Live Photos is a brilliant camera feature introduced with the iPhone 6s back in 2015 and supported by all the current models – but what is Live Photos, and how do you use it? Read on to find out more.
For more general photographic assistance, we have a round-up of the best iPhone camera tips that you might like to read afterwards.
If you are confused about why your iPhone is taking moving images and want to turn the feature off read: How to disable Live Photos on your iPhone or iPad
What is Live Photos?
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 three-second 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 or later. Both rear and front-facing cameras can do the job. (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 make sure you’re in the Photo mode – the feature isn’t available in Square, Portrait or any of the others.
Now look up at the little bullseye icon at the top of the screen – is the bullseye white or yellow? If white (with a strike through), the feature is turned off, and you need to enable Live Photos by tapping the icon.
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: It sounds weird, but you have to remember that Live Photos actually starts recording before you press the shutter: you get a second and a half before pressing, and another second and a half after. Make sure your framing is okay, then pause for a moment before taking the shot – or you’ll end up with random footage of the ceiling or the inside of your pocket.
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: We find that because we’re thinking in terms of video we tend to hold the shutter button for longer, but this means we end up with a series of Burst Mode photos. Tap the button quickly.
Beware audio: 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
low storage space. To turn off Live Photos, tap the bullseye at the top of the screen so it goes white.
Be size-wise: Live Photos can take up a lot of storage space. When we imported them to a Mac we found that each one is made up of a .mov file of around 3-4MB and a .jpg of about 2-5.4MB.
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’.
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. Simply tap the Edit button and you can adjust the angle of the image, add a filter and more, just as you would with a standard photo. You can also change the Key Photo – which is to say, the still image that then animates – by tapping a frame in the timeline at the bottom of the screen and then tapping Make Key Photo.
You can’t edit the length of the Live Photo in the Photos app, 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, open the Photos app and tap Albums at the bottom of the screen. Scroll down and you’ll find a Live Photos folder under Media Types.
When you’re viewing the photos in Album view you won’t be able to see if they’re live unless you select (tap) the photo. Then you will see a Live icon in the top left.
You will also see a circular icon to identify Live Photos when you select 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 device the recipient 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 older iOS device, the Live Photo will play when you ‘long tap’ the screen.
You can also view Live Photos on a Mac – but only if it’s 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 tutorials on
How to Add Live Photos to Instagram and
How to turn Live Photos into GIFs.
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’re really sharing a movie file, not a Live Photo.
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 biggest power consumers on the iPhone.
We’d suggest caution should be implemented when using the camera app if you’re running short on battery. Don’t leave the camera on when you aren’t planning to take a photo, for example.
You might also be interested in
how to use iMovie on the iPhone. We also have a guide to
making a video slideshow on your iPhone using Photos Memories.