Skip to main content

5 Essential Time-Lapse Apps

Smartphone time lapse app

Looking for the best Time-Lapse app? I reviewed over 50 time lapse related smartphone apps. Here are 5 that I think will be super helpful for getting awesome results.

In years past, the art of making time-lapse photography has been largely constricted to high-end cameras such as DSLR’s and mirrorless systems. That said, it’s 2018, and the cameras in our pockets are becoming more and more advanced with each passing year. Now, it’s entirely possible to capture and process mind-blowing time-lapse videos using nothing but your smartphone.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at five of the most essential time-lapse apps available for both Android and Apple iOS devices. There are loads of great time-lapse apps for Android. Most of these are available for iOS too. Each of these come with unique features and workflows that make it more accessible than ever before to jump right in and start creating, so let’s dive right in.

1. PhotoPills

PhotoPills AppThis trusty app is packed full of tools and features to assist both the amateur and professional time-lapse photographer alike. Not only does this app contain time-lapse specific features, it also contains a load of general photography and astrophotography tools that are absolutely essential to getting the best results.

Whilst this is a premium app, it is a one-off cost and worth every penny in my opinion.

Pros:

  • Packed full of tools and features
  • Powerful and accurate data

Cons:

  • Premium app costing a few dollars
  • Quite a high learning curve, but user guide is available

Lapse It Logo

2. Lapse It

We wanted to kick this list off with what we consider to be the essential time-lapse app for both iOS and Android, so here it is. It’s available on both platforms -Lapse It Android and Lapse It iPhone.  Lapse It is one of the most comprehensive, fully-featured apps dedicated to time-lapse photography that we’ve ever seen, and regular updates have kept it both fresh and highly flexible. Lapse It is a time-lapse camera app like no other. The bulk of the features that make this app shine are locked behind the “Pro” version of Lapse It, but at $3 for the Lapse In Pro app, we feel it’s a no-brainer regardless. That said, the free option still allows you to jump in and get familiar with the interface if you’d like to start slow.

Pros:

  • Full 1080p video rendering/exporting
  • Comprehensive settings panel to control variable zoom, time-lapse speed, exposure, and more
  • Tons of additional functions like reverse mode, filters, trimming, timestamps, and more
  • Incredibly fast and responsive
  • Available on both iOS and Android

Cons:

  • Can be a bit overwhelming for beginners due to the sheer number of options available
  • Best features locked behind a paywall (but again, we feel it’s a steal at the current price)

Hyperlapse App Logo

3. Hyperlapse From Instagram

Instagram is without a doubt the most popular visual social media platform in the world today. The company has been making strides in recent years in terms of the tools they provide content creators, and the Hyperlapse app is a direct reflection of this concentrated effort. Though it can easily be used to take traditional, stationary time-lapse videos, you can also use the Hyperlapse app while in motion, hence its name. The app features extraordinary stabilization abilities, allowing you to capture a bumpy run or walk with your phone and still somehow have the end result look silky smooth.

Sadly, it’s not currently available for Android as of this writing, but fear not, alternatives such as Microsoft Hyperlapse provide much of the same functionality if you fall into this camp.

Pros:

  • Insanely powerful stabilization is better than just about anything else for motion shots
  • Allows for incredibly easy uploads directly to Instagram
  • The simplistic and minimal interface is easy to pick up, and hard to put down

Cons:

  • A bit limiting in terms of settings compared to other apps on this list
  • Not available for Android devices

Sky Flow App Logo

4. SkyFlow

Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate; SkyFlow isn’t really geared for beginners who are just starting out. The app features some serious pro-level functionality, such as manual exposure, focus, and white balance control, and well as a dizzying array of other settings, effects, and modes to choose from. While not quite as intuitive as Lapse It in our opinion, the two stand neck-and-neck when it comes to pure flexibility. As with Lapse It, a free version is available, but interestingly, no features are locked when it comes to actually capturing the footage itself in this version. Instead, exporting is simply limited to 540p, which is still a very good reason to upgrade.

Pros:

  • Plenty of depth for experienced users to explore
  • Works with DJI Osmo devices
  • Excellent noise cancellation

Cons:

  • Not quite as intuitive user interface as Lapse It
  • Not available for Android
  • Potentially a bit overwhelming for beginners

Pic Pac App Logo

5. PicPac Stop Motion & TimeLapse

PicPac is a unique app, even to this list, as it is not only a fully-fledged time-lapse app, but also a stop-motion one as well. As well as the free version, there’s also PicPac Pro. While a bit more niche than time-lapse photography in general, stop-motion is still a very intriguing form of expression, and many of the techniques behind it have been used in the media world for decades. The app is Android-only, and also features a Hyperlapse mode, so for anyone feeling a bit left out by Instagram’s Hyperlapse iOS app, this may be another solid alternative. You can easily export HD video, add your own recordings or music, and trim videos in the pro version, though all of these features are restricted in the free app. (Beginning to see a trend here?)

