How to Time-Lapse a Video on iPhone

From sunsets to ocean waves, this article is a user-friendly guide to working with time-lapse on iPhone

The iPhone makes it easy to create time-lapse videos right in the Camera app — no video editing required! It’s as simple as pointing and tapping, like any other photo or video function on the iPhone. However, it’s important to plan ahead so you get your time-lapse recording right the first time around, because it may not be possible to recreate the event. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to operate the iPhone’s time-lapse feature and make sure the results are awesome on the first try.

Related: Why is My iPhone Camera Shaking & How to Fix It

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What Is Time-Lapse on iPhone

A time-lapse video is a compressed video of an event that happens gradually. It’s a collection of still images taken every few seconds that gives the impression of a 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 speed. Time-lapse videos are popular, especially on social media, because they are brief and can often be humorous. For more great tips and tricks about how to use your Apple devices, be sure to sign up for our Tip of the Day newsletter!

How to Use Time-Lapse Video Mode on the iPhone

  1. Open the Camera app.

    open camera app to take a time-lapse
  2. Swipe through the shooting mode options until you land on time-lapse.

    swipe right to find time-lapse feature in camera app
  3. Tap the part of the screen you want to record. This will automatically focus the iPhone camera on your subject.

    tap on screen where you want camera to focus
  4. Optionally, after tapping, swipe up or down to adjust the exposure on the iPhone camera and make the video darker or brighter.

    swipe up or down to adjust exposure
  5. Tap the red Shutter button to start and stop the time-lapse video. 

    tap center red button at the bottom to start and stop recording

*Important Note: time-lapse is very sensitive. Be sure to hold the iPhone in place and very still for at least 30 seconds (ideally 30 minutes or more) to capture an event. Once you are done recording, the video will appear in your photos app. 

Try Time-Lapse in Night Mode!

As of the iPhone 12 line, you can now take time-lapse videos in Night mode! All you have to do is start shooting time-lapse in low-light conditions, and Night mode will automatically activate. You can now track the moon and stars throughout the course of the night, capture the movements of a bustling night in the city, or watch your campfire change from flames to embers. There are so many new options here, so if you have an iPhone 12, be sure to try this out. Pro tip! Use a tripod for a clearer, steadier shot.

4 Tips for Best Results When Using Time-Lapse

  1. Go for contrast. The best time-lapse recordings capture the contrast between moving objects and fixed ones, like a seedling growing in a 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 for your time-lapse video.
  3. Plug in your iPhone. While time-lapse videos are designed to use less memory than a regular video, 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. Explore your options. 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 set automatically. For greater flexibility and functionality, including the ability to add music, try options like Lapse It (free) or Frameographer ($4.99).

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

Need inspiration? Check out a time-lapse video created by our Senior Video Producer Rheanne Taylor at bit.ly/3ftjI1U.

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Author Details

Rheanne Taylor's picture

Author Details

Rheanne Taylor

Rheanne Taylor is the Video Production Manager of iPhone Life. Before discovering her love for video production, Rheanne was the Managing Editor. In her 6+ years at the company, Rheanne has helped produce 19 issues of iPhone Life magazine, edited countless podcasts, and produced over 1,000 educational videos showing people how to get the most out of their Apple devices. She continues to be a regular contributor to iPhone Life magazine, using her 10+ years of photography experience to create content primarily covering photography tips and photography gear. Rheanne is a passionate photographer both in and outside of work and loves to remind people that they don't need a fancy camera in order to capture beautiful shots—her most recent photography show featured work mainly shot on an iPhone!

Rheanne holds a bachelor's degree in Literature & Writing from Maharishi International University. When she isn't overseeing video content, she loves drinking tea, holding up traffic by taking entirely too many photos of bugs, and hanging out with her Instagram famous cat Wesley (IG: wesley_the_pirate_cat).