How to Set the Timer on Your iPhone Camera

The iPhone has a built-in timer function that can take a photo a few seconds after pressing the shutter button. This can be very useful when you want to be in the picture and need the full quality and all the options available when using the rear cameras. The front camera isn’t bad but doesn’t pick up as much light and that often results in a somewhat flatter and softer photo.

The built-in timer is somewhat limited, but there are other ways to tell the iPhone to delay before taking a photo or recording a video. There are several ways to trigger a photo or video remotely and some do not require additional hardware. Read on for an in-depth exploration of the best ways to activate the shutter without tapping the on-screen button or hitting the volume rocker.


How to Use the iPhone’s Built-in Photo Timer

The iPhone has a built-in photo timer which is simple but effective enough to meet your needs in most cases. To use it, simply open the camera app and swipe up from the center of the screen (away from the shutter button if in landscape mode) to open the camera controls. Alternatively, you can tap the up arrow that looks like a circumflex (^ symbol) at the top of the iPhone to see the same controls.

The iPhone camera controls are placed between the camera view and the shutter button.

The timer control is not immediately visible, so you have to drag the control strip to find it. Tap the button that looks like a clock face to see the iPhone photo timer options. The choice is limited to 3s and 10s, representing delays of 3 seconds and 10 seconds. When the self-timer is set, it appears in the upper right corner of the screen where the states of the various camera settings are displayed.

iPhone timer only has two options delay and off.

After choosing your preferred photo delay, you can close the timer control by pressing the clock button again, swiping from the center of the screen to the shutter button, or pressing the down arrow (symbol v). Then all other camera settings can be adjusted as desired.

It’s important to note that the timer retains its settings for multiple photos and should be disabled if you want to take a quick photo. There is no option in the Settings app to change this behavior. Even closing the app and reopening or putting the iPhone to sleep does not change the camera’s timer mode. However, if you turn the iPhone off and on again or restart it, the timer resets.

Does the iPhone camera timer work for video and portrait modes?

Apple had already written the code and designed the user interface elements, so it would have taken very little effort to give iPhone owners the option of a video timer. Unfortunately, the iPhone’s camera app does not allow a video to start after a few seconds of delay. It’s hard to criticize Apple because it’s easy to cut a few seconds from the start of a video after it’s been recorded. The iPhone self-timer is only available in Photo and Portrait mode.

The iPhone video camera controls only include flash, exposure, and ProRes.

Use Shortcuts to Create a Timer for iPhone Video

Shortcuts are a great feature that lets you extend what’s possible on an iPhone without needing to install an app. A simple shortcut lets you create your own iPhone camera timer to delay recording a video. To set it up, open the Shortcuts app that comes pre-installed on your iPhone, then add the actions listed below or install the free video timer shortcut that was designed for you.

Here is the video timer shortcut code.

The shortcut can be added to your home screen for quick access or run from the Shortcuts app. It will ask you how many seconds to wait before starting the video. It uses the main rear camera and regardless of the current settings. After the delay, the flash will flash once, then recording will start. It must be disabled manually, which opens the possibility of saving or resuming the video.

The video timer shortcut asks for a delay in seconds.

Unfortunately, there is no way to change which rear lens to use. There is an option in the code to use the front camera and it is easy to modify a shortcut to better suit your needs. In fact, with enough effort, a more advanced photo and video timer shortcut could be created to program the shutter in advance.

Automation for scheduled photos and recordings

A long timer can be created using automation and it’s even easier than a shortcut. Check out the ultra-short iPhone automation that lets you take a photo every day at sunset.

An iPhone Automation can take a photo at a preset time and date.

It’s a fun idea, but until Apple loosens restrictions on automations, it’s little more than a reminder to take a photo. A notification will appear with a Tap to answer message that opens a simplified view of the camera ready to take a picture. It would be the same if you made a shortcut to schedule a photo or video. If you need to tap the iPhone to authorize the action, you can just as easily open the camera app and take the shot or start recording yourself.

Third-Party Camera Timer Apps

For more control over self-timed footage, as usual, there’s an app for that. Most third-party camera apps offer a lot more control than Apple’s built-in solution. The popular manual camera app Halide offers three-, ten-, and thirty-second delays for photos. ProCam goes much further, allowing timers from 1 to 60 seconds for stills and video recording.

ProCam includes a self-timer for photos and videos.

There’s also a free app called Lens Buddy that has several options for delayed images and photo sequences that’s worth checking out if you need more than the maximum ten seconds Apple gives you to prepare for a group photo. Lens Buddy offers up to one minute for its advanced self-timer.

Lens Buddy is free and its self-timer delays up to one minute.

Camera app voice control

Beyond timers, the iPhone camera can also be voice-triggered, making it as simple as opening the camera and saying “Tap Take Photo” to take a picture or “Tap Record Video” to start a recording. There is a small configuration required in the Settings app. Search for “Voice Command”, then set Cover at Element names and turn on Voice command. The Camera app will label commands with spoken names that will be recognized

Here’s how to set up and use voice control on the iPhone’s Camera app.

This affects all apps and even iOS controls, so you can disable it when not needed. In the Settings app, under Accessibility shortcutyou can set Voice command to turn on and off with a triple click on the side button of the iPhone.

Voice control can be activated with the side button on the iPhone.

Bluetooth remote shutter devices

Of course, an external Bluetooth remote can also be used to trigger the iPhone shutter. It is quite common for these to be paired with low cost selfie sticks. The Bluetooth trigger must be paired with the iPhone before use and can be finicky at times. Considering all the other options, it might not be worth it unless you really like this method. If you already have one, it’s easy to test out and see if you like it. Setup is like any other Bluetooth device. Open the Settings app, tap on the Bluetooth tab and pair it. The camera app should take a photo or start a video when the button on the remote is pressed. This option can be handy for large group shots in noisy environments.

What about time-lapse videos?

Technically, the iPhone can take time-lapse videos in the form of time-lapse videos. In this case, a photo is taken every few seconds, slowing down over time as the iPhone builds a collection of photos that are stitched together into a video that compresses time and speeds up the action.

iPhone’s Time-Lapse mode combines multiple photos into one video.

Apple’s Time-Lapse mode has virtually no control and automatically decides the delay between frames. The end result usually turns out quite well but never exceeds 40 seconds and is a bit jerky. There are several third-party apps that can create the kind of dreamy, motion-blur time lapses you see in movies.


The iPhone includes a self-timer option that works in both photo mode and portrait mode, but with a maximum delay of just ten seconds. Fortunately, there are simple solutions available for free or at little cost, which open up many more possibilities and offer much greater control. There is no longer any reason to rush to make a photo of it. The iPhone can be adjusted and accessorized to suit your needs.

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