Did you know that since the release of iOS 8, your iPhone’s native camera app is now capable of making incredible time-lapse videos? It’s so simple to use – the only limit is your imagination! In this article you’ll discover how to use the time-lapse video mode on your iPhone so that you can unleash your creativity in a whole new way.
What Is Time-Lapse Photography?
Time-lapse photography is the process of capturing lots of photos over a period of time, and then assembling them together to create seamless video footage that appears sped up. It’s the opposite of slow motion videos where time appears to be moving more slowly.
If that sounds like a lot of work – that’s because it is! But luckily for us, our iPhones can do this for us quickly and effortlessly. All you have to do is tap the start button and begin filming.
Depending on your subject and your approach to time-lapse, this can result in video footage which is very compelling, often funny and always interesting.
What Makes A Good Time-Lapse Subject?
Time-lapse is like a microscope on time. Due to the way it speeds up your subject’s movement, it can reveal movement that we barely notice with the naked eye.
So anything that moves or changes slowly makes a good time-lapse subject. For example, clouds, snails, caterpillars, tides, flowers opening in the sun, candles burning down, cake or bread rising in the oven.
Anything that moves infrequently, such as sheep or cattle grazing in a field, can make a good subject. The gradual movement over a period of time can be much more interesting to watch when sped up than it would be to watch in real time.
Busy scenes also look great in time-lapse video. For example, people shopping, rush-hour traffic, children running around in the park or an army of ants going about their business.
How To Make A Time-Lapse Video
The time-lapse feature is extremely easy to use. Start by opening the native camera app and select the Time-Lapse shooting mode by swiping right until Time-Lapse is selected.
Just as you would when taking a photo, you can tap on the screen to set the focus and exposure point for the relevant part of the scene. Swiping up or down on the image enables you to increase or decrease the exposure/brightness.
When you’re ready to start shooting, simply press the red button in the app to start the recording process. You’ll notice a rotating indicator around the red button which shows that your iPhone is recording.
When you’re ready to stop recording, press the red button again. Shortly afterwards, the video will appear in the bottom corner of the app window. You can tap on it to play it straight away, or find it later in the Time-Lapse album in the Photos app.
A Little Planning Goes A Long Way
So, you’ve made your first time-lapse video. How did it look? It was probably quite short, very shaky and not very inspiring. Now is the time to think about how best to prepare for shooting your next time-lapse.
Remember, you need to record for a lot longer than you want your finished time-lapse video to be. If you only shoot for a few seconds, you’re not going to have much video footage to play back once it’s been sped up. You generally need to shoot for at least a few minutes.
To avoid shaky video footage, consider using an iPhone tripod, together with a tripod mount for iPhone. Or rest your phone on something steady while you record. There’s nothing worse than watching shaky video footage.
All of the usual composition rules of photography apply, such as using leading lines and the rule of thirds. So take some time to think about how you’re going to compose the scene to make the most of the subject.
Choosing your viewpoint carefully will add to the visual appeal of the video. In this footage of a train station, the lines of the bridge and train tracks do a great job of leading your eye from the front of the scene into the distance where the train appears from.
Remember, one of the rules of composition is that you can break the rules! But only if it’s intentional and makes sense in that particular situation.
Consider whether you want the focus and exposure to remain the same, even if the light or subjects in the scene change.
To lock focus and exposure at the start of the video, tap and hold on the screen to fix the focus/exposure point. You can adjust the exposure manually by swiping up or down to move the brightness slider.
When the focus and exposure is locked, you’ll see AE/AF Lock at the top of the screen. Locking focus and exposure before you start shooting will prevent the iPhone from trying to auto-focus and auto-expose for each frame.
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Some More Advanced Time-Lapse Techniques
Once you’ve mastered getting steady time-lapse video footage, good composition and appropriate focus/exposure settings, you may want to think about more advanced creative possibilities.
Try to come up with some more challenging or interesting scenes to video. How about capturing a sunrise or sunset? Including a static object such as a tree or building will make this type of video even more interesting and create a point of reference in the scene.
Maybe you could try creating a time-lapse of the moon and stars moving across the night sky. Or record your journey to work as a time-lapse, whether it be on foot, bicycle, car, bus or train.
Rather than mounting your iPhone on a tripod or hand-holding it, think about other innovative ways of supporting your iPhone while capturing time-lapse footage.
A great technique I discovered is to mount your iPhone on a rotating cookery timer. As it rotates around slowly it creates amazing smooth panning footage.
If you’re planning on sharing your time-lapse videos, you might want to add music to make them more interesting for the viewer. You can use an app such as InstaVideo on your iPhone to do this.
Alternative Time-Lapse Apps
The beauty of the iPhone’s time-lapse feature is its simplicity. However, if you’re serious about time-lapse photography you might want more control over the process.
Perhaps you want to specify exactly how many images are captured per second, and how many frames-per-second will go into the resulting video footage. Maybe you want to delay the start of the recording, or edit the footage inside the app.
Luckily there are many great time-lapse apps available for the iPhone which will enable you to be far more creative. Let’s take a look at a couple of these time-lapse apps now.
Hyperlapse is a time-lapse app developed by Instagram, and it caused a storm of excitement when it was released. It’s very easy to use with a clean and intuitive interface, and it’s free to download from the App Store.
Hyperlapse uses iPhone technology to create smooth time-lapse footage, even when you’re on the move. It has three main advantages over the native camera time-lapse mode.
Firstly, it allows you to decide what speed the resulting footage is rendered – anything between 1x (normal speed) and 12x (the fastest speed).
Secondly, it employs image stabilization to automatically smooth out camera shake caused by unsteady hands. It’s very effective and is well worth checking out.
This image stabilization enables you to shoot quality time-lapse videos even when you’re on the move, so you can capture great footage while you’re walking, cycling, etc.
Finally, it allows you to share your captured time-lapse via Instagram or Facebook directly from the Hyperlapse app. So the whole process of taking, editing and sharing your time-lapse video can be completed quickly and easily within one single app.
OSnap is an advanced time-lapse app that has everything you could want for creating quality time-lapse footage with your iPhone.
This app provides excellent control over the whole process, from recording through to rendering the final footage. It even does stop-frame animation.
You can set photo-taking intervals anywhere from a quarter second up to 48 hours. And you have more manual control with the ability to lock the white balance, focus and exposure.
The shutter can be triggered with a sound, and you can add music or voiceover to your completed video. Your films can be edited after shooting, with the ability to remove frames, duplicate, splice, and change the frames per second with a slider.
You can manage many projects, control the capture frame rate, set the total number of frames to capture, control the render frame rate, export to different formats and select different quality levels.
One especially interesting feature is that you can export all the individual frames to your photo gallery, so you end up with individual images as well as a time-lapse video.
OSnap costs $3.99 from the App Store, but it’s definitely worth it if you want to take full control of your time-lapse videos.