Live Photos: The Complete Guide to the iPhone's Moving Pictures (Updated for iOS 13)

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

If you're interested in iPhone photography, you'll want to learn about Live Photos. Live Photos on the iPhone are three-second moving pictures that Apple first introduced with the iPhone 6s. If you’re not sure how to take a Live Photo, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. There’s a lot you can do with your iPhone moving pictures. We’ll cover how to take Live Photos, how to make your own live wallpaper with Live Photos, how to turn your Live Photo into a GIF or video, and much more. Here’s everything you need to know about taking Live Photos on iPhone.

Related: How to View Burst Photos on iPhone

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The new iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, XR, iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and even the iPhone SE are all able to take Live Photos. You can edit Live Photos, save stills of Live Photos, share live photos, and use Live Photos as live moving Wallpapers for your iPhone Lock screen. It's good to note that this article has been updated for iOS 13. Much is exactly the same as in earlier operating systems, including the ability to turn your Live Photo into a GIF from right within the Photos app, and choosing a different frame for a Live Photo to be the still image (Key Photo) you usually see. One exciting option that's entirely new to iOS 13 is the ability to turn two or more Live Photos into a video. Let's get started! 

iPhone Live Wallpaper Table of Contents

What Are Live Photos & How Do They Work?

How to Take Live Photos

How to View a Live Photo on Your iPhone

How to Edit a Live Photo: Changing the Key Photo (Still Image)

How to Convert & Save Stills of a Live Photo

How to Share Live Photos

How to Share Live Photos on Facebook

How to Turn a Live Photo into a GIF

How to Turn Live Photos into Videos

How to Set a Live iPhone Wallpaper with Live Photos

What Is a Live Photo & How Does It Work?

A Live Photo is an extremely short iPhone moving picture. Your iPhone captures the audio and video of 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after you tap the white shutter button to snap a photo. Live Photos is on by default so that the 1.5 seconds before can easily be recorded even though you haven’t tapped the shutter button yet. Any recording not part of the Live Photo is discarded, but it’s an important part of capturing those three seconds for your iPhone moving photos.

A brief section of a Live Photo will play in the Photos app when you it. Press and hold the image, to view the whole thing. Taking a Live Photo is nearly automatic, which I quite like because I don’t have to think about capturing a live picture in order to create one. I simply take my photos as usual, then later on, when I’m reviewing them, I can see if any make awesome Live Photos. Live Photos can be taken on an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and iPhone X and later; Mac users can also view them within the Photos app on Macs running OS X El Capitan or later.

You can turn Live Photos on and off by tapping the Live Photos icon at the top of the screen. With the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models, there is also an Auto option in addition to the regular On and Off tucked away in a new Camera control panel, along with some other settings.

How to Turn On Live Auto in the Camera Control Panel

  1. Tap the small gray arrow at the top of the screen on your iPhone 11 or 11 Pro.


     
  2. Tap the Live Photo icon.
  3. Tap Auto to turn on Live Auto. You can also turn Live Photos on or off from here.

    tap live photos icontap auto off or on
     

How to Take Live Photos on Your iPhone

As stated, Live Photos are easy to take because the function is on by default when you open the Camera app on your iPhone. Depending on your iPhone model you will either have a white icon, similar in appearance to a bullseye, in the upper right corner of your screen or a yellow icon in the top center of your screen. That icon indicates that Live Photos is on. To turn Live Photos off for any reason, you can tap the icon; the yellow icon will turn white and the white icon will have a line through it and your screen will say Live Off.

If you turn Live Photos off and exit the Camera app, Live Photos will remain off when the app is reopened. So if you like having the feature on by default, make sure to turn Live Photos on before leaving the Camera app. To take a Live Photo:

  1. Open the stock Camera app.
  2. Depending on your iPhone model, make sure the icon at the center of the screen is yellow or that the white icon in the right corner has no line through it.

    how do you take a live photo on iphone 6
     
  3. Tap the white shutter button.

    how to take live photos on iPhone 6s

That’s all there is to it. Taking a Live Photo could not be easier. Now, let’s learn how to view Live Photos.

