Live Photos: How To Use This iPhone 6s Camera Feature

Live Photos is an exciting new camera feature on the latest iPhone 6s models that brings your photos to life by creating a moving image. Rather than freezing a moment in time with a still photo, you can now capture the moments just before and after you take the picture, complete with movement and sound. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to shoot, view and share Live Photos so that you can create unforgettable living memories with your iPhone.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 12

What Exactly Is A Live Photo?

A Live Photo captures 1.5 seconds of video and audio both before and after you press the shutter button to take a photo. So in addition to a 12 megapixel still JPEG image, you also get a 3 second Live Photo.

When you view a Live Photo, you don’t just see the still image that you took when you pressed the shutter button. Instead, you’ll see a 3 second moving image.

This allows you to relive the moments just before and after your photo was taken – complete with movement and sound!

As you can imagine, it’s great for photographing any scene with moving subjects or interesting sounds.

Here’s a 3 second Live Photo taken at the beach that captures the movement of the water and people. Just hit the Play button to view it:

In addition to the Live Photo, remember that the iPhone also captures a still image from the exact moment you pressed the shutter button. Here’s the still photo from the same shot:

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 11

How Does It Work?

So how does the iPhone know to record video for the 1.5 seconds prior to your still image if you haven’t pressed the shutter button yet?

It’s actually quite simple. With Live Photos enabled, the native camera app will start recording video as soon as you open the app.

That way, when you do press the shutter button, your iPhone has already captured the 1.5 seconds leading up to the button press, and it saves that along with the 1.5 seconds following the image capture.

All other video captured prior to the 1.5 seconds before you press the shutter will be discarded, so there’s no need to worry that the constant video recording will fill up your iPhone’s storage.

Now let’s take you through a complete step-by-step guide to shooting, viewing and sharing Live Photos with your iPhone.

1. Shoot A Live Photo

On your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, open the native camera app and make sure the shooting mode is set to Photo (you can’t shoot Live Photos in any of the other shooting modes).

The Live Photos button is the round icon shown on the left of the screenshot below. If the icon is yellow, Live Photos is switched on. If the icon is white, tap it once to turn on the Live Photos feature.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 27

When you switch on Live Photos, the word “Live” appears in a yellow box as shown above, but this will disappear after a couple of seconds.

Remember that the 1.5 seconds of video starts before you press the shutter button, so make sure you compose your shot and hold it there for a couple of seconds before you press the shutter.

If you don’t do this, the first part of your Live Photo will be of you moving the camera to frame the shot.

Likewise, remember that your iPhone will continue recording video for 1.5 seconds after you’ve pressed the shutter, so make sure you keep the phone still for a couple of seconds after taking the shot.

Also, be aware that Live Photos capture audio as well as video, so any sound will be heard in your Live Photo when you play it back.

If you need to tell your subject that you want them to move when you take the photo, make sure you do it at least a couple of seconds before you press the shutter to be sure that you don’t capture your voice in the Live Photo.

When you no longer want to shoot Live Photos, I’d recommend switching off the Live Photos feature so that the icon turns white.

The reason for this is that Live Photos take up a lot of storage space on your iPhone, so if you leave it on for every shot you may find that your phone quickly becomes full.

2. View Your Live Photos

Once you’ve taken a Live Photo, it appears in the native Photos app alongside your ordinary still photos.

Oddly, Apple didn’t create a separate album for Live Photos to go into automatically – like they did for Videos, Slo-mo, Bursts, etc. So Live Photos will only appear in your main photo library (All Photos or Camera Roll album).

It would be great if Apple add a Live Photos album in a future update because there’s no way of knowing whether an image is a Live Photo when you’re viewing your photo library in thumbnail view.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 16

For example, in the screenshot above, there are several Live Photos amongst these images, but it’s impossible to tell which ones they are when viewing them like this.

So how do you know which of your images are Live Photos? Well, they only appear as Live Photos when you view the images full screen.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 18

Tap an image thumbnail to open it, then press down firmly on the screen (harder than you’d press for an ordinary screen-tap) anywhere on the photo. This makes use of the new pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology on the iPhone 6s.

If the image is a Live Photo, the video that you captured will begin to play, complete with sound. If it’s not a Live Photo, nothing will happen when you press down on the screen.

