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Improve iPhone 6s low-light camera performance by turning off this feature

Published Sep 28th, 2015 5:35PM EDT
iPhone 6s Live Photos
Image: Apple Inc.

One of the great new features about the iPhone 6s is improved camera functionality and performance across the board. Not only did Apple enhance the rear facing camera with a 12-megapixel sensor, the front facing camera was at long last upgraded with a 5 megapixel sensor, a significant improvement over the 1.2 megapixel sensor Apple had been using for years.

On the software side of the equation, Apple has been heavily touting ‘Live Photos,’ a feature which brings photos to life by capturing 1.5 seconds of video footage both before and after a photo is taken. As a result, users can subsequently use 3D Touch when scrolling through their camera roll to transform static photos into lively 3-second videos.

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While that sounds great, there are two performance issues associated with Live Photos that users should be aware of. One, Live Photos take up a lot more storage than regular photos. In other words, you might want to turn the default feature off if you’re pressed for space, which is certainly possible given that Apple is still selling 16GB devices.

Second, 9to5 Mac reports that keeping the Live Photos feature enabled can affect the camera’s performance in low light situations.

To take a Live Photo, the iPhone 6s has to be constantly recording video at 12fps. When the photo is snapped, it cannot leave the exposure long enough to capture more light and generate a clearer image for the actual static photo, because of the requirement to continue the video recording. It can’t get the same exposure or ISO that the camera normally can when taking a normal photo.

Therefore, if you are finding that photos taken in darkness or dim areas are not as good as you expect them to be on your new iPhone 6s, try disabling Live Photos by toggling the button in the Camera app top bar. The Live Photos icon will now be white, not highlighted as yellow. The difference in graininess and general clarity can be quite significant.

It’s a solid tip, and generally something you should keep in mind if you’re more concerned with capturing the highest quality photographs possible than you are with having video documentation of every photo you take.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.