Pros:

  • Stop motion and time-lapse combined into one convenient app
  • Clean interface makes navigating the various functions quite easy
  • Easily add custom text to your finished videos in-app

Cons:

  • Not as many settings to choose from as Lapse It
  • Not available for iOS

Other Apps and Tools

Whilst researching the best time-lapse applications, we found a huge number of great apps and tools that didn’t make it into our top 5.
Perhaps the most versatile and powerful is our time-lapse calculator. This is actually three tools in one, and can run in any web browser so there is no app to install to your device.

Latest Time-Lapse Apps

New apps are being launched all the time, so it is worth having a look in the Google Play store or the Apple app store to see what’s the latest and greatest apps available. A lot can change in a very small amount of time when it comes to technology and especially software.

If you’re of at least a slightly technical nature (let’s be honest, you have to be with photography!), then you may find that Magic Lantern is worth checking out. It runs on your Canon camera, adding a load of extra features and tools. including a few really nifty time-lapse related features.

The best bit about Magic Lantern is that it’s open-source and totally free, with quite a big community built around it.

Getting Started with Hyperlapse Photography

Slow shutter speed fairground ride

What is Hyperlapse Photography? Well, if you spend much time watching timelapse videos online, you may have noticed certain videos that seem to incorporate a substantial amount of motion shots, giving the final product a very surreal feeling. This type of time-lapse technique is commonly referred to as a hyperlapse photography, and today, we’re going to learn how to make them.

Hyperlapse vs Time-lapse: What’s The Difference?

So, what exactly is the difference between a time-lapse and a hyperlapse? Put as simply as possible, time-lapse videos usually involve a static shot, or one in which the camera body itself does not move. Now, this isn’t completely accurate, as many “traditional” time-lapse videos still involve some sort of movement, often in the form of a subtle tilt or pan. By contrast, however, a hyperlapse video tends to make heavy use of motion, with the camera physically being moved from point to point.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a quick look at a regular time-lapse video like this one here:

Now, watch this hyperlapse video and compare the two:

Notice how in the second video, the camera seems to be in motion for many of the shots, and the action appears to be sped up considerably? This creates the feeling that you are almost “warping” through a scene in hyperspeed, giving the effect its name.

Now that you understand the basic differences between the two, it’s time to get down to business.

Making Your Own Hyperlapse Videos

Making hyperlapse videos is actually quite a bit easier than it may at first appear. Like regular time-lapse photography, all you are really doing is capturing a sequence of images and editing them together in rapid succession to create the visual effect. If you have a few basic pieces of photography gear, an open mind, and a dash of patience, then don’t worry; you’ve got this.

So, what exactly do you need to make a hyperlapse video? Well, now it’s easier than ever thanks to the ‘Hyperlapse’ mode built into the camera app on the latest versions of Android. Simply open the app, select ‘Hyperlapse’ mode and begin shooting. All the hard work will be done automatically by the app itself. Once rendered, your footage will be turned into glorious hyperlapse video!

To take your haperlapse videos to the next level and unlock all of the benefits that come with controlling the whole process, you may want to create your own videos using a standard camera. The rest of this guide will be devoted to making that happen.

Let’s briefly review what you need to get started.

Essential Gear Checklist

  • Camera: This can be a DSLR, mirrorless, point and shoot, or even a cell phone. Almost any camera will do!
  • Lens: If using an interchangeable lens system, you’ll need something that is ideally no wider than 24mm on a full frame camera, but also not so zoomed that you can’t see the full scene you have in your mind
  • Your Arms and Legs: You’ll need these to hold the camera steady and move around! We’d call that essential.
  • An Open Mind: This is as much an art form as it is a technical application of skills. Go into it ready to make mistakes and learn from them.

Once you have all of the above, you’re ready to go! Next up, let’s define the two main types of hyperlapse techniques in use today, and how and when you should use them.

Fixed Point vs Pan Hyperlapse

Though hyperlapse photography can take on nearly unlimited forms, there are two primary “style” categories that most videos fall under. These are fixed point and pan hyperlapes. Fixed point videos always involve some sort of fixed subject that never leaves the frame. As an example, look at the shot starting at 0:47 in the hyperlapse example video above. The famous rounded customer service booth is the point the camera is “fixed” on in this scene, so all of the motion literally revolves around it.