When viewing a Live Photo, you’ll need to keep your finger pressed down on the screen. As soon as you remove it, the video will stop playing.

If you’re swiping across the screen to view the different images in your photo library, you’ll notice that any Live Photos will show a short burst of the recorded video – this is the only way to tell whether it’s a Live Photo without pressing down on the image.

While you can only shoot a Live Photo with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models, you can share them to other Apple devices such as an iPad or an older iPhone, as long the device is running iOS 9.

The only difference is that older iPhones and iPads don’t have the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen, so you have to keep your finger on the Play button to view the Live Photo. Unfortunately this is in the middle of the screen, so your finger will obscure part of the photo.

If you have a Mac computer running OS X El Capitan, you’ll also be able to view your Live Photos via the Photos app on your Mac. Just click on the Live button at the bottom left of the image (shown below) to play the Live Photo.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 17

3. Use The Live Photo Editing Options

When you open a Live Photo, you’ll see the familiar “Edit” option at the top right of the screen. However, you can’t actually edit a Live Photo, so let’s take a look at what the Edit option actually offers you.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 19

Once you’ve tapped Edit, you’ll see the normal editing screen (shown above) that you get for any ordinary photo.

But if you tap any of the editing tools on the screen, a message will appear telling you that editing turns off Live Photo.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 20

So if you choose to go ahead and edit it, the video and sound embedded in the Live Photo will be turned off, and the edits will only be applied to the still image (the actual photo that was captured at the moment you pressed the shutter button).

However, if you do choose to convert your Live Photo to a still image for editing, you can easily revert it back to the original Live Photo at any time.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 21

Simply tap the Edit option, then tap Revert at the top right. On the message that appears, tap Revert to Original.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 22

Another option you have under the Edit facility is to simply switch from a Live Photo to a still image (without making any edits).

So when you’re viewing a Live Photo, tap Edit, then tap the blue Live Photos icon to convert it to a still photo. The icon will turn white to indicate that it’s no longer a Live Photo. Tap Done to confirm.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 23

In the screenshot above you can see that the Live Photos icon at the bottom left is white. This means that it’s now a still image with no Live Photo video or sound.

You can revert back to the original Live Photo at any time by tapping Edit, then tapping the Live Photos icon so that it turns blue. Tap Done to confirm.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 24

4. Share Your Live Photos

Once you’ve shot some great Live Photos, you’ll probably want to share these moments with family and friends.

You can easily share Live Photos to other iOS 9 devices such as an iPhone or iPad using iMessage, AirDrop or iCloud Photo Sharing.

Simply open your Live Photo in the Photos app, then tap the Share icon (square with up-arrow) at the bottom left of the screen (as shown in the left-hand screenshot below).

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You can choose whether you want to send it as a Live Photo or still image by tapping the Live icon at the top left of the selected image. In the right-hand screenshot above, you can see that the Live feature has been switched off.

You can now select the sharing option you want to use, e.g. iMessage, Airdrop, etc. Note that you can’t email a Live Photo – if you email it, the attachment will just be the still JPEG image.

If you send a Live Photo to someone with an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, they’ll be able to use 3D Touch to play the Live Photo by pressing down firmly on the screen.

If you send a Live Photo to an older iPhone or an iPad, the recipient will just need to keep their finger held on the screen to play it.

5. Upload Your Live Photos To Facebook & Instagram

As well as sharing your Live Photos to other iPhones and iPads, you might also want to share them on social media.

Facebook and Tumblr already allow you to share Live Photos, and eventually more social media platforms are likely to support Live Photos too.

Note that if you want to share a Live Photo on Facebook, you can’t use the Facebook sharing option directly from the Photos app.

Instead, you need to upload the photo from within your Facebook app. From there, you can choose whether you want to share it as a Live Photo or still image by tapping the Live icon at the bottom right of the photo as shown below.

Live Photos Apple iPhone 6s 28

When sharing Live Photos on Facebook, they’ll play when viewed on an iOS device, but they only seem to appear as a still image when using Facebook on a computer.

Instagram doesn’t yet support the use of Live Photos, however, there is a workaround that you can use which involves using a third-party app such as Lively (free to download from App Store) to convert the Live Photo to a Movie.