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How to View a Live Photo on Your iPhone

Viewing a Live Photo is a simple matter of pressing and holding the image. To view a Live Photo:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Find the photo. If you’re not sure whether it’s a Live Photo or not, you can simply try pressing and holding it to find out. Or tap the Share icon in the bottom left corner. If it’s a Live Photo, it will say Live in the upper left corner of the image.
  3. Once you’ve found the image you want to view, tap on it to make it full screen.
  4. Press and hold the picture. The three seconds will play.

That’s how to view a Live Photo on your iPhone, but what about how to view a live photo on a computer? If you have a Mac running OS X El Captian or later, you can double-click the Live Photo you want to play, then position the pointer over the Live button in the corner, or press Option-Space Bar.

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How to Edit a Live Photo: Changing the Key Photo (Still Image)

If you have iOS 10 or later downloaded on your iPhone, you can edit Live Photos. If you have an older iOS, the photo can be edited, but it will not remain Live. With iOS 9, Live Photos had to be turned into still photos before you could edit them. However, this isn’t so with later operating systems. To edit a Live Photo:

  1. Find the Live Photo you want to edit within the Photos app.
  2. Tap Edit.
  3. Tap the Filter icon at the bottom to add a filter to the Live Photo.

    edit live photo on iphoneadd a filter to a live photo on iphone
     
  4. If you've updated to iOS 13, tap the Live Photo icon at the bottom of your screen to see all the frames of the Live Photo and choose which still image to use.
  5. Tap on different frames until you find the Key Photo you want to represent the Live Photo when it's a still image. 
  6. Tap Make Key Photo

    change key image live photochoose key photo for live photo
     
  7. You can also make any other changes to your Live Photo now, including trimming off the edges of your Live Photo. To do this, press the Live Photo icon again, then press and hold the left and right arrows at the beginning and end of your Live Photo, and slide them to where you want to begin and end, then press Done.
  8. Now press and hold the image to see it come to life with the changes you just made.
  9. If you decide you don’t like the changes, tap the Edit icon again. Tap Revert. Select Revert to Original.

    cut live photo length on iphonerevert live photo to original

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How to Convert & Save Stills of a Live Photo on Your iPhone

If a Live Photo you take captures a bit of video or audio you don’t want getting out, or perhaps you simply want the still version of a photo because it takes up less space on your iPhone, you can save the still of a Live Photo and ditch the original. To save a still of a Live Photo:

  1. Find the Live Photo you want to save a still of in the Photos app.
  2. Tap the Share icon.
  3. Select Duplicate.


     
  4. Tap Duplicate as Still Photo.

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How to Share Live Photos on Your iPhone

You can share Live Photos in the same way you would still images. If an application doesn’t support the Live Photo, it will appear as a still photo. You can share Live Photos via text message, iMessages, iCloud Photo Sharing, or AirDrop. If you send a Live Photo to someone with an iPhone 6s through iPhone X, they will be able to use 3D Touch to hard press the photo and watch it. Facebook already supports the sharing of Live Photos, but it must be done from within the Facebook app. We’ll go over how to share Live Photos from the Photos app and through Facebook below. If you want to share your Live Photos to Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms, you can turn your Live Photo into a GIF or movie, which we’ll go over in the next part of this guide. To share Live Photos:

  1. From the Photos app on iPhone, find the Live Photo you want to share.
  2. Tap the Share icon.
  3. A Live Photo will have the word Live in the top left corner of the photo. If you don’t want to share the Live version of the photo, tap the Live button, and it will turn to Off.


     
  4. If you want to share the live part of the Live Photo, be aware of the way in which you’re sharing it. If the person you’re sharing the image with is in range, simply AirDrop it to them. Otherwise, choose Message or iCloud Photo Sharing so they can see your moving picture.

If you send the photo via Messages, you can verify you sent the Live Photo by looking at the conversation thread. The Live Photo you sent will have the Live icon in the upper left corner.

