How to shoot timelapses on iPhone

In this article, you'll learn how to shoot timelapses on an iPhone, as well as something very interesting about how the iPhone deals with longer timelapses.

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In this article, you'll learn how to shoot timelapses on an iPhone, as well as something very interesting about how the iPhone deals with longer timelapses.

This article talks about three things:

  • How to shoot timelapses on an iPhone
  • Why the iPhone mysteriously deletes frames after you stop recording
  • Accessories that you can use to improve your iPhone timelapses

I recently got myself a refurbished iPhone 13 Pro and I am LOVING it.

The first thing you should know is that the timelapse mode in iOS is plug-and-play and offers very few controls, if any.

It spits out a video in Full HD at 30fps in the HEVC codec which means your file sizes stay small.

How to shoot timelapses on iPhone

  1. Open the camera app and swipe to the timelapse mode.
  2. Frame up your shot, making sure it’s level.
  3. Make sure nothing is creeping in on the sides of your image.
  4. I recommend going to the Camera settings and turning on the grid to help with leveling your shot.
  5. The only controls you get are focus and exposure and you get this by long pressing the screen and then swiping up or down to control your exposure and lock it in.
  6. Once you're happy with the framing hit the record button and let it run.
  7. Once you’ve shot at least 5 minutes you can hit stop and play back the resulting timelapse clip.

I’d love to tell the developers to show us at least how much time has passed while shooting, because…

There’s something interesting about how the iPhone shoots and processes timelapses.

With a normal timelapse, you would select your interval and your shooting length, and then you can calculate your clip length.

The iPhone does this differently, by using so-called dynamic intervals.

If you are recording a timelapse under 10 minutes, then the interval will be 0.5 seconds, or two frames per second, resulting in 15x speed increase compared to real-time

So 15 seconds of recording will be 1 second of footage because 15 seconds of capture at 2 frames per second gives you 30 frames. Divide that by 30fps and you get 1 second of timelapse footage. 

If you go over 10 minutes of recording then your interval will switch to one frame every second, and the iPhone will remove half the frames you recorded before 10 minutes to keep the shot length about the same.

Shooting over 20 minutes your interval is one frame every two seconds.

Over 40 minutes your interval is one frame every four seconds.

Over 80 minutes your interval is one frame every eight seconds.

This results in a 15, 30, 60, 120, or 240x speed increase compared to real-time video.

Sadly, there is no way to go around this, unless you use an app, so let me know if you’d like to see a video about which apps I’m using and subscribe to stay up to date.

Once your video is done shooting, you can adjust the look, cropping, skewing, and rotation in the standard editor, or load it into another app to play around with the playback speed.

Now here are some of the tools I use to create better timelapse videos on my iPhone.

iPhone timelapse tools

  • A sturdy phone clamp. You want to use one that you can tighten properly like this one.
  • Something to mount that clamp to, like a tabletop or taller tripod or another clamp.
  • If you’re shooting through glass then you can use a small suction mount, which is great for planes or cars.
  • To block the reflections I recommend a Lensskirt.
  • Using a black phone case will help with this too. I use the Popsocket phone case and I love it as I can still use magsafe charging.

These links are affiliate links and help support this website and channel.

Check out the rest of my timelapse tools on this page here.

If you enjoyed this video, please consider becoming a channel member, which starts at $1 per month and gives you exclusive members-only videos like the recent “New phone day vlog”.

Get all the best tools and techniques to become a great timelapse photographer.

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Denise Cumming
1 year ago

Beautiful shots per usual. Since you asked, I use an iPhone 11pro. Yes please talk about your favorite timelapse app for iPhone.
Cheers, Denise