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Simply open the Live Photo in the Lively app, then select Movie at the top of the screen. Tap Export Movie, then tap the Save icon. This saves the Live Photo as an ordinary video file in your photo library.

You can then open your Instagram app and upload the video from your library.

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Before posting the video to your Instagram feed, you can use the filters and video editing tools to enhance your Live Photo before posting. In the screenshot above you can see that a black and white filter has been applied.

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Live Photos introduces a whole new dimension to digital photography. Now you can capture more than just a still photo whenever you press the camera’s shutter button.

While you probably won’t use the Live Photos feature for all of your shots, it’s perfect for capturing any scene with movement, such as waves crashing onto the shore, a river or waterfall, trees swaying in the wind, or a busy street scene.

It’s also great for scenes where the sound would add an extra sensory element to the image, such as birdsong or the sound of water when you’re shooting out in nature.

Live Photos works really well when photographing people – especially children – as it allows you to capture those fun little “out-take” moments from just before and after the photo is taken.

Without Live Photos, you wouldn’t be able to preserve these special little moments.

Remember that for a perfect Live Photo, you need to keep your iPhone held in position for a couple of seconds before and after pressing the shutter. If you keep in mind that you’re shooting a video, this will soon become second-nature.

Once you’ve taken some great Live Photos, make the most of these captured memories by sharing them with family and friends.

You can easily share to other iOS 9 devices, including older iPhones and iPads. And with a few simple steps, you can upload your Live Photos to Instagram and Facebook for all to see!

If you also want to take incredible photos with your iPhone, please join 138,712 subscribers who receive our free iPhone photography email tips that you won’t find anywhere on this website.

  • sanjuro

    It would be innovative if Windows Phones did not introduce these kind of Live images technology long time ago on the Lumia Phones, but I appreciate Apple’s decision to put this technology on their smartphones 🙂

    • Jon

      Just edit the live photo on the iPhone and it will tell you that when you do so it will only save he main still image.

  • Carl de Cordova

    just took 30 pictures on new iphone 6s+ at an event and had the live photos feature on. Imported them into Photos app and tried to upload into Google Slides and then instagram. Neither will take .mov files. AND there is no way in Photos to bulk export just the still image. Couldnt find an app that converts .mov to stills. Spent an hour scratching my head. Ended up using iMovie and saving the keyframes one at a time. This is kinda BS and really made me wish I had known about this before I started shooting the pictures. Very frustrating to have to do em one at a time.

    • King
    • arun

      Apple is an arrogant company!

    • Blue Moon

      I use an app called “Lively” (free from the App Store). It allows you to pick a frame and do whatever you want with it as a still.

    • Lorie Gardner ~ The Gardners G

      Thank YOU!!!!
      Great app Easy to get that perfect picture! Those few seconds to scroll through help finding almost everyone in a great smile, eyes open etc than just the one still pic option.
      Thank YOU again for suggesting Lively ❤️

    • Chris Altman

      There are at least 5 apps that allow you to do that for ANY video for any phone.

    • Trythis Last

      Could you name 3?

  • Colin P. Lentz, DDS

    In the 1.5 seconds of video that it takes before and after the photo. Are you able to extract/use one of the images from the recorded video before or after the still photo?

    I have a picture of my one year-old son being very cute. But the best part of the live photo is in the video at the very end. I would like to be able to save that part of the video and edit it like a picture.

    I can’t even figure out how to slow/pause the video playback in hopes that I might be able to grab a screenshot.

    It’s OK if I can’t do it, I was just thinking that I’m missing something.

    Thank you for your response.

  • Irinel

    Hello, I am new here. I bought an iphone 6s and I’m very enthused of LIVE PHOTOS. But after restoration from my old iphone 6, in camera roll the photos don’t show a short burst of the recorded video, anymore. Just if I do a long press on the image, this will play back few seconds. Can someone please help me with a setting advice?
    Thank you very much.

    • Angie

      I’ve just experienced the same too! All the default factory installed live photos and album have disappeared since restoring from my iPhone 6 backup

    • Irinel

      Ok, thank you. So there is no chance to setting up again this default factory setting, for live photos and album?