By comparison, a pan hyperlapse doesn’t necessarily have a fixed subject, and often involves a sweeping shot of a large scene. This is much less common than the fixed point technique, which is why we’ll be focused on that one in this guide, but it’s at least important to know that both exist.

Setting Up The Shot

Now that we have a good understanding of the common techniques used in hyperlapse photography, we’re ready to dig into the real reason you’re reading this; how to capture and make one your very own video! The first thing that you’ll need to do is map out and plan your shot as thoroughly as you possibly can. The more thought you put into what you want your video to look like, the better it will come out once you execute, trust us on this one.

With this in mind, let’s take this one step at a time and go through the process of setting up your hyperlapse shot.

Choosing a Subject

Your central subject is arguably the most important component in your entire video. This is the person, place or thing that you want your audience to focus in on, so the idea here is to make it as interesting as possible. See a particularly interesting building, or perhaps an awesome mountaintop? Make this the centerpiece of your video to give your viewers an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

In some cases, your subject can be more abstract, such as a crowded city street. If you wanted to “warp” down the street, you could simply walk forward in a straight line while snapping photos, and the crowd and surrounding buildings will all be part of your “subject”. You can see how the rules are very bendable, and when you have enough experience under your belt, breaking them outright is where the real fun begins.

Basic Camera Settings

So, if you’ve chosen a subject to base your shots around, that’s great! Now, how should you dial in your settings to ensure that you get the best shots you can? In general, you want to adjust your settings like you usually would when taking a single, still exposure. The real trick here is ensuring that each image looks relatively the same as the last in terms of exposure, white balance and framing.

You can adjust things in minor increments as you go along to ensure an even exposure, which you likely will need to do given that you are physically moving the camera from place to place. Just remember that you’ll need to put each of these frames back-to-back to create the final video, so try not to do anything jarring.

Mapping Out Your Route

This is one of the most important steps in properly executing your sequence of images, and it’s also the point where most newbies get stuck. It is extremely important that each and every frame be taken from not only the same height, but the same position relative to the subject as well. For instance, if you are walking down a street, you need to keep the camera pointed dead ahead, not letting it drift to one side or the other.

Pro Tip: Try looking for tiles or other patterns on the ground to follow. These can make for excellent pacing and positioning guides, helping you to stay on course as you move through your scene.

You may find it helpful to do a test run or two of your “track” to get comfortable with the motion. It can be a bit tricky staying so steady and consistent when moving, so don’t fret if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Once you feel more confident with the task at hand, you’re ready to rock.

Grabbing Your Photos

It’s time to start shooting. Keep your framing in mind as you guide yourself through your images one step at a time. It is crucial to the finished product that each step you take and each shutter you capture are as consistently spaced as humanly possible. A good rule of thumb to follow here is that the further you are away from your subject, the faster you can move in between shots. If you are only 5-25 feet away, however, you need to be capturing more images consistently as you move to really “sell” and represent the motion as it happens. Take it as slowly as you need to, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you didn’t have any shoulder muscles before now, get ready to build some!

Once you’ve completed your sequence of shots, relax and give yourself a pat on the back. Review your images while you rest for a bit, making sure that each one looks level and even. If something is glaringly off, don’t sweat it. You can either live with the imperfection or redo all the shots entirely. Either way, they’ll be plenty of opportunities to improve your form as you go, so remember to not judge yourself too harshly (this goes for everything you do in life).

Next Up: Editing Your Footage Together

In our next guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to process and edit your hyperlapse videos. For now, however, if you’re looking to get started, here are the basic steps to follow:

  • Collect and organize your photo sequence within a single folder on your hard drive.
  • Import all of the photos to Adobe Lightroom or your preferred editing software.
  • Feel free to make basic corrections to the images if you’d like, but don’t do anything crazy, and keep them consistent.
  • Once done, import the entire photo folder to After Effects or Premiere Pro.
  • If done right, both programs should automatically lay them out on the timeline in the proper order. Create a composition by highlighting and right-clicking them all.
  • Apply the effect “Warp Stabilizer” to the newly created clip. Set smoothness to around 10% to start, but feel free to experiment.
  • That’s basically it! Again, we’ll get much more in-depth soon, but for now, this should get you up and running.

For some more information on the subject of Hyperlapse, check out Wikipedia’s very informative article.