How To Take Amazing iPhone Time Lapse Videos

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.

iOS 8 Photo Features 7

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 mounting your iPhone on a tripod or resting it 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.

7 Hidden iPhone Camera Features

As it turns out, the most important iPhone camera features are completely hidden from regular iPhone users. That's why we created this free video revealing 7 hidden iPhone camera features that every photographer should use. Click here to watch this video.

7 Hidden iPhone Camera Features

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.

iOS 8 iPhone Time Lapse 1

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.

iPhone Hyperlapse App 4

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).

iPhone Hyperlapse App 1

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.

iPhone Hyperlapse App 2


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.

OSnap iPhone Time Lapse App 1

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.

OSnap iPhone Time Lapse App 2

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 iPhone Time Lapse App 3

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.

The 7 Best iPhone Photography Apps

There are thousands of excellent photo apps on the App Store, and the things you can do with apps are absolutely incredible. With that said, the number of photo apps out there is overwhelming, and it's really hard to know which apps are worth getting. 

That’s why we created this free report revealing the 7 best iPhone photography apps that you should start using straight away. Click here to download this free report. 

  • Great Stuff!

    The rotating cookery timer is pure genius 🙂

    • Thanks Eitan – I’m glad you enjoyed my low-tech solution!! 🙂

    • Carolyn McCarthy

      Where did you find the rotating timer? Amazon doesn’t seem to have an expensive solution. Thank you.

    • Hi Carolyn. I can’t remember where I got mine from – sorry. Make sure you get one with a flat top as this will make it easier to attach the iPhone and give you a better chance of keeping the iphone upright. I notice IKEA stocks a suitable model called ‘ORDNING’ which retails for less than $9. Good luck! 🙂

    • Doug Strickland

      IKEA has them for $14USD

    • Jack

      Yes an amazing idea that solves a lot of problems!! Thanks!!

  • Erik Larson

    How large can these time-lapse videos get? Hours of clouds seem like it can take up a lot of memory space.

    • Hi Erik. It’s difficult to say as it can depend on the app that you’re using, the image capture size and the number of frames per second it captures. With the native camera app the file size was similar (under 100MB) when I shot for 5 minutes and 45 minutes – this is because the app dynamically selects which shots to use and if the scene stays the same for a while it will only select a few frames from that duration. So you could shoot for hours, but you might only end up with a short video if nothing much changed in the scene. It doesn’t work like this in all time-lapse apps though – many apps allow you more control over frame rate.

  • Linda

    How can I convert a video accidentally shown time lapse mode back to normal on an I pad air? Thanks

    • HI Linda. If you recorded it using time-lapse mode you can’t play it back as a normal video sorry.

  • Monica C Yu

    The my resume OK maybe be paid

  • Scrappyjackie

    I have individual photos of a sunset – is there any way I can get these into a time-lapse movie after the fact?

    • Hi Scrappyjackie. You’ll need to find an iPhone app on the App Store. I’m sure someone must have created an App but I haven’t found one yet. Good luck with your search. Perhaps you’d be kind enough to let us know if you find one you’d recommend please? Thanks 🙂

    • Raymond

      Or put the pictures on computer where many apps can do this, one is Graphic Converter.

    • sheldon cooper

      try flipagram

  • sarah

    every time i try to use my time laps on the iphone 5s it shoots like 2 seconds everytime and i dont know why

    • Hi Sarah. I’m not sure I understand. Are you still having this problem?

  • Kev

    Hi, When I first used the time lapse the screen what blank which was good as it saved the battery life. Now I can’t get the screen blank!! How do I get the screen blank again?

    • Hi Kev – it would appear Apple has decided to prevent the blanking/darkening of the screen during a time-lapse in more recent iOS releases. I presume this is so you can continue to compose/frame the shots. Obviously this is only useful if you’re planning to move the iPhone around during the time-lapse. I agree with you that darkening the screen was useful for extending battery life. Would be nice if it was optional. Let’s hope it happens in a future iOS release!

  • Alan

    Great article!….Any recommendations as to a handy light weight mounting device that can be used to secure the iphone to a stationary fixed position for taking long time lapse videos?