    • Angie

      I dont know, i only got the 6s today, your post is exactly what i wanted to ask & I was hoping someone had an answer too

    • Irinel

      🙂 I understand, I’ll continue to search, and if I’ll find something, I’ll let you know. If you will find something first, please tell me.

    • Angie

      from apple: the photos on the phones in the store were simply created so you could see what live photos look like, but you do not get those same live photos on your device. You can create your own and you can create your own Live Photos album too

    • Irinel

      Ok, but how can we create an Live Photos album? I have try to add album and put there some live photos but still not working. It is another way to create it?

    • Scrappy Doo w/ the duece duece

      Just turn it on its a little circle icon at the top, when your in the camera.hope this helps.

    • Christopher Thuraisingham

      I have the exact same problem after I restored my iPhone 6 content to my 6S 🙁

    • Hanson Wong

      do u solve this problem? i’m facing this problem too.

  • Bill Weldon

    Live Photo only takes sense if you can extract full resolution photos from them. You cannot. Therefore a complete waste of space.

  • Angela Baber

    I have a 6 plus and the live button isn’t on my screen when i go to take a photo. Any suggestions? And, yes, my software is all up to date.

    • Ally Proven

      You need a 6s or 6s Plus for this feature.

    • Angela Baber

      Thank you Ally!!

    • Hi Angela. The Live Photos feature is only available on the 6s and 6s Plus models I’m afraid.

    • Angela Baber

      Thanks so much Kate!!

  • Gift

    What if there is no sounds when playing the live photos?

    • some dude

      there isnt… its basically a gif. there is no sound.

    • Live photos do record sound 🙂

    • Azlinda Ali

      Yes, live photos do record sound :). To hear the sound, your ringer should not be on vibrate. Just discovered this today 🙂

    • Yes, that’s definitely correct! 🙂

    • After you’ve taken a live photo, then hold your finger down on the photo and you will hear the sound.

    • Ah yes, thank you Rosa – I should have mentioned that too 🙂

    • Live photos do record sound, so it should be there as long as you have your volume turned up.

    • When you have taken a live photo, to hear the sound you have to press your finger down on the actual live photo then you will hear the sound. It took me a while to figure this out.

  • Ann Wiechmann

    I’m wondering if you can edit the still of the Live Photo in another app like Snapseed, then save a copy. Would you then still have the original Live Photo?

    • Hi Ann. Yes, you’ll still have the original Live Photo if you edit it in Snapseed 🙂

  • Rita Norton

    If I delete the .mov part of the “live photo” does it have any impact on the .jpg of the still photo that I want to keep?

    • Hi Rita. It shouldn’t have any effect as they should be two separate files 🙂

  • Trythis Last

    My iPhone 6s+ does not show the live photo target icon
    How do I find/ activate it?

    • Qb

      mine doesn’t either.

  • Chris Altman

    This is bs..its just like video,just different marketing

  • Trythis Last

    I went to a dinner tonight
    There were 4 iPhone 6s and one 6s+
    Only one had the Live Picture icon and it worked… But it did not seem to be 3 second…. Shorter, like 1 sec

    Does anyone know settings to bring up the icon

  • Melissa Rand

    I have an iPhone 6 Plus and don’t have the option on my camera. What’s wrong? I downloaded the update. Is there a setting in the settings I need to turn on??

    • Hi Melissa. Are you definitely shooting in “Photo” mode, as opposed to Square or one of the other shooting modes? Live Photos is only available in the “Photo” mode.

    • Melissa Rand

      Yes, I’m in regular picture mode.

    • Susie Stockholm

      You need to have the 6S or 6S+ for live photos.

    • Hi Melissa, Susie is right. Sorry, I didn’t notice that you have the 6 Plus and not the 6S Plus. Live photos is only available on the 6S and 6S Plus models.

  • golden cindy

    like SnapChat…

  • Jyothika

    It’s called a video.. :3

  • Serenella Severini

    Can you save one the frames from the 1,5 seconds before the actual pic as a pic itself? Example: if in the actual photo I have my eyes closed but in the frame before I don’t, can I save that as an actual photo?

    • Laine Rudolfa

      Unfortunately, you can’t. The actual shot is taken the moment when you tap the shutter button.

    • Serenella Severini