I’ve been playing with my iPhone camera lately and discovering how much fun and creative it can be. In a previous blog post, I talked about how to use your iPhone camera in burst mode. (You can read it here: Using Your iPhone in Burst Mode.) It is a great mode to use to freeze motion. But, did you know that the iPhone has another mode that works with motion and is really creative to use: Live Photo mode?
Warning: If you have an iPhone 6 or older, this feature won’t be included. Also, if you tend to postpone installing iOS updates, you may have a problem. Live Photos Mode was introduced with iOS 9.
Controlling whether it’s on or off by default
First of all, unlike Burst mode, Live Photo mode can be turned on and off. In older iPhones, this setting is turned on by default. I strongly recommend using a setting in the Settings app to disable this. It will really simplify your life if you get to choose when you shoot in this mode. Otherwise, your storage may fill up fast! Live Photos take up twice as much storage as regular ones do.
The setting I’m referring to is in the Settings app on your iPhone, located on the Home Screen. Tap on it and select Camera. Then, tap on Preserve Settings. Here, you’ll want to turn on Live Photo. According to the app, this will, “Preserve the Live Photo setting, rather than automatically reset to Live Photo turned on.” Huh? This means that in the camera app itself, you can turn off Live Photo, and it will remain off until you turn it back on. If you don’t change this setting, every time you take a photo with Live Photo turned off, the Camera will turn it back on for the next shot you take. I know… clear as mud. You’ll just have to trust me on this. You’ll be glad you did! It gives the control back to you!
Turning it on and off when you are shooting
OK, with that taken care of, let’s dig into Live Photo Mode in the Camera App.
First of all, how do you turn it on and off when you are shooting?
When you open your Camera app, you’ll see an icon with a set of concentric circles at the top or left of the screen. It’s located between the flash icon and the timer icon. (There is also an icon made up of three large round dots that merge into one another. That’s not the right one.)
If you tap on the icon, a diagonal line will appear or disappear across it. The words Live in yellow will flash, the diagonal line will disappear and the icon will turn yellow if you’re turning it on. The words Live Off will flash, the icon will turn white and the diagonal line will appear if you are turning it off. If you chose the setting I recommended earlier in this post, in the Settings app, the Live Photo mode you choose will remain in effect until you change it.
With it turned on, here’s what it does. It shoots a 3-second video, with sound, as well as a full-resolution still photo. It starts 1.5 seconds before you press the shutter button and stops 1.5 seconds after.
This is a case where shooting intentionally really will make a difference. To get the best results, you need to hold your iPhone steady for more than a second before you tap the shutter button and more than a second after! The still photo will be taken in the middle of the frames of video.
Creating your long exposure: step one
Now, why would you want to choose this mode?
Have you ever tried to create an artistic version of a waterfall shot with your DSLR, with the water all smooth and silky looking? But, you didn’t have a tripod with you? Or you couldn’t slow down the shutter speed enough because the light was too bright? Live Photo Mode has a solution.
There is an option to turn the photo you’ve taken into a Long Exposure. This works well for waterfalls or other objects you’d like to blur. You do need something in the scene to remain still, like the rocks around the waterfall, for this to work well. You will also need to hold the iPhone very steady.
If you are familiar with shooting long exposure photos with a DSLR, you’re probably wondering if you’ll need a neutral density filter in bright light. The answer is no. The iPhone is not actually slowing down the shutter speed. Instead, it is blending the frames you shot during the three seconds. That means that the part of the photo that is not moving (like the rocks in this photo) will look normal, but the parts that are moving, like the water, will be blended into a blur. This can help avoid blown-out highlights in bright light.
I shot the photo at the top using my iPhone, hand-held, on a bright morning. You can click on the photo to see a larger version.
Creating your long exposure: step two
How do you find this option on the photo you’ve taken? Open the Photos app and choose your photo that was shot in Live Photo mode. You’ll know it was shot in this mode if it features the concentric circle icon along with the word “Live” above the photo when you select it. It will also appear to move briefly when you tap it. If you want to see it move again, just tap and hold on the photo.
Now, here’s the magic. Gently touch and hold your finger on the photo and slide it up the screen. This will reveal four Effects below. You gently sweep your finger from right to left over the first two (Live and Loop) to see the other two, Bounce and Long Exposure. To create the long exposure look, choose the last effect and that treatment will be applied to the photo. It will stay that way unless you change to another effect. You can keep changing to try them out or even just revert to the original Live Photo. You can also duplicate the photo with an effect applied, to save multiple versions. (Tap on the Share icon at the bottom left to find the option to duplicate.)
Because the photo you are creating with this effect is a still photo, you can share it on social media and even print it.
In a future post, I’ll write about the other effects. Photos created with them are a bit trickier to share. You are creating a three-second video but some social media sites do not recognize it as a video. Fortunately, there are apps to get around that problem.
For now, grab your iPhone and find some moving water to give this a try. I’d love to see what you capture!