and Writing, and has gone on to publish two novels and two short stories. Her debut novel Untold won the 2014 Chelson Award for Fiction.
Writing everything from book reviews to skincare tips, Amy discovered a passion for bringing exciting and useful information to even the most casual researcher. The mix of usability and endless possibilities is what drew her to Apple products originally, and the more she learns, the more she loves.
Amy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. When she’s not writing or glued to her iPhone, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and creating her own tea blends.