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iOS 16 Preview: Separating subjects from their background


With the upcoming iOS 16, you can easily separate the subject from its background. Furthermore, you can copy it or drag it to another app for texting, posting, sharing, creating collages and more. Here’s how.

How do you do it?

Photos app with subject selected in iOS 16. Photo of iPhone by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
If you press and hold the subject, you will be able to separate the subject and then copy and share it instantly.

Select a subject when you are in the Photos app by simply pressing and holding it. You’ll see a faint white glow move around the subject of your image.

The app then produces pop-up copy and share buttons. Apple refers to this as Copy & Paste Edits.  From there, you can copy and paste it like you would do with any other image.

Above, you can see how you can copy and paste the image into Gmail, Messages or Facebook.

Furthermore, you can also drag the separated subject to another app. Above, you can see how I dragged a photo of Ronnie James Dio and myself into Messages.

I found the copy and share functions to be incredibly quick and easy to use. I was not used to dragging the image to another app. This involves “lifting” the cut-out and dragging it to another app. 

What apps can you use?

You can copy or share to any application that will accept images from your clipboard, such as Gmail, Messages, Facebook and Canva.

But there’s more … much more!

Copying subject in browser. Photo of iPhone by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.
Copying the subject from the Safari browser. This can be done with any photo on the internet.

Incredibly, you can use this on photos that you find on the internet via your Safari app. This also produces a pop-up menu. Choose Copy Subject if you just want to copy only the subject of the image.

Copying video in Photos app.  Photo of iPhone by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.
Copying the subject from a video that has been paused in the Photos app.

Not only that, back in your Photos app, you can pause a video and select the subject! 

Naturally, I had to test to see if I could pause videos on Safari or on the YouTube app and do the same. I did not have very good luck doing either. However, it would be quite simple to take a screenshot and then copy the subject. Obviously, make certain that you don’t use an image that has a copyright for public purposes.

Other thoughts

While it’s not perfect, it’s surprisingly effective. I even attempted to use it on a very dark night photo of a dinosaur. It still managed to copy the dinosaur effectively, although it did not separate the complex mouth and teeth area. You can see the edit on the screenshot on the right after I pasted it into the Gmail app. Some of the mouth area still retains the blue night sky. Still, that’s really quite good.

 Canva example on iPhone. Photo of iPhone by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.
I was able to paste the separated image of Ronnie James Dio and I into Canva, then drag it around to resize and position it easily. This took only a matter of seconds.

You could use this to create quick collages with photo editing apps or apps such as Canva. This would enable you to easily create cards, art, bulletins, social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. Teachers could easily create art or presentations for their classrooms.

This technique not only works on the upcoming iOS 16, but it’ll also be available for iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura once released.



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Rafael Jones

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