If you use an iPhone, you are probably familiar with the Apple Live Photos option. Perhaps you’ve used it and taken Live Photos that you love and have shared. Or maybe you’ve been using it unknowingly.
As a photo organizer, I find that many of my clients are unaware they have this option activated, and are perplexed by it, as well as the storage space it consumes and the types of files it creates. If this is you, read on.
How to know if Live Photos is activated
Click on your camera icon. When Live Photos is on, there is a yellow bulls-eye circle illuminated at the top of your screen; when off, the icon is white with a diagonal line thru it. If you have an iPhone 6s or later this mode is on by default, so it’s up to the user to turn it off if not desired.
File types created by Live Photos
Shooting live photos creates multiple files – stills (HEIC and jpeg) and videos with audio. In your camera roll, they will only appear as a single photo. On a mobile device the photo becomes “live” when you press and hold it (usually capturing 2-3 seconds from the time you clicked the shutter). On a desktop, the movement can be seen when you select the image and hover over it.
If you want to see them as video files, you’ll need to export them from Photos on your desktop computer:
Select a Live Photo in Photos, then: File>Export>Export Unmodified Original. This will export two files, one still image and one video of the few seconds captured, with sound.
I suggest creating a separate folder for these and periodically reviewing them to see if they are worth keeping long-term. They take up more space and if you find yourself either running out of storage in your iCloud or having to buy more, these files are contributing to that. Keep this in mind as the year progresses and you contribute to your photo collection. This is why it’s important to edit your photos on a regular basis. My photo organizer mantra is, “Save the best, delete the rest!”
Subjects to avoid with Live Photos
You may be inspired by a menu at a restaurant, so you take a photo and text it to a friend. Be sure you are not taking a Live Photo. The same holds true with photos taken of documents or receipts. Why is this bad? A) It’s not that interesting to have a photo that moves of a receipt, and B) You’re taking up more memory than is necessary on your phone and in your iCloud. Be sure Live Photos is turned off when taking photos where it doesn’t benefit the subject!
Additionally, burst mode and HDR files also take up a fair share of storage space, so pay attention to these files as well. A quick aside about burst photos: I love shooting them and creating quick gifs and flip books.
What to use the Live Photos option for
When trying to capture a moving subject without audio, I use burst mode (as noted above). But my husband enjoys the playfulness, creativity and immediacy of Live Photos when applying the looping and bounce effects. Apple recently added these. To access them, take a Live Photo then click on the image and swipe up to see four options: Live (default), Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. I recommend trying each one out to see some fun, unexpected results.
Live Photos can also work nicely for capturing small snippets of sound and movement like ocean waves, fireworks, birds flying and singing, etc. Emil Pakarklis has more excellent suggestions at his iPhone Photography School site if you want to explore the range of options that this photo mode offers.