You can turn just about any activity into something fascinating by creating a fun time-lapse video. Best of all, you can use just about any smartphone’s built-in camera to create these videos easily! There’s no editing or post-processing that is necessary.

A two-hour 45 minute zips by in 23 seconds thanks to the phone’s time-lapse video mode, turning even mundane tasks such as trimming a tree into something fascinating. You can also see how the sunlight rapidly changes in the video.

Turn on your phone’s camera

Your phone already has a camera app, of course. Just select that.

Select Time-Lapse

iPhone screenshot of its camera function. Simply select Time-Lapse.

With an iPhone, simply select “Time-Lapse” in your built-in camera app. 

With Android phones, you most likely need to switch to video mode first, and then select time-lapse.

After that, just let ‘er rip.

Four tips to help you with your time-lapse videos

Bear in mind that a good time-lapse can demand a long period of time. Many minutes, perhaps hours. What does this mean?

Tip one: Keep your phone still

Use a tripod if you can. I use an Oben CTT-1000 tabletop tripod with a Square Jellyfish Tripod Mount for Cellphones. I can adjust things well with this setup. But you can be creative and lean the phone against something sturdy, use a small smartphone tripod, or use a Joby Gorillapod with the aforementioned tripod Square Jellyfish tripod mount or something similar. Just keep it good and still. 

Oben tripod
The small but mighty Oben CTT-1000 tripod. If it can hold my heavy Pentax DSLR, it certainly can hold your smartphone!

Tip two: Make sure your battery is charged

Your phone may keep recording for quite some time. Give it a full charge. Better yet, attach it to a USB battery bank for extra-long time-lapse videos! You can also turn down the brightness on your phone to save energy. 

Oh, and put it in Airplane Mode. This will also conserve a little bit of energy and possibly prevent your video from being interrupted by calls or vibrations.

Tip three: Have ample storage space

The video may take up quite a bit of space. Make sure that your iPhone has plenty of space. If you are using an Android phone, put in a fresh SD card.

Tip four: Focus

Make sure you lock the exposure and focus by tapping the screen where the subject is.

What are good subjects for time-lapse videos?

This is perhaps the best part of time-lapse videos. It turns the mundane into something special. Even if it’s an everyday chore such as trimming the tree, as I have shown, or raking leaves, cleaning the house, or rearranging the garage. It’s fun to see something that takes many minutes or hours take shape in a matter of seconds!

Time-lapse video ideas:

  • Outdoor scenes with moving clouds. For moving clouds, longer time-lapses are the most enjoyable. Let it fly for hours.
  • Busy streets
  • Flowers blossoming. This might take most of the day but sure is amazing.
  • Your child’s baseball game.
  • Ice melting
  • Someone painting or drawing
  • Construction jobs
  • Sunrise or sunset

More information about time-lapses

With an iPhone, the longer you record, the fewer frames will be captured each second. Typically, the iPhone tries to make the time-lapse video to be between 20-40 seconds. My two-hour and 45-minute video is 23 seconds, for example.

I don’t use Android phones currently, but I suspect its internal process is similar. Android phones may also allow you to tweak the parameters.

And of course, with either platform, you have a wide choice of third-party time-lapse or hyper-lapse apps as well. Let the fun begin!