Everything you need to know about Live Photos on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus


With a next-generation A9 processor and much-improved camera sensor, Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus come with a number of neat new camera features — one of which is Live Photos, which has received heaps of praise in early reviews.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new Live Photos feature and how it works.

As Apple explained during its iPhone 6s unveiling earlier this month, Live Photos works by saving not only the photo you take when you hit the shutter button, but also those that are captured 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds afterwards.

Instead of getting just one image, then, you get a whole bunch — 45 to be precise — and these are all thrown together to create an MOV file that is combined with your standard 12-megapixel JPG image. Together, these provide you with a Live Photo that comes to life.

Anatomy of iPhone 6s Live Photo

Although some may see Live Photos as a gimmick, many reviewers believe it is an excellent addition to the iPhone’s camera. Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal calls it “the phone’s best new feature,” while The New York Times’ Brian X. Chen says it “became an enjoyable, integral part of shooting photos with an iPhone.”

There are some downsides to Live Photos, however, one of which is how much storage it requires. Because they are more than just still images, they take up around twice as much space as a standard 12-megapixel photo. This could be a major issue for those who take a lot of photos — especially if they chose the entry-level 16GB iPhone.

With that in mind, some say it’s best to disable the Live Photos feature, and only turn it when you really want to shoot a Live Photo. Otherwise you end up with a camera roll chock full of moving images, and most of which were likely intended to be stills only.

The other downside is compatibility. Because of the way in which Apple combines a JPG with an MOV video, Live Photos cannot be viewed everywhere. They will work on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches running iOS 9, Apple Watches running watchOS 2, and Macs running OS X El Capitan — but on third-party devices they will appear only as still images.

When imported to older versions of OS X, Live Photos are split into their JPG and MOV components.

The final downside is the learning curve associated with Live Photos. As Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch explains:

Because the frame rate is relatively low, moving the camera a ton while you shoot them or having a subject move will display a bit of jitter. If, however, you’re shooting a still image with some moving elements, the effect is extraordinary.

Brian X. Chen points out a couple of other downsides with regards to editing and audio:

I’d like the option to disable that because images alone can speak loudly enough. You also can’t edit Live Photos. You can only apply an edit to the still frame, but not the motion frames. It would be ideal to at least be able to make minor adjustments to Live Photos, like increasing brightness or contrast.

Despite the teething troubles, Live Photos is generally considered a welcome addition to the iPhone’s camera app. Exactly how integral they will become to iPhone photography will become apparent over the coming months after the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus make their debut this Friday.

Until then, you can enjoy some of Joanna Stern’s Live Photos samples.