When iOS 16 launches this fall, everyone is going to be talking about their customized lock screen. But the real star feature of the update might be something that gets used (and abused) across social media and messaging every day by millions–a built-in capability to simply cut the subject out of nearly any photo.
I don’t just mean your own photos in your own library. No, it’s an expansive system-wide feature that can pull the subject out of images on the web in Safari and images in Files, too. It’s not perfect, with occasional fuzzy edges or strange selections, but it can be a huge time saver and lots of fun. Here’s how it works.
Find a photo and long-press the subject
Find an image in Photos, Safari, or the Files app and long-press on the subject you want to cut out. This can be almost anything, as long as it’s distinct from the background. People, animals, and virtually any object can be selected.
When you long-press to select the image you’ll feel a little haptic vibrate. Then you can lift your finger and you’ll see a white outline moving around it, along with a popup menu (if you don’t see the popup menu, try tapping the subject again). This menu varies depending on the app–in Photos, it might only say “Copy” and “Share.”
In Safari, a long-press on an image doesn’t select the subject but gives you options for what to do with the full image: Share, Add to Photos, Copy, and Copy Subject. Select that last option to cut out the subject and copy it to your clipboard.
Place the image where you want it
Once you have the image copied, you can paste it just as you would paste anything in your clipboard. Open Messages and tap in the message space, then select Paste. Open Files, navigate to the desired folder, then long-press the empty space and select Paste.
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 long-pressing on the subject of an image will make a copy of it “lift” off the page while you hold your finger down. 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 over to any other app, and just drag and drop the cut subject right in. Long-press an image in Photos, keep your finger on the “lifted” subject and then swipe over to Messages to drop it in.
Apple treats these images and PNGs with transparent backgrounds, which can be handy for those who want to do more creative things with them.
How it works in macOS Ventura
As you would expect, this works on your iPad with iPadOS 16 as well. But it’s actually built into macOS Ventura, too! In Safari or Photos, right-click on any image (or tap the touchpad with two fingers) and choose “Copy Subject” to copy it to your clipboard. If you’re using some other application (or a different browser), save the image first, then in Finder use QuickLook (space bar) to open the image, then right-click and choose Copy Subject.
You can then paste that image into any application that will accept images from your clipboard, like Messages, Mail, or Notes.
It even works on paused videos!
If you’re playing back a video in the Photos app, you can pause it and select the subject just as if it was a still image. This doesn’t really work on every video on the web, though–especially if it uses its own video player. The workaround to that is to take a screenshot and then copy the subject out of that image. It’s an extra step or two, but it’s a much more reliable method.