Live Photos was introduced with the iPhone 6s along with a 3D Touch-enabled display and an improved camera - but what is Live Photos, and how do you use it? Read on to find out and learn our top Live Photo tips.
(We also have a great round-up of the 47 best iPhone camera tips that you might like to read next).
First, let's talk about what Live Photos actually does. When you capture a Live Photo you're actually getting a second and a half of audio and video before and after you press the shutter button.
This results in moving photos that you'd be forgiven for thinking we straight out of Hogwarts. They're actually low frame rate videos (15fps).
You can capture a Live Photo if you are using an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus. Both the rear and front-facing cameras are capable of capturing Live Photos, too. (Our guide to figuring out which iPhone you have could come in handy here).
How to take a Live Photo
To take a Live Photo, open up the Camera app and Enable Live Photos by tapping the icon that looks like a bull’s eye at the top of the screen (between HDR and timer) it will turn yellow when it’s on.
There are a few things to be aware of when taking Live Photos. The second and a half of video starts actually before you press the button, so make sure you already have the shot in frame before pressing the shutter button or part of you photo will be you framing the shot.
The same goes for after you press the shutter button, so don’t click and immediately turn the phone towards the ground.
Also, beware; Live Photos captures audio at the same time. Shouting at the person to move while you take the shot will be heard loud and clear on the end product.
We recommend that you don’t keep Live Photos on all the time, especially if you have an iPhone with 16GB storage. To turn off Live Photos tap the bull’s eye at the top of the screen so it goes white.
Live Photos taken with the rear-facing camera on the 6s and 6s Plus are 12-megapixels. If you take Live Photos with the front facing camera it will be 5-megapixels.
When we imported Live Photos via Image Capture on a Mac we could see that each of the Live Photos is made up of a .mov file of around 3-4MB and a jpg of about 2-5.4MB. These would certainly fill up a 16GB iPhone quickly if you became too trigger-happy, or if you accidentally leave Live Photos switched on so keep this in mind.
Great places to capture Live Photos include in the countryside with birds singing, or beside a babbling brook.
In our experience Live Photos didn’t work well in low light. This is probably because the phone is recording 15fps video, so it can’t really take in a decent amount of light.
Of course you could capture some great audio along with your Live Photo. Perhaps your Live Photo of your child also captures them saying something particularly amusing.
Speaking of children, this is where Live Photos really comes into its own. Kids (and for that matter animals) tend not to stay still for very long and Live Photos gets around this by taking a ‘picture’ that includes the movement.
How to view Live Photos
Once you have taken a live photo you can view it in the Photos app on your phone (or tap the thumbnail of the image you’ve just taken in the bottom corner to be taken straight to it).
Open the image and hard press on the photo to play it. You can view Live Photos on other Apple devices running iOS 9 or later or Macs running OS X El Capitan or later. To view a Live Photo on an older iPhone or an iPad, use a long press to play the ‘video’.
We expected to be able to view Live Photos on an Apple Watch running watchOS 2, but unfortunately, the only way to view it as a Live Photo is by setting the photo as a watch face. Pressing a photo in the Photos app on the watch didn't activate motion. This remains the case on the Apple Watch Series 2 and watchOS 3.
It is straightforward to view any Live Photos on a Mac running El Capitan in Photos and Preview. Just click on the image.
How to edit Live Photos
You can edit Live Photos in iOS 10. Simply tap the Edit button (it looks like three sliders) and you can adjust the angle of the image, add a filter and more as you would with a standard photo.
How to turn Live Photos into gifs
What if you've taken a great Live Photo, and want to turn it into a GIF for use on social media? While the functionality isn't officially offered by Apple, Google's Motion Stills app, which turns Live Photos into GIFs and makes them look a lot better in the process.
How? Well, one of the biggest complaints about Live Photos to date is that they aren't stable - due to the low frame rate of the Live Photos, any motion is translated into big jumps and this can ruin the photo.
However, Motion Stills analyses every frame of the Live Photo and automatically stabilises it for you, potentially turning a shaky view of the beach into a beautiful seaside GIF.
Users can also stitch multiple Live Photos together, and have the option of exporting it as a video or a GIF ready for sharing.
If, for whatever reason you object to Google's Motion Stills app, you can turn your Live Photo into a GIF using your Mac too.
Plug your iPhone into your Mac and open Image Capture. Download the .mov file to your Mac. Next you will need some GIF making software – we have an article on creating GIFs here.
How to find Live Photos on your iPhone
If you open the Photos app intending to view your Live Photos you may be surprised that there is no obvious way to determine if an image is Live or not.
For reasons best known to Apple, the company hasn’t added a Live Photos album like it has for other photo categories.
Some users have suggest that there is a circular icon to identify Live Photos, but we didn’t see that on our phone, apart from when we had selected a photo for sharing, in that view we could see the Live icon.
How to share Live Photos
You can share your Live Photos to another iOS device using iMessage, AirDrop, or by sharing a photo album via iCloud.
If you send Live Photos to another compatible you will be able to use 3D touch to activate the Live Photo by pressing on it hard. If you send the Live Photo to an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, or any older iOS device, the live photo will play when you ‘long tap’ touch the screen.
You can also view Live Photos on a Mac – but only if it is running OS X El Capitan or later. You can AirDrop or Message it to the Mac.
Strangely, you can’t email Live Photos to any devices. The email attachment is always just a jpg.
You can send Live Photos to an older iPhone or iPad by AirDrop or iMessage, but it won’t play the video aspect of it, all you will see is the jpg.
Nor can you send Live Photos to a non-Apple smartphone. We tried sending one to an Android phone and the message didn’t even go through. We also tried sending one via Whatsapp but all that was sent was the jpg.
You can share Live Photos on Facebook but only iOS devices on iOS 9 or later will see the animated version, everyone else will see a still image.
How to share a Live Photo with devices that can't view Live Photos
There is a way to view Live Photos on a pre-El Capitan Mac. Plug the iPhone in and open Image Capture and you will see a jpg and .mov file for each of your ‘photos’. Download the .mov file to see your Live Photos (which is essentially a movie).
You can take this .mov file and send it to any other device, or upload it to Facebook or any other social network. Of course you are really sharing a movie file, not a live photo, you'd be right in thinking you should have just videoed the moment and sent that...
Does Live Photo use up battery?
Live Photo starts recording as soon as you open the app in order that it can record those 1.5 seconds of footage before you hit the shutter button. For that reason it can be quite battery intensive – after all, the camera is one of the most battery intensive apps on the iPhone.
We’d suggest caution should be implemented when using the camera app if you are running short on battery. Don’t leave the camera on when you aren’t planning to take a photo, for example.
Our wish list for Live Photo 2.0
We’d like to see the following features in the next update to Live Photos.
- We want an album specifically for Live Photos.
- We’d like to be able to edit Live Photos so we can choose where the video starts and ends.