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How to Share Live Photos on Facebook

Facebook is one of the only social media sites that’s currently able to share Live Photos (with Tumblr being another site that supports them). Of course, you can share Live Photos to other social media platforms if you turn them into a GIF or movie, but only Facebook allows you to share Live Photos in their original form. The slightly tricky part to remember is that you can’t share Live Photos to Facebook from the Photos app. To share Live Photos to Facebook, you’ll need to do so within the Facebook app. To share Live Photos to Facebook:

  1. Open the Facebook app.
  2. Tap "hat’s on your mind? to start a new status.
  3. Tap Photo/Video.


     
  4. Tap the Live Photo you want to share. Tap Done once you’ve selected your Live Photo.

  5. Tap the Live button in the upper-left corner of the photo. Each time you post a Live Photo to Facebook, you have to turn on the Live part of the photo, or it will share as a still. Facebook did this so that you wouldn’t accidentally post a Live Photo when you meant to share a still.

  6. Tap Post.


     

  7. All iPhone users with iOS 9 or later will be able to play your Live Photo. To do this, they can either use 3D Touch (if available on their device) or tap and hold the Live Photo to play the three-second video.

  8. Keep in mind that Live Photos shared directly to Facebook will include the audio captured. If you’d like to post the Live Photo but don’t want to keep the audio, use the tip below before sharing your photo to Facebook.

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How to Turn a Live Photo into a GIF

Beginning with iOS 11 on iPhone, the Photos app finally recognized GIF files, meaning you can see them move and more easily share them as GIFs from within the Photos app. Why? Because with iOS 11 and later, you can turn your Live Photo into a GIF from right within the Photos app. You have two main choices: Bounce and Loop. They look slightly different; and for an additional effect, there’s also a Long Exposure option. We’ll go over how to turn your Live Photo into a GIF within the Photos app below, but you can also use a third-party app to do this, such as Lively.

  1. Open the Photos app and find the Live Photo you want to turn into a GIF.
  2. Tap on the photo and swipe up on it.
  3. You’ll see four options: Live, Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure.
  4. Bounce and Loop are both meant to make your moving picture an endless GIF.
  5. Tap on Bounce to see how it makes your photo look look a GIF; try Loop as well.


     
  6. Choose the GIF option you like best. Leave the option selected and your Live Photo is automatically a GIF.
  7. You can then tap the share button in the lower-left corner to share your GIF.
  8. It’s good to note that in certain instances, sharing your GIF turns it into a movie file instead. For messages and social media, it seems to share GIF files just fine. When I tried to email a GIF to myself, however, it arrived as a movie file.

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How to Turn Live Photos into Videos

To turn two or more Live Photos into a video:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Select the Live Photos you'd like to transform into a video; I like to navigate to the Albums tab and find my Live Photos under Media Types.
  3. Find the Live Photos that you'd like to use to create your video, tap the first one, then tap the Share icon.

    media types in the photos appshare a live photo from iphone
     
  4. After you tap the Share icon you'll see the next photos in your Live Photo series; tap the other Live Photos you'd like to include in your video.
  5. Scroll down and tap Save as Video.

    choose live photos to include in videosave as video option
     
  6. Your Live Photos are now combined into a video; to view the video, navigate to the Albums tab, then tap Recents.
  7. Tap the video in your Recents tab to watch, edit, and share it.

find your live photo video in recentswatch your video from live photos

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How to Set a Live iPhone Wallpaper with Live Photos

One of my favorite ways to use Live Photos is to make them my Lock Screen Live Wallpaper. I use photos from my Summer road trip for this, and it’s fun to feel immersed in that trip whenever I pick up my iPhone. Live Wallpapers appear as still wallpapers until you activate 3D Touch or tap and hold the screen, bringing the Live Wallpaper to life. The easiest way to assign a Live Photo to your Lock Screen as a Live Wallpaper is directly from the Photos app; to do this:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Find the Live Photo you want to use on Lock Screen as a live moving wallpaper.
  3. Note that you can’t use Live Photos as your Home Screen wallpaper—you can use the photo, but it won’t be live.
  4. Tap the Share icon in the bottom left corner.
  5. Select Use as Wallpaper.

    save live photo as iphone wallpaperuse live photo as wallpaper
     
  6. Make sure Live Photo is on; when satisfied, tap Set.

    set live photo as wallpaper

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Top Image Credit: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com

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Conner Carey's picture

Conner Carey's writing can be found at conpoet.com. She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.