Using Google’s Motion Stills with Live Photos

image03Earlier this week, Google released Motion Stills, a free iPhone app that exports the video from Apple’s Live Photos — with or without sound — as a GIF or brief MOV file. The result can be added to your iPhone’s Camera Roll or shared via certain social media channels. The app is dead-simple to use, with image stabilization tech that can tame even the most erratic clip.

I’ve had a great time exporting and sharing MOV files, but lots of trouble with GIFs. I think the latter is an issue with the platforms I’m trying to share to, however. More on that later. First, a few words on Live Photos.

The problems with Live Photos

Sharing

When Apple demonstrated in 2015 I went nuts. Just press and hold to have images of my perfect little snowflake children come alive whenever I want? Oh, the proud poppa moments just entered ANOTHER LEVEL, BABY. I couldn’t wait to foist these on people.

The trouble has been in sharing them with your friends and family members who don’t have an iPhone running the latest iOS 9, as well as on social media.

You could take the DIY approach, which involves connecting your iPhone to your computer, launching Image Capture, sorting by kind and then importing all of the MOV files to your computer.

diy

If you want to do this on a Windows computer, navigate to your iOS device in File Explorer and give your machine permission to browse the internal storage. From there, you should be able to see everything in the DCIM folder on your iOS device.

Not the slickest process.

Eventually, iOS apps began to offer support, including Lively (free with in-app purchase), Live Studio ($0.99) and PicPlayPost (free, with a $2.99 in-app-purchase to remove a watermark).

Services got on board as well, and now Tumblr and Google Photos officially support the technology. Facebook does too, but only for those using the official iOS app on a phone running the latest version of iOS 9 (sorry, Paper users).

While you can get Live Photos off of your device and out to the world, the best experience is still on a compatible Apple gadget.

A blurry mess

Whenever Apple shows off a new photo technology or app, I have two simultaneous thoughts:

  1. Wow, I can’t wait to try that.
  2. My photography skills are garbage.

Grace in her New York Football Club hat. Either that, or she just saw that video from The Ring.
Grace in her New York Football Club hat. Either that, or she just saw that video from The Ring.

Consider this demo of Live Photos that Phil Schiller gave in 2015. Water ripples before a completely static background. A hiker raises his arms triumphantly before a waterfall. These are terrific Live Photos. Meanwhile, I get this type of thing at the end of my clips, as I tend to lower the phone at the end of a clip.

Google’s image stabilization lets me get results that are very close to Apple’s demo images. How does it work? From Google:

“Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness.”

It works very well and has allowed me to get demo-ready results.

Using Motion Stills

To share you first GIF or video, follow these steps:

Launch the app and scroll to the image you want to share. Next, tap the image to bring up the editor:

buttons

There are four simple buttons (from left to right):

  1. Turn the stabilization effect on or off
  2. Turn sound on or off
  3. Export your clip
  4. Close the editor and return to the image library

Pay attention the sound option. In my experience, it’s best to turn off, or else you get three seconds of a sentence or other repeating background noise that becomes annoying very quickly. Also, hit the stabilization button a couple of times to see the difference.

When you’re ready to share, hit the share button to reveal two options: Send GIF and Share Clip:

exporting

Tap GIF and the image is created and the Share Sheet appears, ready to go. Hit Share Clip and the same thing happens. In testing this out, I noticed a few little quirks.

GIF issues

This may be the fault of the platforms I’m trying to share GIFs to, but they do not animate. I tried Twitter across various platforms and apps, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Bummer. I did find one little workaround, though.

If you opt to export a MOV and post it to Instagram, you can then share that link to Twitter and view the file that way. Cheap, but there it is.

Unlike my GIF woes, the MOV file worked perfectly. It’s great fun to share a great-looking little clip to Instagram and Facebook with almost zero effort.

This is a fun app that largely does what it’s supposed to do. Give it a try and liberate your Live Photos. As long as they’re not GIFs.

Exploring Mexico City by iPhone

cityshotHere’s a great post by National Geographic’s Andrew Evans. Andrew spent a few days exploring Mexico City with no Internet connection and no “heavy cameras.” The only gear he had was his iPhone.

His photos are great and make me want to visit what Andrew calls, “The most exciting city on earth.” Has anyone been? Are you a pro photographer or traveler who’s ditched the pro-level gear for a day with the iPhone? If so, let me know.

Travel iPhoneography: Big Sur, California

bigsur_hill

Jim Hill shares this great photo, shot in Big Sur, California. Taken with an iPhone 4.

Today is Memorial Day in the States and I’m taking the day off to visit a National Park. Where ever you are, get outside and enjoy just a little bit of this planet we call home.

Travel iPhoneography is a weekly series of photos of our beautiful world, taken with an iPhone. If you have one you’d like to share, let me know at [comments at 52tiger dot net]. I’d love to feature it.

National Geographic shares iPhone photo tips

When I was a kid, visiting my grandfather in Oneida, New York meant browsing his collection of National Geographic magazines. I loved them, and hoped I’d be a Nat Geo photographer some day. That didn’t happen, of course, and years later I still have such admiration for the photos in that publication.

Recently, the site shared some tips for better iPhone photos. One suggestion is to keep your composition simple:

“When shooting with your iPhone, always look for easily readable patterns. Everything in the image should contribute to the mood and emotion you want to convey. Pattern repetition creates a rhythm that the eyes like to follow. Remember that photos sent to other phones will be viewed small—another reason to keep the image simple and clean.

I took this photo, with its simple pattern of cups and saucers, in a small restaurant in the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland.”

Great tips and even better photos are here.

Taking great travel photos with your iPhone

NYCsized

The iPhone is not a replacement for a DSLR but for most of us, it’s the camera we have almost all the time. It’s light, convenient and capable of taking great travel photos. Travis Marshall at Away.com has listed several great tips for getting great travel photos with an iPhone.

He spoke with Kirsten Alana, a professional travel blogger and photographer whose work has appeared on Gadling among other places. Her best advice: look for good light and get close:

“The most obvious differences between iPhone and DSLR cameras are the lack of capability in low light, the lack of actual (not digital) zoom, and the file size difference.”

Alana suggests iPhoneographers look for good lighting and “zoom with their feet” but getting nice and close to their subjects.

Lisa Bettany, pro photographer, author and co-founder of the Camera+ iPhone app, suggests changing your perspective and looking for an interesting composition:

“I also find that getting low to the ground and pointing the camera upward, or taking pictures through fences or leaves helps me get interesting photos.”

If you have one you’d like to share, let me know at [comments at 52tiger dot net]. I’d love to feature it.