The Photos app in iOS looks like a simple thing: At first, you
might even think it’s little more than a convenient dumping
ground for sorting through your selfies and snaps.
But underneath that minimalist exterior is an app that allows
for a surprisingly wide variety of options, ranging from the
ability to apply Instagram-like filters or to automatically
categorize photos according to “memories” based on when and
where you took them.
These tricks are fairly intuitive to use, thanks to smartly
placed options when you click the Edit button when looking at
photos. Some of the most useful and interesting features,
though, are a little trickier to find. We’ve compiled a few of
our favorites here.
Also, if you’re looking for tips on taking good shots to tinker
with in the first place, be sure to check out
our guide for using the iOS 11 Camera app.
Convert Live Photos into GIFs
When Live Photos was introduced, they seemed like they were
Apple’s way of capitalizing on the thirst for animated GIFs
that tore across social media. Weirdly, though, Apple didn’t
actually allow you to turn the images into GIFs until last
Fortunately, those awkward days are now behind us. If you want
to make your Live Photo a GIF, simply open the Photos app and
select Albums on the toolbar in the bottom-right
corner. From there, open the Live Photos album and select the
photo you wish to transform into a GIF.
All you need to do is swipe up on the photo (but not too low on
the photo). From there, you’ll see a list of effects for Live,
Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. Select Loop or
Bounce, and then the image is automatically saved in
your Animated album.
Go to the new file in the Animated album, press the share
button in the lower left, and send it to either your friends as
an iMessage or email or to many social media platforms.
“Many” is the key word. Instagram only lets you post
“videos” that are longer than three seconds, so the Loop option
with this method won’t work, but Bounce usually will. Twitter,
though, apparently doesn’t want to play nice with Live Photos,
so you’ll have to use a separate app to post them there. For
most platforms, you should be able to post it just like any
other GIF file.
Choose the best shot from a Live Photo
Hate it when a photo doesn’t turn out quite the way you
intended, either because a bird flew in the way or the shot
came out too blurry? You can often save your otherwise botched
photo by selecting the preferred shot from the frames used to
make the animation of a Live Photo.
It’s a simple process. Just open an image in the Photos app,
press Edit in the upper right (or bottom, if you’re
using the camera app), and you’ll see a bar with frames pop up
that resembles what you see when you’re scrubbing through a
video. These are the frames that make up the Live Photo.
Use your finger to scrub through all of the available frames
and stop when you find an image that makes you happy. Lift your
finger, and you’ll now see a Make Key Photo button
over the frame you’ve selected. press it, and hey presto, that
particular frame will now be the static image you see when you
email it or post it online.
Mark up your photos after taking them
Taking photos is so easy these days that it’s often better just
to snap a shot of something a point out an important feature
rather than describing it.
And that’s where the ability to mark up photos through the
Photos app comes in handy. Need to show late friends which seat
you’re at in a large, crowded restaurant? Just snap a shot of
the crowded room, draw a circle around your table in red, and
text it to them so they’re not looking around awkwardly when
Apple makes this process easy. After taking a photo, open the
Photos app—and remember, you can do this straight through the
Camera app as well—and open the image you want to scribble on.
Press Edit in the upper right, and then press the
More Options button (the circle with the three dots)
on the right side of the bottom menu bar that pops up. You’ll
then see a Markup button. Press it.
From here you can draw on your photos with tools that mimic
marks from a pen, highlighter, pencil, or eraser in up to six
different colors, and you can also use the lasso tool to move
around your markups. For that matter, you can hit the plus sign
on the right side of the bottom toolbar to write with straight
text, use a magnifying glass, add a signature, or (very
helpfully) add a huge arrow. One catch: This feature
disables Live Photos.
Drag and drop photos from one album to another
You may already know that you can drag and drop photos from one
album to another on the Mac or an iPad, but with a little bit
of dexterity, it’s quite possible to do this on an iPhone as
Find the photo you’d like to move to another album in the
Photos app (so long as it’s in an album apart from
automatically generated ones such as All Photos), and hold your
index finger down on it while you’re still viewing the contents
of the entire album. Don’t press down too hard, though, or
you’ll turn on the Peek feature that makes it easier to view
Once you’re able to drag the image around, keep pressing on
your photo with the index finger and use another finger to
press the Albums option at the top left. You’ll then
be whisked back to the main albums menu while still “holding”
the image with your finger, but now you’re free to drop it in
the album of your choice. Then you’re done.
