How to shoot time-lapse videos on your iPhone

iOS 8 brought a bunch of new camera and photo editing features to iOS devices, including the new Time-lapse mode in Camera. This mode shoots and generates accelerated sequences of photos taken over a period of time, making slow changes appear to take place faster — the light of day as the sun sets, for example. Camera now lets you shoot time-lapse videos by merely tapping the shutter — but there are a few things to keep in mind before you begin. Here’s how to shoot great time-lapse videos on your iPhone.

Using Camera for time-lapse

  • Launch Camera from your home screen or Control Center.
  • Swipe right till you reach Time-Lapse mode.
  • Prop up your phone in a stationary position (a flat surface or a tripod with a compatible mount/phone case).
  • Tap the shutter button on the screen to begin shooting — your iPhone will snap photos at dynamically selecter intervals. Tap again to stop shooting and generate your time-lapse video.
  • To preview your video, tap the last shot video in the bottom left corner of the screen and tap the play button.

Those are just the basics. You can try your hand at shooting time-lapse videos of interesting processes that happen gradually, such as changing light and weather conditions, construction crews in action, and busy traffic intersections.

Plan how long you time-lapse video will take before shooting

Want to get great results with your time-lapse video? Try these tips:

1. Plan your shot before you begin

Start by visualizing how your time-lapse will look: what does your frame include? What changes within the frame? How long do you need to shoot?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to show only one or two elements changing at once, with the other objects or background remaining static — any more and the video becomes too chaotic to follow. Here are a couple of examples:

Plan accordingly so that you have a good vantage point to shoot from, enough battery power left on your device and enough time to capture your time-lapse. You may also want consider how far away from your subject you want to be, so as to truly capture the chaos of movement.

2. Steady your phone

You’ll notice that the videos also benefit from having been shot from a fixed position — the movement of your subject appears even more dramatic. A tripod comes in very handy, but you can always improvise with any flat surface or object that can support your iPhone’s size and weight.

For the sketching time-lapse above, I placed my iPhone atop an empty beer glass.

3. Frame your shot artfully

Besides capturing interesting movement/change patterns, another way to draw your viewers into your video is by composing your shot well. There are many rules of composition in photography, and you can follow any of these (or break the rules if you wish) to create a compelling frame.

Editing and sharing

You can’t edit your video in the Camera or Photos apps, but you can trim it and add audio using iMovie. If you’d like to add filters easily, you can use Instagram to do so, just as you would add filters to your photos.

If your time-lapse is between 3 and 15 seconds in length, you can upload it to Instagram by importing from your Camera Roll. Here’s a time-lapse video that I shot on my iPhone 5s, let me know what you think:

Got a question about shooting time-lapse videos on your phone? Want to show off your latest masterpiece? Share in the comments!