iOS 16 Photo Tool for iPhone Removes Picture Backgrounds With Just a Tap

iOS 16 Photo Tool for iPhone Removes Picture Backgrounds With Just a Tap

This story is part of Focus point iPhone 2022CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

If you have an iPhone running iOS 16, you should try one of the best new features. The tool doesn’t have an official name, but lets you separate an image’s subject, such as a person, from the background. All you have to do is tap and hold a photo to make it work. If you keep holding, you can then “lift” the cutout of the photo and drag it to another app to post, share, or make a collage, for example.

iOS 16 debuts with the iPhone 14 line with a number cool new features. Before iOS 16, if I wanted to remove a photo’s background, I would have to use an app like Adobe Photoshop. But what’s great about this tool is that it’s built right into iOS 16, eliminating the need to download a special app or set up an account.

Technically, the tap-and-light photo feature is part of Visual Look Up, which was first introduced with iOS 15 and can recognize objects in your photos like plants, food, landmarks, and even pets. In iOS 16, Visual Look Up lets you highlight that object from a photo or PDF by doing nothing more than tapping and holding.

During the WWDC, Apple showed how someone can tap and hold the dog on a photo to lift it from the background and share it in a Message.


Robby Walker, Apple’s senior director of Siri Language and Technologies, demonstrated the new type-and-light tool for the first time during WWDC. He had a picture of a French bulldog and typed and held the dog. Walker dragged the dog’s “cutout” from the photo and into the text field of a text message.

“It feels like magic,” Walker said.

Sometimes Apple overuses the word “magic”, but this tool looks impressive. Walker was quick to point out that the effect was the result of an advanced machine learning model, accelerated by core machine learning and Apple’s neural engine to perform 40 billion operations in a second.

Knowing how much processing and machine learning is required to cut a dog out of a photo excites me to no end. Many times new phone features have to be revolutionary or solve a serious problem. I guess you could say that the tap and hold tool solves the problem of removing a photo’s background, which can be a serious matter for at least some.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to another photo feature in iOS 16. On the lock screen, the photo editor separates the foreground subject from the background of your wallpaper photo. This makes it so that lock screen elements such as the time and date can be placed behind the subject of your wallpaper, but in front of the photo’s background. This gives the lock screen a slick magazine cover look.

I’ve used the new Visual Look Up feature many times now and I’m still impressed with how fast and reliable it works.

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