If you start this process by hitting Select before you
start pressing down on the image, you can even do this for
multiple images at once.
It’s arguably faster just to select the photos and then press
the Add To prompt that pops up at the bottom of the
screen afterward, but it’s nice to know the option’s there if
Find the regular version of a Depth Effect photo
Apple’s Depth Effect feature shows up when you switch your
iPhone’s camera to Portrait mode, and it’s a great way to
deemphasize the background in a close shot without all the
special lenses needed in the past.
Before iOS 11, you had the choice of keeping both the Depth
Effect photo and a photo without the effect in case one turned
out better, but unfortunately (for your storage space), you now
have no choice but to keep both versions. The benefit, though,
is that sometimes the non-Portrait image sometimes comes out
better and you can still access it if needed.
That may not be immediately obvious. Only the Depth Effect
photo shows up in your library now, but the normal photo is
still there, hiding in its colorful shadow. Finding it isn’t
too much trouble.
Simply open the photo you wish to have without the Depth
Effect, press Edit in the upper-right, and you’ll then
see the word Portrait at the top within a yellow bar.
Press it, and the depth effect goes away. Once you press
Done in the lower-right, the normal one becomes the
main photo you see while swiping through your album.
Name people in your photos for easy searching
The Photos app already does a good job of spotting specific
faces, but it usually won’t name them unless you specifically
tell it to. To name someone so you can easily find them through
the Search tool, go to Albums in the lower-right
corner of the main screen, then hit the People album.
You should then see that Apple has already grouped a lot of
photos of what should be the same person.
To name that person, press on their selection of photos and
then press Add Name at the top of the menu that pops
up. Then enter their name, press Next in the upper
right, and you’re done.
If you want to add additional photos of that person that iOS
isn’t too sure about, scroll down to the bottom of their
collection of photos and select Confirm Additional
Photos. The Photos app will then allow you to confirm
whether the following photos are the same person.
Bad memories? You can also remove folks from recognition in the
People album by opening the Photos app, hitting Select
in the upper right and then choosing the person’s profile, and
then press Remove in the lower left. At the other end
of the social spectrum, you can mark them as a favorite through
the same menu by pressing the next option to the right.
Add new people to Photos album that iOS doesn’t recognize
Sometimes you’ll find that Apple hasn’t recognized any of the
photos you’ve taken of someone, so they won’t show up in the
People album. This usually happens when you haven’t taken
enough photos for the facial recognition feature to build a
workable set of data.
You can easily work around this. Just open a photo of the
person you wish to add, and then swipe up on the middle of the
Yep, you might remember this screen from making GIFs. Scroll
down past the Effects options foir making GIFs, and you’ll see
another heading for People. Press on it, and then
press Add Name at the top of the new image. Add the
name, press Next, and you’re done. You’ll now be able
to see the person in your People album.
Create an Apple Watch watch face with your photos
You probably already know that you can easily turn one of your
photos into a wallpaper for your iPhone, but you may not know
that you do the same thing for your Apple Watch. If you’re not
familiar with either, the good news is that it’s essentially
the same process. You’re just selecting a different option.
Open the Photos app and find the photo you want to turn into an
Apple Watch photo watch face and open it. You’ll then press the
square options button in the lower left, and you should see a
bottom menu that pops up with the option to Create Watch
Face. Select it, and then you’ll have the option to see
the photo on your Apple Watch in either Photos or Kaleidoscope
view. Once you’ve made your selection, press Add on
the screen that pops up and the new image should show up
immediately on your Apple Watch regardless of which watch face
you were using before.
Sometimes you’ll have to crop the image in the Photos app first
for the best fit, but overall it’s a painless process that adds
a bit of personality to your Apple Watch. You’ll even get two
complications to tinker with on the photo watch face itself.