The Basics of Taking Time-Lapse Video on your iPhone

Time-lapse is a popular technique used to make something appear to have taken place much more quickly than it actually did. By shooting a series of photographs in quick succession depicting a scene that normally changes slowly over time and then speeding up the playback, you can make the action appear to occur unnaturally quickly. Think of a flower blooming within seconds vs hours or the night sky shown as a swirling whirl of stars. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed watching speeded-up video instruction for new recipes? These were likely recorded using time-lapse photography. With just a few tips here, you’ll be able to shoot and edit your own time-lapse videos on your iPhone.

How time-lapse works on iPhone

Unlike shooting a time-lapse with a standard camera, shooting with an iPhone is incredibly simple as you can take advantage of the default settings.

The Time-Lapse setting on your smartphone will automatically shoot your subject at 1–2 frames per second, dependent on the total time you shoot for.  And when it’s time to play back the video, it will do so at the speed of 20-40 frames per second, regardless of how long you shot. The longer you record, the fewer frames will be captured from each second of shooting, resulting in a more dramatic final effect.

Getting Started with Time-Lapse Video on your iPhone

Open your camera app.

Scroll through the options above the red shutter button, and tap “Time-Lapse” (shown here circled in blue).

When you’re ready to record, tap the red shutter button.

Tap the shutter button again when you want to stop recording.

Your time-lapse video will be saved to your photo library under both “Recents” and “Time-lapse”.

How to shoot a better-quality time-lapse video

Time-lapse videos work best when you are shooting a slow-moving scene, like the hands of a clock, the sunrise, a crowd gathering or dispersing or your dog enjoying a lazy afternoon in their favorite sunny spot. Regardless of the scene you choose to capture, there are a few tricks to ensuring a great quality finish:

  • Use a tripod. The key to a high finish time-lapse is capturing movement in several frames from the same spot, and the easiest way to do this is with a tripod. In the event you haven’t yet decided to invest in a tripod for your iPhone, you can approximate the benefit by using your creativity to cobble together a substitute. For example, I’ve used a sturdy beach chair stacked with just the right configuration of towels to capture a sunset at the beach. Stacks of books can help out in the kitchen if you’re capturing the making of a recipe, but you’ll need to get the camera angle just right before shooting to show adding of ingredients and mixing.
  • Focus. In order to achieve the same focus and exposure for every frame in your time-lapse, hold your finger down on the screen and “lock” the exposure and focus before shooting. 
  • Check you have sufficient battery.  Shooting any video tends to use quite a bit of battery juice, and shooting a longer recording like a time-lapse will require a lot of available battery. Ensure you have plenty of battery available and preferably a full battery unless you want your video to end with half a sunset.

How to trim a time-lapse video

You can trim your time-lapse video on iPhone using your Photos app in the same way that you would trim any video. When doing so using the Photos app, you can only make the video shorter by trimming the ends. Here are the simple steps how to trim your video:

  1. Open your time-lapse in Photos and tap Edit.
  2. Slide your finger along the timeline at the bottom of the screen until a yellow box appears.
  3. Use your fingertip to slide the arrows on either side of the timeline to trim any bits you don’t want from the beginning or end of your video.
  4. To exit you must tap “Done” and then choose either “Save Video” (replaces what you shot originally) or “Save Video as New Clip” (adds as an additional version).

How to crop and otherwise edit your time-lapse video

You may prefer to focus your video on only a section of the frame you shot, cropping out anything on the edges that might distract from the “main action”.

  1. As before, open your time-lapse video in Photos and tap “Edit”.
  2. Select the crop icon at the bottom of the screen.
  3. A white outline will appear around your time-lapse photo. You can drag the edges of the outline to adjust the orientation and size of your video.
  4. Feel free to experiment with the other Edit features, such as adjusting the contrast, infusing the video with warmth or coolness or indeed converting it to monochrome (black & white). All possible in a few swipes and taps!

Now you’ve covered the basics for taking and editing time-lapse videos, why not have a try yourself? No need to wait for a spectacular sunset, try capturing your pet as we’ve done here or another moving creature (perhaps a spouse or child in your family)?

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