Apple’s Live Photos Are Worth More Than a Thousand Words

One of the strangest, confusing and interesting announcements from Apple’s product event is the Live Photo. According to Phil Schiller, the camera app in the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus captures a second and a half of footage time and sound by default whenever the user “takes a picture”. When selecting a Live Photo in the photo gallery, a silent clip is previewed first, then a still photo is shown, and then, if the user chooses to press harder on the photo, the whole footage plays with audio.

In some ways, Live Photos are similar to GIFs and Vine videos in that they are animated images that play at a limited and short amount of time. However, unlike GIFs and Vine videos, Live Photos do not loop when they play. This feature of Live Photos seems familiar, yet unfamiliar in the application of browsing through the photo gallery. It also presents a mind-boggling question: “Are Live Photos videos or pictures?”

During the demo of Live Photos, Schiller addresses that puzzling question with a simple statement:

These are still photos. They’re not videos . . . We extend the capture moment.

By definition, Live Photos are videos and pictures. What Schiller seems to suggest is that Live Photos create a “livelier” picture taking and viewing experience.

The default feature will most likely sway people towards taking more cinematic and daring pictures rather than simply standing in front of the camera and smiling. For example, when taking a Live Photo of a birthday party, children can pop balloons while dancing in a silly way to party music. Users can capture that event in a Live Photo without worrying about blurry still images or trying to get the children to stand still in one place.

Live Photos are not viewed the same way as videos on cell phones because they do not have the rewind and forward buttons. Instead, with the new 3D Touch feature in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, users can seamlessly preview the Live Photos as animated images by simply pressing harder on the selected image. They are also not viewed the same way as still photos because users have a more comprehensive interpretation of the environment and event portrayed in the still picture from their visual and hearing perception of the short clip.

The Facebook app and all Apple products with iOS 9 will support Live Photos. With some time and getting used to, this feature can enhance the photo-sharing experience in both platforms where photos fill their galleries. Live Photos will even contribute to the social phenomenon of creative selfies and comedical short clips. Rather than just sending a text message or posting a comment, Live Photos can be attached to help clearly communicate the message and emotion the author wants to express. Perhaps the real human expressions and tone of voice captured in Live Photos will make the Apple feature as popular—or more popular—than emoticons.

By extending the capture moment, Apple’s Live Photos allow people to appreciate the captured moment in great detail, to explore their creative freedom, and to express themselves in more ways than a still photo can. Live Photos may have captured only a brief moment of the past, but their photo-video features paint a vivid, timeless memory.

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