Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been spending a lot of time taking photos with the iPhone 6S. One of the features we were most excited about is the new Live Photos feature.
This excitement has kind of turned into a love/hate relationship.
The love part is easy: it’s amazing to have a small bit of video to go along with every photo – especially when photographing our kids!
The hate part is complicated…
The Biggest Problem
First the frame rate is really too low. Below are a few examples of Live photos to give you an idea of what I mean. The first example (Jolly Jumper) is the worst, but it really highlights how bad quick movement looks with a low frame rate. The Live Photos are captured at 15 frames per second. In order to see smooth motion you need at least 24 frames per second.
It’s agonizing. The 3 seconds of video/audio for the Live Photo captures so much more than a single photo, and I love watching them, however I’m constantly aware of the annoyingly low frame rate.
If it was just a matter of keeping file sizes for Live Photos small then I would happily have exchanged lower resolution video for a frame rate that allows for smooth motion. And there are no options to adjust frame rate settings or resolution of Live Photos.
So we live with choppy Live Photos for now.
Live Photos don’t sync onto Mac computers through iCloud. Live Photos that are downloaded from iCloud onto a Mac (through the Apple Photos app) do not display as Live Photos. They show up only as regular photos. This is a bug I’ve seen reported in the Apple support forums which clearly hasn’t been fixed yet.
Instead you need to import directly from your iPhone in order to view Live Photos on a Mac. You need to look at them in the Apple Photos app – and it’s incredibly disappointing.
This is what Apple’s website states about viewing Live Photos in the photos app: “Live Photos taken on an iPhone come to life when you hover over them with your cursor.” While this is accurate, it’s also a pretty terrible experience. You can only mouse over the thumbnails to scrub through to view the motion part of a Live Photo. There is no way I’ve found to play Live Photos in Apple Photos the way you can on an iOS device. The accompanying audio of each clip isn’t played. The Live Photos also cannot be viewed in their full resolution, they are only displayed as thumbnails.
What this means is that Live Photos are pretty much intended to be viewed on iOS devices only. Bummer.
So you might be wondering how I managed to get the Live Photos shown above? To get the video portion of Live Photos off my phone I’ve had to use either Lightroom, or Apple Image Capture app. This splits apart the accompanying Photo from the Live Photo, but at least I have access to the video portion. Using the Image Capture app is the only way to download both the Photos and Videos to your computer. When using Lightroom I was only able to download the videos (no access to photos).
Ironically the best option for viewing Live Photos on a computer is to import the video part into Lightroom. With Lightroom you can scrub through the videos the same way you can with Apple Photos, but you can also actually play the videos at full resolution and hear the accompanying audio.
I still think Live Photos are awesome. They do a far better job of capturing certain moments than a single image.
At the moment though, I am worried about Apple’s implementation/introduction of this new innovative feature. It really just doesn’t seem very well thought out.
The only thing I can think of is that the folks at Apple are intentionally holding back. They needed to have some incremental improvement to include for the next iPhone. I’m willing to bet that next year around this time you’ll be reading about “HD Live Photos” with iOS 10 and/or the iPhone 7…