How to get iPhone Live Photos down to a fine art

When I talk with others about Apple‘s new Live Photos feature on the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, they’re either unfamiliar with it or don’t quite exactly know how it works.

It’s not an exaggeration to say Live Photos transforms the whole idea of photography. It adds motion both before and after you take a picture and packages it together in one GIF-like 3-second shot. For example, you make take a photo of your friend smiling, but you’ll likely capture the little laugh they did too as they got ready for flash. By holding down your finger on the still photo, the 3-second clip will play.

How does it work? It captures 1.5 seconds before the shot by continuously recording a buffer that’s never stored unless you tap the shutter. It’s technically a video, but since it’s so short, it’s really more like a cinemagraph, GIF or what Apple calls “living memories.”

Apple’s take on Live Photos is really an outgrowth of how we create and consume visual content today. From Snapchat to Vine to novel apps like Boomerang, sharing this type of content is becoming more and more dynamic experience. Live Photos brings that concept to the iPhone‘s native functions.

But nailing the perfect Live Photo may be tricky at first — capturing blurry shots is bound to happen. After spending a bit more time with the feature — and with these tips below — you’ll be able to master the art of it once and for all. Let’s take a look:

How to take the best Live Photos

  • To take a Live Photo, open up the camera app. Scroll to the photo page, and click the yellow circle icon at the top middle. Press the shutter button when you’re ready.
  • Since Live Photos capture the moments before and after the photo is taken, you’ll want to remember to keep your hand steady.
  • A yellow box that says “Live” will appear when the feature is active. Wait for it to disappear so you know it’s no longer capturing. Sidenote: With iOS 9.1, the iPhone will automatically sense if it is being raised or lowered and will omit anything captured during that time — that way there aren’t any shots of the ground or random angles post-snapshot.
  • The 12MP still image is at the heart of a Live Photo, and it’s what people will initially see when they’re viewing your image. That being said, focus on what makes the best still photo first.
  • Capture it as though you’re taking a photo — not shooting a video — so don’t move the phone itself too much.
  • Live Photos give context to the moments we freeze, but action is only part of it. Sound also plays a part in our memories. Live Photos include audio, so keep in mind the environment you’re in. If you’re giving someone a countdown, use your fingers to count down 3, 2, 1, instead of saying it out loud.

When to use Live Photos

    • Since Live Photos record such a brief moment in time, subtle movements work great with this feature (i.e. the smile at the end of a giggle, or a breeze blowing through someone’s hair).
    • Anything related to your pet, obviously.

Landscapes can come to life with movement. When you’re at the beach, show the waves rolling in. If you’re at the park, see the leaves swaying in the wind.

  • Focus on a subject in the foreground but capture people walking in the distance. This gives a hustle-bustle tone to the image.
  • Photobombs. Now you can actually catch the culprits in the process.
  • Fireworks. Let’s be real — regular photos have never done them justice.[related-posts]

When not to use Live Photos

  • Showing off your Starbucks drink.
  • Capturing a meal. Unless it’s flambéed, then that would be cool.
  • Selfies. Love thy selfie, but not sure we want to see all the readjusting you did for the right shot.

Tips to keep in mind

  • You can use a Live Photo as your iPhone lock screen wallpaper. Add the photo as you would a still image as your wallpaper and when prompted, select Live Photo. You can even take a Live Photo and make it a watch face on your Apple Watch.
  • Live Photos take up twice as much storage as a regular photo, so choose your moments wisely.
  • You can share Live Photos with anyone running iOS 9 or OS X El Capitan.
  • Anyone with previous-generation iPhones and iPads running iOS 9 can view Live Photos. Simply tap and hold down on the display. Remember, you can touch the black border surrounding the image, so you’re not covering the Live Photo with your finger.
  • On Macs running El Capitan, import the Live Photo into the Photos app. The Live Photo will automatically play when you click on it.
  • You can even view Live Photos on Apple TV through AirPlay. We know what the family is doing around the fire this holiday.
  • The Facebook app also supports Live Photos.



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