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 were 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.
Now when you press the shutter button you will take a live photo, with movement and sound.
Tips for taking Live Photos
There are a few things to be aware of when taking Live Photos.
Frame your shot first: 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.
Don't move the camera: The same goes for after you press the shutter button, so don’t click and immediately turn the phone towards the ground.
Tap the button quickly: You also need to remember to press the shutter button quickly or you will end up in Burst Mode. We find that because we are thinking in terms of video we tend to hold the button for longer but we just end up with a series of Burst Mode photos.
Beware audio: 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.
Note: if you aren't getting sound with your Live Photos try sliding the mute button on the side of your phone. This will make the sound come back on. Unfortunately this isn't a way to turn the sound recording function off because the sound will always be there if you switch this slider over.
Turn it off: 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.
Be size wise: 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.
Be creative: Great places to capture Live Photos include in the countryside with birds singing, or beside a babbling brook.
Avoid low light: 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.
Listen out for audio opportunities: 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.
Find the kids: 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.
However, you can't edit the length of the Live Photo, unfortunately. This means that if you have a great Live Photo but you drop the phone down to the ground at the end, there is no way to chop off the bit at the end.
How to find Live Photos on your iPhone
If you want to view your Live Photos you will find a folder in your Albums section of the Photos app called Live Photos.
When you are viewing the photos in Album view you won't be able to see if they are live unless you select the photo. Then you will see a Live icon in the top right.
You will also see a circular icon to identify Live Photos, when you have selected a photo for sharing.
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. We describe how to do that here: How to share Live Photos to Facebook.
We also have a tutorial on How to Add Live Photos to Instagram.
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’d like to be able to edit Live Photos so we can choose where the video starts and ends.
- We'd like to be able to turn off audio permanently.