Live Photos is an exciting iPhone camera setting 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. Live Photos also lets you apply loop or bounce video effects, and convert your Live Photos into stunning long exposure images. In this tutorial you’ll learn how to use the Live Photos camera feature to create unforgettable living memories with your iPhone.
What Is 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 high quality still JPEG image, you also get a 3 second Live Photo.
The Live Photo feature was introduced with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus back in September 2015. It’s also available in the camera app of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and the latest model – the iPhone X.
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 the 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, 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:
How Do Live Photos 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.
How To Use Live Photo
So how do you actually use the Live Photo feature on your iPhone? Let’s take you through a step-by-step guide to shooting, viewing and sharing your own amazing Live Photos.
1. How To Take A Live Photo
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 option 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.
The Live Photos feature is switched on by default, but you can switch it off any time simply by tapping the yellow Live Photos icon.
When you switch on Live Photos, the word “Live” appears in a yellow box as shown above. 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, switch 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. How To Play Live Photos
Once you’ve taken a Live Photo, it will appear in the native Photos app alongside your ordinary still photos. You’ll also be able to find them in a separate album titled “Live Photos.”
Unfortunately, in thumbnail view, there’s no way of knowing just by looking whether an image in your photo library is a Live Photo.
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? One way is to simply tap the thumbnail once so it opens in full screen. If it’s a Live Photo the “LIVE” icon will be displayed – as shown below.
A second way is to use the iPhone’s “Peek and Pop” feature which makes use of the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch technology released with the iPhone 6s and found on all models since.
To “Peek and Pop,” simply tap and press an image thumbnail firmly until you feel a small, short vibration. A large preview of the image you clicked on is displayed. This is the “peek” part. If it’s a Live Photo then it’ll play a short clip, confirming it’s a Live Photo.
Next, without releasing pressure, you can continue pressing down even more firmly on the screen and you’ll enter full-screen mode – as pictured above. This is the “pop” part. Keep pressing to watch the entire 3 second video clip.
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.
You can only shoot a Live Photo with iPhones from the iPhone 6s/6s Plus onwards. But you can share them to other Apple devices such as an iPad or an older iPhone, as long that device is running iOS 9 or later.
The only difference when viewing a Live Photo on older iPhones and iPads is that they 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 or newer, 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.
3. How To Edit A Live Photo
You can edit Live Photos in the Photos app – just like you can with ordinary still images – but with some extra tools just for Live Photos.
When you open a Live Photo, tap Edit at the top right of the screen. The editing tools will appear as shown in the screenshot below.
These tools allow you to crop and rotate, apply a filter, or make lighting and color adjustments. The wand icon is an autocorrect option for quickly enhancing the exposure and color with a single tap.
To crop or rotate your Live Photo, tap the crop icon (square with arrows) to access the following screen.
To rotate the photo by 90 degrees, tap the Rotate icon. To free-rotate the image, move the large numbered dial clockwise or anticlockwise.
To select an aspect ratio for cropping, tap the rectangular Aspect Ratio icon and select the ratio you want to use, e.g. Square, 3:2, etc.
Drag the corner handles to crop the photo, and drag the image to reposition the crop if necessary.
To apply a colored or black and white filter to your Live Photo, tap the Filters icon (three overlapping circles) as shown on the right of the screenshot below.
Swipe through the list of filters, then simply tap a filter to apply it to your image.
For more control over exposure and color, tap the Adjustments button (dial icon) as shown on the right below. This gives you access to three different editing categories: Light, Color and B&W.
Tap on one of these three options to access a range of settings that you can adjust manually.
When you tap a setting, use the slider to make the adjustment, then tap the menu icon (three lines and dots) to return to the list of adjustments.
If the sound that was recorded with the Live Photo is distracting or you’d just prefer silence, tap the yellow speaker icon. A line will be struck through the speaker icon and sound won’t be played.
If you want to use a different key photo rather than the one you see in your photo library, simply move the slider at the bottom of the screen until the photo you want is displayed. Then tap Make Key Photo to confirm your choice. A white dot will appear over your chosen photo. A grey dot appears over the original key photo in case you ever wanted to go back to it.
When you’ve finished editing your Live Photo, tap Done at the top of the screen to save the changes.
If you decide later that you want to remove the editing you applied, you can easily revert back to the original Live Photo at any time. In the Photos app, find the Live Photo you want to revert, tap the Edit icon, then tap Revert.
On the message that appears, tap Revert to Original.
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 the Edit icon, then tap the yellow Live Photos icon to convert it to a still image.
The icon will turn white to indicate that it’s no longer a Live Photo. Tap Done to confirm.
In the screenshot above you can see that the Live Photos icon 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 yellow. Tap Done to confirm.
4. Add Live Photo Effects
Since iOS 11 your Live Photos can take on a whole new dimension with three amazing, fun effects – Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure.
To choose and apply a Live Photo effect, go to the Photos app and open the Live Photo you want to work with. Next, swipe up until you see Effects – as shown below.
By default, the Live option is selected. This is the normal Live Photo video without an effect being applied. Next to this, you’ll see thumbnail previews of the three effects – Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure. Tap on the one you want to use and the effect is applied straight away.
You can change your mind at any time by tapping on any of the other effects, or go back to the original Live version with no effect applied.
Let’s see what the three effects look like. But first, here’s our starting point – a basic Live Photo video with no effect applied.
You can turn any of your Live Photos into a video loop. Once the video ends it starts back at the beginning again, until you stop it. This works best for situations where the Live Photo captured the subject doing something in roughly the same area of the scene – e.g. someone skipping, juggling or dancing.
It can also work well where your subject enters and exits the scene during the original 3 second Live Photo – e.g. someone getting out of a vehicle and leaving the scene. The end result could look like hundreds of people leaving the vehicle!
Below we’ve turned the waterfall Live Photo into a loop.
When you apply the Bounce effect your Live Photo video will play as normal, but once it ends it will play in reverse straight away and repeat indefinitely.
With the Bounce effect applied, the waterfall example below looks rather unnatural now, but it’s certainly interesting!
The Long Exposure effect creates a single image by overlaying all the video frames from your Live Photo. This is most suitable for scenes which include moving water, fireworks, a moving car’s headlights or taillights, and scenes containing both stationary and moving elements. Regardless of the subject, it’s best to mount your iPhone on a tripod to ensure the stationary parts of the scene remain sharp.
With the Long Exposure effect applied, the waterfall Live Photo now looks really great.
Here’s another nice Long Exposure example where the water was circling around, rather than moving across the scene.
Whatever effects you try, be sure to experiment, use a tripod where possible and, most importantly, have fun!
5. How To Share 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).
You can choose whether you want to send it as a Live Photo or a 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 that 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 newer, they’ll be able to use 3D Touch to play the Live Photo by pressing down firmly on the screen.
6. How To Upload 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 a still image by tapping the Live icon at the bottom right of the photo as shown below.
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. You can then upload the video to Instagram.
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.
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: Conclusion
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. And the Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure effects take Live Photos to a whole new level of creativity.
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.
It’s worth repeating this important advice: For long exposures, you should always use a tripod. It really is one of the 6 essential iPhone photography accessories.
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!
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