On its latest devices, Apple looked for a way to take pictures to a new level. Its solution was to merge them with videos so that still images can also move.
When taking a Live Photo, along with the still image the camera will also record three seconds of video with sound. The overall effect is a bit Harry Potter (the Daily Prophet newspaper front page, at least), but it can be quite a bit of fun.
Taking a Live Photo is straightforward. In the Camera app, there’s a bullseye at the top of the screen. Tap this so it turns yellow and a small note saying “Live” appears. With this setting on, all pictures made are both still images and short videos, whether the front- or rear-facing camera is used. With it off, just regular pictures are taken.
Tips for Taking Good Live Photos
Because they are different from both still images and videos, a bit of practice is necessary to get the full benefit of Live Photos. We recommend you do some playing around with this feature to get the timing right before trying to capture anything important. This is necessary because the video portion will begin a second or so before the shutter is pressed.
Here’s an example of how this plays out. If you want a video of your child saying “I love you very much!” and you press the the shutter button when she says “I” then the Live Photo will include a second or so of her waiting for you to press the shutter, then cut off before she gets to “much.” It’s counterintuitive, but the right time to press the shutter is when she says “you”. As we said, some practice is required.
Also, there’s sometimes a tendency to press the shutter again to end the recording, which just results in another Live Photo being taken.
This may sound obvious, but Live Photos works best on subjects that won’t stay still, like children or pets. Pointing a camera at an adult generally makes them freeze into place, which makes for a poor moving image. But puppies, kittens, and kids work much better.
If what you want is a good still image, then it might be best to just take a regular picture. Thinking about getting a good short video — which is what a Live Image really is — tends to distract the mind away from also getting the picture you really want. Similarly, if you really want a video, take a video.
Viewing and Sharing Live Photos
All that’s necessary to see the video portion of a Live Photo you’ve just taken is to go to the still image in the Photos app and then press on it. The image will blur, then the video portion will play.
Only the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can take this type of picture, but they can be viewed on any device running iOS 9, like an iPad where they can be seen better. Getting the images onto the other device isn’t as easy as it could be, however. Using Apple’s AirDrop was the best method we found, as Live Images that had been emailed did not arrive with the video portion still attached.
Developers have also stepped up with iOS apps designed for turning Live Photos into animated GIFs. Live GIF by Priime is one that caught our eye, and there will be certainly be others. This can also be done on the desktop with animated GIF makers. Both Facebook and Twitter support animated GIFs, and as of this writing, Apple claims Facebook will support Live Photos. There is no word on whether Twitter will do the same.
It’s possible to access the video separately from the still image, but only by using a laptop or PC. When we connected our iPhone to a Windows computer and viewed the contents of the mobile device, we found that every Live Image was accompanied by a MOV file of the same name. This video can be copied and played on any device.
Once again, it’s important to note that Live Photos are stills accompanied by a short video clip (about 45 frames at 15 frames per second), not just a burst of stills. This means that they occupy about twice the space as regular photos. Especially those with 16GB iPhones will want to think twice about leaving this feature on by default.