The easiest way to do time lapse videos with your iPhone

Estimated read time: 3 minutes



I saw fellow aviation geek Robbie Culver post time lapse videos from Chicago O’Hare – where I was heading myself interestingly. I promptly asked on Twitter how he recorded them and was surprised to find out that my iPhone has a time lapse function. WHAT?

Just go to the phone’s camera and swipe until you find this screen:

So I tried it taking off from Cedar Rapids. It worked and I would recommend – as always – to shoot sideways. I know it feels unnatural to hold the phone that way, but it’s much nicer for the viewer.

Also, both of my videos were handheld and that gets old quick. I will try to shoot some time lapse videos with a stationary iPhone from a conference I’m attending and see how they turn out.

Here are two that turned out well:

For the first one I stood on a ladder for 3 minutes. See:

The second one I was able to just place the phone on a chair that I moved into the middle of the room. “Hope you don’t mind if I re-arrange your show room.” “No problem.”

Handheld time lapse videos is not something I would recommend. It’s hard to hold the phone that long and it’s shaky.

Find a place to put the phone on the ground, a chair, whatever. Consider traveling with/bringing a small tripod. I actually have one in the office for live broadcasts. If you need one they are cheap on Amazon.

When would you do time lapse video?



From a practical standpoint, when you have time to put the phone down and point it at something that is actually worth recording over an extended period of time.

Also, it’s important to remember that the phone won’t be available at that time to tweet, blog, check email, etc.

Many have laptops with them but I often travel without that now. I’ve had too many trips where I haul it around and then don’t even use it. Maybe I should pack my iPod 5, which is currently in the car to play music for just this purpose. An idea. I can then use my iPhone hot spot to upload the video.

Time lapse video is a great storytelling technique though. YouTuber Casey Neistat uses it often to show awesome sunrises and other scenes that play out over time.

I’m sure there are other awesome time lapse videos out there. Tweet me a link and I’ll try to share your tweet here.

I still remember the time lapse video of Madison Square Garden in New York City as it gets completely changed from an NBA basketball court layout to an NHL hockey layout. So cool to see that transformation happening over a few hours in just a few moments.

Time lapse video is the ultimate tool to show us time-challenged something worth viewing in a much condensed time period.

I hadn’t added time lapse video to my tool belt of storytelling techniques. I falsely assumed I needed some fancy equipment or needed to speed footage up in the edit room. But Robbie opened my eyes here and I’ll keep that in mind and will try some time lapse videos.

For reference you can do the following with your iPhone camera:

Time lapse

Regular video

Pictures (regular and square for Instagram)

Panoramic images

Slow motion video – trying that next!

Note to self: Don’t overthink it and remember to learn from the community. Thanks, Robbie!