Lately, I’ve been pushing the boundaries of time-lapse and exploring hyper-lapse (essentially a time-lapse where the camera is also moving).  Last week on vacation I tried an experiment (shooting from a plane window).

For this experiment I kept it simple (after all my six year old daughter was sharing the row with me and you can only be so much of a camera geek when balancing parental duties).  She and I worked together to push the iPhone and see what could be done.

The Ingredients

  • LapseIt (a cheap timelapse app for the phone)
  • iPhone 5s (although even an iPhone 4 will work). The software also works on Android.
  • A window seat on a jet

The Process

The first challenge was stabling the phone.  For some of my first tests I simply pressed the phone firmly against the glass window (which after 15 minutes gets old and looks pretty weird).  I then noticed that there was a slight gap between the window and the frame.  With a gentle push, the phone easily wedged into place.


This gap may not be present on all flights, but you can at least use the lip of the windowsill for stability.  Also, make sure the camera is along the top edge to minimize capturing any of the window frame in your shot. Once set, the key is to minimize movement of the camera.

The Software

There are a few controls with LapseIt to pay attention to.


You can set the exposure, focus, and White Balance manually.   Be sure to use to Locked options and tap Touch Adjust the set where the points are determined.  I set focus on the wing of the plane.


Choose a capture resolution.  I prefer 1080p so I can capture the largest frame possible.  This gives me the ability to crop is 720p video is used (which is fine for many HD applications including web video).


Choose an interval.  The ability to shoot at rates faster than 1 second may come in handy with a fast moving subject.


You can choose to create a movie right in application.  Or if you desire more professional results, you can simply export the image sequence and transfer from your phone as a ZIP file.  These images can then be opened in Photoshop or After Effects for additional processing and assembly as a time-lapse sequence.

This is a technique I need to refine, but now that phones and electronic devices (in airplane mode) can be used during takeoff and landing, a new set of photographic options await.

Have any experiences or tips?  Share them below.


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Phoneography, Photography, Software, Technique & Tutorials, Timelapse


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