How to use the Live Photo feature on your iPhone or turn them off

iphone 11 camera picture
Live Photos are easy to take on both iPhone and iPad.

  • Live Photos are still photos that turn into videos when you “activate” them on your iPhone or iPad.
  • You can take Live Photos by enabling them in the Camera app.
  • Live Photos only work on Apple devices – on non-Apple devices, they’ll just be still photos.
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Technology has come a long way over the past couple of decades. All but gone are the days of disposable cameras, Polaroids, or even point-and-shoot models – these days, most of us just whip out our phones and tap a button.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’ve also got access to Live Photos.

Live Photos are like still photos, but when you hold your finger down on them, they “activate” and play a few seconds of video and sound. They’re like GIFs with sound, and are a fun treat when you’re looking back at your photos later. But they’ll only work on Apple devices, and if you try to play them elsewhere, they’ll just be still photos.

Here’s how to take, view, and edit Live Photos on an iPhone or iPad.

How to take a live photo on an iPhone or iPad

1. From your iPhone or iPad’s home screen, open the Camera app.

2. Make sure that Live Photos are turned on by tapping the icon that looks like a bullseye. On a new iPhone, it’ll be at the top of the screen.

If the Live Photo icon is colored yellow, that means it’s enabled. If it’s white with a line slashed across it, it’s off. You can enable or disable Live Photo at any time by tapping the icon.

On iPhone 11 and newer models, when you tap the Live Photos icon you’ll also be given an “Auto” option. This will let your iPhone decide whether or not to take a Live Photo based on how much movement it sees.

An iPhone's Camera screen, with the Live Photos icon highlighted.
Live Photos can be quickly toggled on or off using this icon.

3. Aim your phone at whatever you want to take a photo of and tap your shutter button as normal. You can also use filters like a normal photo.

You’ll be able to find your Live Photo in your camera roll.

How to edit a live photo on an iPhone or iPad

You can give your Live Photo various effects.

1. Open your device’s Photos app and select the Live Photo you want to edit.

2. With the Live Photo open, swipe up to reveal a list of Effects options.

3. Under Effects, you can choose to keep the Live Photo as is or use a few different options:

  • Loop, which will play the Live Photo in an endless video loop.
  • Bounce, which will cause your Live Photo to bounce back and forth.
  • Long Exposure, which will blend every frame of the Live Photo together into one shot.
An iPhone's Live Photo editing screen, with the "Loop" effect highlighted.
The “Loop” option, for example, turns your Live Photo into a makeshift GIF.

4. Save your effect simply by exiting out of the photo – no need to do anything else. You can, however, change the effect at any time by following the same steps outlined above.

You can also change the Live Photo’s “Key Photo” – the image that appears when your Live Photo is still – and trim the Live Photo’s video.

1. Open the Live Photo and tap Edit in the top-right corner.

2. At the bottom of the page, tap the Live Photo icon.

3. A slider will appear with every frame from the Live Photo. Slide the white window to pick a new Key Photo, or use the arrows on the edges to trim the Live Photo.

An iPhone's Live Photo editing screen, set to the page where you can trim the photo or edit its Key Photo.
You can use the other icons to change the picture’s colors, add a filter, or crop it.

How to turn off live photos on iPhone or iPad

If you want to turn off Live Photos – maybe you just want to take a good still photo without worrying about the video portion – doing so is easy.

When you open the Camera app, you can turn off Live Photos by tapping the icon so it has a slash through it.

An iPhone's Camera screen, with the Live Photos icon highlighted and turned off.
If the Live Photos icon has a slash through it, the feature is disabled.

If you want to turn off Live Photos permanently, so they don’t default to being turned on every time you take a photo:

1. Open the Settings app and select the Camera option.

2. Tap Preserve Settings, and make sure the Live Photo switch is turned on.

An iPhone's "Preserve Settings" menu, with the "Live Photo" option highlighted.
Turning on this switch will keep Live Photos disabled.

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