How to Use Live Photos on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

Apple's latest flagship handsets, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, are the first to include the ability to take Live Photos. A Live Photo is a combination of up to a three-second .mov file and a still .jpg file that is taken automatically when you press the shutter button in your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus camera app. It grabs up to 1.5 seconds of 960x720 video before and 1.5 seconds of video after you tap the shutter button.

The camera app on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus automatically starts recording the moment you open the app. Then, after you tap the shutter button, it saves only that 1.5 seconds beforehand and discards the rest.

That means, if you open your camera app and leave it open for a few minutes, your iPhone will be recording video the whole time. However, once you tap that shutter button, everything recorded prior to 1.5 seconds beforehand will be deleted.

To help you get the most of Live Photos, we've put together this guide for how to get the best Live Photos, and what to do with them afterward.

How to Take a Live Photo

Most iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices have Live Photos on by default. However, there have been cases where the feature is off.


  1. Open the Camera app on your iPhone.

  2. Tap the Live Photos icon in the center-top of the screen between HDR and the timer. It looks like a set of concentric circles.

  3. You will know when Live Photos is on when the icon is highlighted in yellow.

  4. The word "Live" will also appear at the top of the screen. This label will remain on until 1.5 seconds after you tap the shutter button. It signifies that the video recording is complete.

Your Live Photo is automatically stored in your Photos app, just like traditional photos are for non-iPhone 6s or 6s Plus users. However, when you use 3D Touch on the screen, they come to life.

How to Get the Best Live Photo Shot

Keep in mind when taking a Live Photo that the app is already recording beforehand. So, you don't want to jerk your iPhone around right before taking a picture. Instead, make sure you have a steady hand just before your shot and don't immediately put your device down right afterward, either. The camera will be recording for just a couple more seconds.

As of iOS 9.1, the iPhone's software automatically senses if the phone is being raised or lowered during the 1.5 seconds of video before or after a Live Photo is taken, and omits any video taken during that time. The feature results in potentially shorter Live Photo videos, but keeps the final product looking good by not including blurry footage taken by an iPhone in motion.

Live Photos also record audio, so keep that in mind when trying to grab a candid shot of your friends having drinks. Their conversation will be heard in the Live Photo, and all but three seconds of it will be cut off.

Adding a Live Photo to the Lock Screen

You can set a Live Photo as your Lock Screen wallpaper, and use 3D Touch to activate it at any time. It works almost the same way that you would add a traditional wallpaper, but with a couple of added steps.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and select "Wallpaper" from the list.

  2. Tap "All Photos" to choose a Live Photo that you've created.

  3. Select the Live Photo you wish to use and select "Set as Lock Screen."
When prompted, you can choose to set the image as a still, perspective, or Live Photo. Select Live Photo.

When prompted to set the image as your Lock Screen, Home Screen, or both, select Lock Screen. The animation of the Live Photo only works on the Lock Screen.

Sharing Live Photos

You can share your Live Photos with anyone running iOS 9 on their device, even if it's not an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus. Live Photos are also supported in OS X El Capitan.

Sharing Live Photos is similar to sharing traditional ones. Tap on the Live Photo to select it and then tap the Share icon in the bottom left corner of the screen. Then select the method for sharing, such as Messages, AirDrop, etc.

Live Photos are not supported in non-Apple services like Twitter and Facebook. If you wish to share the JPEG part of the Live Photo, tap the "Live" icon in the upper left corner of the picture to toggle it to the still image before sharing it.

How to View Live Photos on Older iPhones and iPads

As long as your iPhone or iPad is running iOS 9, you can view Live Photos. It works similarly to using 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus handsets, but instead of hard-pressing your screen, simply touch and hold the screen while the video plays. You must keep your finger on the screen for the duration of the video.

How to View Live Photos in El Capitan

Live Photos can only be viewed in Apple's Photos app on Mac computers running El Capitan. So, if you receive a Live Photo through AirDrop or something, you must first import it to the Photos app on Mac to view it. The Live Photo will automatically play when you click on it.


Editing Live Photos

The short version is that you can't. Even though the best part of the video may have taken place during the 1.5 seconds before or after you tapped the shutter, those video clips are off limits for editing.

You can edit the JPEG that was taken as part of the Live Photo in the Photos app, just like you can with traditional images. However, this will turn off the live portion of the photo entirely.

If you do decide to edit the JPEG of a Live Photo (add a filter, crop it, etc.) and decide you want the entire file back, tap the Edit button with the photo selected. Then, tap the Live Photo icon in the upper left corner. You will be prompted to revert the image to its original form.

How to Disable Live Photos

You probably don't want to keep Live Photos on at all times, as the feature is a bit of a storage hog. It creates two files, one .jpg and one .mov. Each fills up a couple of megabytes of space, and even though the video portion is taken at a lower resolution than the still image, Live Photos still roughly doubles the file size for each photo. So, you should only have Live Photos on when you are intending to use it.

To disable Live Photos, simply tap on the icon (the one that looks like concentric circles) at the top-center of the screen. You'll know when Live Photos is off because the icon will no longer be highlighted in yellow.

There are still some important things missing from Live Photos, like the ability to edit the full file or turn off audio recording. However, this is Apple's first version of the feature, so keep an eye out for further updates. As customers provide feedback, Apple might add something you thought would be good to have.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
50 months ago

Nice of Apple to screw up and complicate this so badly when everyone already knows what a GIF is and is so much simpler.


A losslessly compressed 1 megapixel GIF featuring a whole 256 colors.

Clearly you are the master of computers and are smarter than the engineers at Apple.
Rating: 8 Votes
50 months ago
Hated it after 2 days. The pics it takes are off by a split second.
Rating: 3 Votes
50 months ago

Hated it after 2 days. The pics it takes are off by a split second.

I admire you for keeping with this nonsense for 2 days. I turned off mine after shooting 3 pictures!
Rating: 1 Votes
46 months ago

yep, stopped using it after an hour or so. However the main complaint I have is the weird playback.

It seems the main pic is shown first, then everything goes out of focus and then the film sequence is played. This doesn't look smooth at all. I though in the beginning the camera was broken and so did most people that looked at it.

Also they should record a series of full resolution pics so that you can pic the perfect timed picture after the fact. But as it is now (and I understand the technical limitations) you can not pic a frame from half a second before or after in full resolution.

So to me it's more a distraction and a gimmick.

Actually your suggestion makes sense. The Apple camera app should have an edit function to a burst-mode-sequence that makes the .mov that goes with a chosen key frame. I've been looking for an app that can make a .mov from a burst-mode sequence.
Rating: 1 Votes
50 months ago
"That means, if you open your camera app and leave it open for a few minutes, your iPhone will be recording video the whole time. However, once you tap that shutter button, everything recorded prior to 1.5 seconds beforehand will be deleted"

that's obviously wrong. it would be an awful software design if it was storing Gbytes of useless data.
it just uses a cyclic buffer whose size is 1.5s. at any point in time, the frame prior to 1.5s gets replaced by the current frame.
Rating: 1 Votes
50 months ago
Is it just me or do the examples on Apple's website look CONSIDERABLY better quality than the ones that come out of the iPhone.... (6+!)
Rating: 1 Votes
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