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The most underrated iPhone camera feature you should never turn off (and how I use it)

Live Photos Edit option on iPhone 15 Pro

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I keep returning to the iPhone as my daily driver after reviewing the latest Android, and it’s not because of iMessage, AirDrop, or how well it works with my MacBook. As much as I love the camera capabilities of foldables and phones with one-inch sensors from competitors, I prefer capturing life’s moments on the iPhone. 

That’s because the iPhone lets me capture many of the behind-the-scenes footage, where the most natural emotions and gestures occur. This is made possible by the Live Photos feature. 

Also: iOS 18 wishlist: 5 features I’d like to see Apple bring to the iPhone

For the unaware, Live Photos allows you to capture what happens 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after you’ve tapped on the shutter button. You can then edit from the additional frames or even export them as a short video or “Boomerang.” Here are a few examples of why I never turn off Live Photos — it’s turned on by default — and recommend you do the same.

For one, it seems impossible for my parents to keep their eyes open simultaneously when taking family photos. Those with children and pets can probably relate. Thankfully, Live Photos allows me to sift through frames before and after the initial capture so I can select one where they’re looking perfect. It gets even better when I play the Live Photo to see my parents getting into poses, happy in the moment, and looking at each other with the “please, let us get one shot” look.


The shot I got (left) versus after changing the frame with the help of Live Photos (right).

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

Here’s another example of how I use Live Photos, with me jumping for a mid-air shot. By adjusting the frame, the “after” photo comes out more dramatic and picture-perfect. It’s not always possible for the other person to tap on the shutter button at the exact moment when I’m in the air — no matter how much I explain how I want it. Luckily, my gallery showed these extra frames and I was able to choose the best shot.

Similarly, I have a few selfies with my loved ones where the chaotic energy is enhanced by moving frames and can be exported as short videos. There’s a special, authentic feeling when you watch subjects in frame doing something they weren’t expecting to be captured.

Also: Apple reportedly eyeing generative AI push and Siri overhaul for the iPhone

There’s an audio element to Live Photos, too. Last month, I was at my dear friend’s birthday, and her reaction to seeing the cake was priceless. While I got the stills that I wanted, Live Photos made the photos better because I could hear her thrill and laughter. 

Key Photo selection of Prakhar Khanna in Live Photos on the iPhone 15 Pro

Prakhar Khanna/ZDNET

I’ll note that other phones have a similar feature, though not exactly the same. When I recently tested the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, I gravitated towards Motion Photos. The issue with the feature, and other Android interpretations, is the lack of optimization for social media apps. For example, the iPhone’s integration with Instagram is much better, allowing me to create Boomerangs from Live Photos with one simple, time-saving tap.

When you add in effects like Long Exposure (for videos of beaches) and Loop (for videos of animals and fast-moving subjects), there’s just more room to play around in post-editing on iOS.

Also: Instagram’s upcoming Blend feature may finally put its short-form videos ahead of TikTok

If you actively make Instagram Reels, I can’t recommend Live Photos enough. Reels require binning together a lot of short videos, and Live Photos make it easier than ever — because all of your existing photos are essentially video clips. It helps that Instagram automatically imports Live Photos as a short video instead of a still.

Truth be told, I’m not good with editing videos or shooting videos mindfully for content when I’m traveling — I want to be in the moment. Instead, when I return from traveling and want to make a short montage out of what I captured, Live Photos is a godsend. I made the Reel above when I traveled to Vienna by combining multiple Live Photos. Same for this one from photos I took over the past year.

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