How to Isolate Subjects in Photos on iPhone or iPad

Isolate subject with iOS 16

With the release of iOS 16, your iPhone (or iPad) can isolate subjects from photos you’ve taken. This separates the subject from the background so you can send it separately in a message or use it in other apps.

Note: To do this with an iPad, you’ll need iPadOS 16.1, which isn’t available at the time of writing but is expected to arrive in Fall 2022.

How to make subjects stand out in photos or videos

Thanks to the wonders of machine learning, it’s now possible to isolate and export subjects from photos on iPhone. This works across the operating system, but is arguably most useful in the photo apps for isolating subjects in photos you’ve taken yourself.

To isolate a subject, tap a photo to view it, then tap and hold the subject. A bright white outline appears around the subject in question. The design can then be dragged and when released the copy and share buttons will appear.

Copy or share subject with subject isolation in iOS 16

From here you can copy the subject to paste it into other apps like Messages or an image editor. Click Share to go to the standard iOS share sheet, where you can AirDrop, share to social networks, send to other apps, add to a note, turn into a watch face, save to your files, print, and more can do more.

You can also do this with videos. Tap a video to play it, then pause the video where you want to isolate a subject. Tap and hold a topic to isolate it. At this point, you can “copy” it to the clipboard (then paste it elsewhere) or “share” it to access other apps, actions, and sharing options.

Note that this can be a bit fiddly for photos that share the long press tap-and-hold gesture, including Live Photos and Live Text items. In these cases, a Live Photo often plays the short video associated with the shot, while Live Text elements are highlighted instead.

Isolate themes in Safari for iOS 16

Apple also supports theme isolation in Safari. This arguably works better than in Photos, as you have to press and hold the image to bring up the context menu, then scroll down and select “Copy Subject” instead.

TIED TOGETHER: How to customize the share sheet on your iPhone or iPad

Which subjects can be isolated?

We played around with the feature extensively on an iPhone 13 Pro and were impressed with the number of subjects that could be isolated. Humans work exceptionally well, including faces, hands, and silhouettes.

Animals like cats, dogs, and birds are also identifiable, which is great news if you have a camera roll full of animal pictures. Plants such as clearly defined trees, leaves and flowers were also fairly easy to isolate.

iOS 16 isolated theme

We’ve also had luck with inanimate objects like cars, food, and clothing items (like shoes). However, we couldn’t use the feature to identify buildings or isolate a skyline from the background

Requires iOS 16 or iPadOS 16.1 and A12 Bionic

Since the feature relies on pretty clever machine learning, you’ll need an iPhone or iPad with an A12 Bionic processor or better. This means the feature is limited to the iPhone XS or newer devices, including the second-gen iPhone SE.

You must also be running iOS 16 or iPadOS 16.1 for the feature to work. So make sure you’ve updated your iPhone (and iPad) if the feature isn’t present on your device.

Check out what other features of iOS 16 are worth looking forward to.

TIED TOGETHER: 16 iOS 16 Features You Should Try Right Now

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