When iOS 16 launches this fall, everyone will be talking about their custom lock screen. But the real star of the update may be something used (and abused) by millions of people on social media and posts every day — a built-in ability to simply take the topic off almost each photo.
I don’t mean just you own photos in your own library. No, it is a comprehensive system-wide feature that can extract the subject from images on the web in Safari and images in Files. It’s not perfect, with the occasional blurry edges or strange selections, but it can save a huge amount of time and be a lot of fun. This is how it works.
Find a photo and long press on the subject
Find an image in Photos, Safari, or the Files app and long-press on the subject you want to delete. This can be almost anything, as long as it’s separate from the background. People, animals and almost any object can be selected.
If you long press to select the image, you will feel a little haptic vibration. Then you can lift your finger and you’ll see a white outline moving around it, along with a pop-up menu (if you don’t see the pop-up menu, try tapping the subject again). This menu varies depending on the app. Photos may only show “Copy” and “Share.”
Long-pressing an image in Safari doesn’t select the subject, but gives you options for what to do with the entire image: share, add to photos, copy, and Copy topic† Select that last option to cut out the subject and copy it to your clipboard.
Place the image where you want it
Once you’ve copied the image, you can paste it as you would paste anything on your clipboard. Open Messages and tap in the message area, then select To stick† Open Files, navigate to the desired folder, long press the empty space and select To stick†
But you don’t have to go through the copy-and-paste dance if you’re good at multitasking. In the Photos app or your camera roll, or in the Files app, you’ll notice that if you long-press on the subject of an image, a copy of it will be “raised” from the page while you’re holding down your finger. You can now drag this around, and as long as you keep your finger on the screen, you can use your other fingers to swipe to another app and just drag and drop the clipped subject into it. Long-press an image in Photos, hold your finger on the “unlisted” topic, then swipe to Messages to place it in it.
Apple treats these images and PNGs with transparent backgrounds, which can be useful for those who want to do more creative things with them.
How it works in macOS Ventura
As you’d expect, this also works on your iPad running iPadOS 16. But it’s built into macOS Ventura too! In Safari or Photos, right-click an image (or tap the touchpad with two fingers) and choose “Copy Subject” to copy it to your clipboard. If you’re using another application (or browser), save the image first, then in Finder use QuickLook (spacebar) to open the image, then right-click and choose Copy Subject.
You can then paste that image into any application that accepts images from your clipboard, such as Messages, Mail, or Notes.
It even works on paused videos!
When you’re playing a video in the Photos app, you can pause it and select the subject as if it were a still image. However, this doesn’t really work with every video on the web, especially if it uses its own video player. The solution to this is to take a screenshot and then copy the subject from that image. It’s an extra step or two, but it’s a much more reliable method.