How To Master iPhone Live Photo


This guide covers everything you need to know about creating and sharing Live Photos on iPhone.


The iPhone Live Photos setting was introduced back in iOS 9 for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Live Photos captures 1.5 seconds of movie and sound before and after a still photo. When viewed back on a supported device, the still image appears to come to life. As of iOS 11, Live Photos supports loop, bounce and long exposure effects.

Live Photos can only be created on an iPhone 6s or later, they can be viewed on iOS devices that run iOS 9 or later, Apple Watch running watchOS 2 or later, and Mac OS X El Capitan or later. On other devices, Live Photos appear as standard JPG photos.

1. How to Create A Live Photo

Creating a Live Photo could not be easier. 

Select 'Photo' mode at the bottom of the Camera app. To toggle Live Photos on or off tap the circular symbol camera app function bar, it turns yellow when ON. Live Photos defaults to ON on new devices.

  • Open the Camera app.

  • Set Camera mode to 'Photo' and the Live Photos symbol is yellow.

  • Hold your iPhone still.

  • Tap the white shutter button .

To toggle Live Photos on or off tap the circular symbol.

To toggle Live Photos on or off tap the circular symbol.

2. How to View a Live Photo

The Live Photo can be viewed as normal in the Photos app. iOS also puts the image in a separate album titled 'Live Photos'. In iOS 11 it will identify Live in the upper left corner of the image. In the Photos app, firmly press and hold on the photo.

  • Open the Photos app.

  • Find the photo. View by pressing and holding.

3. Create Live Photo effects

In iOS 11 and later, creative effects can be added to a Live Photo. Swipe upwards on the photo and reveal thumbnail previews of the effects. 

  • Open the Live Photo.

  • Swipe up to see the choice of effects.

  • Choose Loop, Bounce, or Long Exposure.

Loop: Turn a Live Photo into a repeating video loop. 

Bounce: Make your Live Photo play endlessly back and forth. 

Long Exposure: Magically blur the moving elements of your photo.


4. How To Change your key photo

You can use change the key photo by choosing from the range of frames that make up your Live Photo. Once you've selected a new frame and tapped on 'Make Key Photo', the selected frame will be the main image that displays in your camera roll and the image that's sent if you share the photo with someone else. 

  • Choose the Live Photo.

  • Tap Edit.

  • Move the slider to view the frame.

  • Release your finger, then tap Make Key Photo.

  • Tap Done.

You can also toggle Live Photo effect off when you Edit. This is non-destructive and If you change your mind, tap again in Edit.

5. How to Share A Live Photo in iOS 11

You can share your photo as a Live Photo or a still image to users with the latest iOS or Messages for Mac. Additionally, iOS 11 will store Loop, Bounce and Long Exposure animations as GIFs that can be shared freely to all platforms.

With iOS 11 animated Live Photos can be turned into GIFS.

  • Create a Live Photos effect as explained in section 4 - 'Create Live Photos Effect'

  • Once you’ve chosen the desired effect, the photo will appear in a new album in the Photos App called 'Animated Album'.

  • The animated photo is saved as a GIF, ready to be shared to the platform of your choice.

6. How To Share A Live Photo with Lively App

For advanced sharing to almost all platforms, check out the Lively app on the app store. The app allows GIF and Movie making from Live Photos. You can share your Live Photos on iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, Slack, Tumblr and more. 

Lively gives you full control of your GIFs with extensive editing features: trim, play backward, auto reverse and speed control. GIF size can be edited too. Lively lets you export for free with a watermark, a single in-app purchase will remove the watermark. You need an iPhone 6S/6S Plus or above to capture Live Photos.

You can still use the app on older iPhone, just get your friends to send you one via iMessage.

The Lively App has a simple interface for creating GIFs and Movies from Live Photos.

The Lively App has a simple interface for creating GIFs and Movies from Live Photos.

7. Things To Consider With Live Photo

Live Photo is a brilliant way to quickly create fun clips for added interest and effect without any technical know-how or experience.

Live Photo is not a movie, it is an animation of multiple photos. Your Live Photo doesn't begin when you tap the shutter button, that actually is the mid-point of your Live Photo, the still that you capture is wrapped in 1.5 seconds of animation before and after.

When you open the iPhone Camera app with the Live Photos feature ON, it automatically begins taking pictures even if you don't tap the shutter button. It saves photos from before and after you take a photo and stitches all the photos together to make a smooth 3 seconds animation. The whole thing is a background process with the automated photos deleted if they're not needed.

The automated photos that make up the animation are of a lower resolution than the captured still frame. As an example, an iPhone X takes a regular shot at 4032 x 3024 pixels but when changing a key photo, that chosen image drops to 3662 x 2744 pixels. An image with an animated effect such as long exposure can be reduced to as low as 3281 x 2458 pixels.

Applying an effect or changing the key photo will crop the final image smaller towards the centre point. Try to leave some extra space around the edges of your shot if you intend to apply an effect later on. There will also be some softening to the animated image. This is especially noticeable in long exposure images. For the casual user these considerations may not be a limitation, for serious creatives though it can be a huge drawback to the photo’s potential when the image is viewed larger or printed.

Shooting with a tripod to ensure the capture is completely still may result in a higher resolution file, however the image will still be cropped and softened. Shooting with third-party apps is recommended if image quality is important.