  • Herbert

    How are you able to shoot slow motion videos?

    • Switch to the Slo-Mo mode in the native camera app. Or alternatively, search for slow motion video on the App Store and you will find plenty of apps that will allow you to record slow motion video 🙂

  • CharlotteF2908

    Is there a way of merging several time lapses together? I made several on holiday and want to merge them all together to show the whole holiday. Is this possible? Thanks!

  • Lennyko

    I accidentally videoed in time lapse? Any way to slow it down

    • Angelo

      I’m needing a the same my daughter accidentally took a video in time lapse I would like it to be normal

    • Unfortunately you can’t slow down the time lapse footage to normal video speed.

    • jackie


    • ecigtime

      1.Download any screen capture software
      2.Upload your video to youtube
      3.Set your screen capture software on your video
      4.Start playing video with a 0.25 speed (you need Google Chrome for this option)

    • Jc

      Slow fast slow app allows you to control speeds in videos made with time lapse, and it’s a free app.

  • Vafa Safarli

    How can I add background music to timelapse videos?

  • DrBooya

    Great article!

    Here’s an example of a video of an ant farm. This was taken over about 45 minutes with an iPhone 5.

    I made a make-shift stabilizer out of Lego bricks to get the right angle.

    Left the iPhone plugged in the whole time.

  • doug

    how much space does a five minute time lapse take compared to a five minute video?

  • Chris

    I accidentally recorded on time lapse on my Iphone 5C … how can I slow it down or convert to standard? thanks

  • JRDiesel

    Every time I record a time lapse, no matter how long I let it run for, it compresses to 24 seconds. Any idea what causes this or what setting I need to change. If I record 30 minutes, compresses to 24 seconds. If I record and hour and a half, 24 seconds. I’d much rather the rate stay the same and the video be longer. Any ideas?

  • E

    Any way to play accidental time lapse at regular speed

  • Laila

    I accidentally recorded a time lapse video but I want to view it at normal speed and get the sound. Is this possible?

  • Misha Sidorenkov

    Cloudy Sunset Time-Lapse Full HD. 5 houres of video in 2 minutes.

  • Jonas Augusto
    • Really liking this Jonas – I never thought to stitch together multiple timelapses and include non-timelapsed footage. Soundtrack is great too.

  • Any recommendations on the type of iPhone tripod you use for your time lapse videos?

  • Susan

    I shot several time lapse videos and they turned out ok. The problem comes when I try to upload them to a fileshare system like Box (it’s similar to dropbox). It loses the speed of the time lapse and just plays at regular speed. Is there a setting for this? I’d like to put them on my work’s YouTube channel ultimately.

  • It’s $3.99 now. Not complaining, but the price is incorrect in the article.

  • Jake

    What mount is that you have on top of the timer?

    • Hi Jake. I don’t recall the make/model of the mount I’m using – but any tripod quick-release plate that fits your camera and has a flat bottom which can be stuck onto the top of the rotating cookery timer will do! 🙂

  • Scott

    My sister sent me a video of the birth of her grandchild, that she shot in time lapse by mistake on her iPhone 6 and asked me if I could fix it. Am I correct in my assumption that the camera only recorded a few frames per second, rather then 30, and that it did not store those additional frames with any possibility to restore them to a normal video and speed? In other words, slowing it down would only show basically a succession of still images?

    • Hi Scott. Yes, you’re right – unfortunately you can’t convert the time-lapse into an ordinary video.

  • Laine Rudolfa

    Thanks for sharing the site. 🙂

  • Susan

    How do you put a time lapse video from your iPhone onto YouTube? The time lapse aspect disappears every time I try.

    • Je-ann

      Hi Susan, I haven’t personally tried this one but I recommend that you transfer the video on your computer first prior to uploading it on Social Media. Good luck and let us know how you go 🙂

  • William Höghielm

    This was very very helpful!

  • Mikey Dub

    I shot in time-lapse mode(iphone5) and saved it to my laptop(macbookpro)now I play it in quicktime and it’s fine…how come the resulting post to facebook is normal speed ? How do I keep the timelapse speed intact so it interprets it correctly ?