How to use iOS 16 photo cropping to cut and paste images

There are plenty of smaller smart features hidden in iOS 16. Perhaps the most impressive of these is the ability to extract the subject of a photo from elements in the background, digitally cropping out the main part of the photo so you can share it on your own or paste it. on another image with a completely different background.

This new feature is an expansion of Apple’s Visual Look Up that was introduced in iOS 15 last year. In its original form, Visual Look Up used machine learning to recognize certain objects in your photos, such as popular landmarks, flowers, plants, breeds of certain pets, and even birds, insects, and spiders. Selecting a recognized object in the Photos app would provide more information with links to Wikipedia articles and similar images from the web.

So it wasn’t a stretch for Apple to enhance these machine learning capabilities to let you pull these detected objects right out of your photos. Even better, this new feature doesn’t just work with things that Visual Look Up recognizes; iOS 16 can pick up just about anything you can identify as a subject other than a photo, whether it’s a person, a pet, a street sign, an appliance, or a random object on a table.

Plus, just like the original Visual Look Up feature, you don’t need the latest and greatest iPhone 14 to take advantage of it. This works on any iPhone model from the 2018 iPhone XS and iPhone XR. While it will naturally work best with high-resolution portrait mode shots taken on an iPhone, it can be used with any image in your photo library, even those you’ve scanned from old printed photos.

Three iPhones showing the steps to remove a theme from an image and paste it into a messaging app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

How to copy a subject from the background of a photo

The easiest way to use this feature is to copy a photo subject to your system clipboard. You can paste it into any other app that supports images, like Messages, Mail, Notes, or your favorite photo editor.

Step 1: Open a suitable image in the Photos app on your iPhone.

Step 2: Touch and briefly hold the photo subject until a bright outline appears around it.

iPhone showing a photo of a bird with a context menu to copy or share the theme.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 3: Release your finger. A context menu should appear.

Step 4: Select Copy. The highlighted topic is copied to your clipboard.

Step 5: Open another app and paste the contents of your clipboard as you would any other image. Only the subject of the photo will be pasted.

Three iPhones showing the steps to share an image subject in Messages.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

How to share a theme directly with another application

If you simply want to share a photo theme through a messaging or social media app, you can bypass the clipboard and do it directly through the iOS 16 share sheet.

Step 1: Open a suitable image in the Photos app on your iPhone.

Step 2: Touch and briefly hold the photo subject until a bright outline appears around it.

Step 3: Release your finger. A context menu should appear.

Step 4: Select Share. The iOS share dialog appears.

Step 5: Select where you want to share the selected topic. The selected app opens as it would to share any other photo, but only the image theme appears.

Three iPhones showing the steps to drag and drop an image theme into a photo editing app.

Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

How to copy a theme using drag and drop

You can also copy the subject of an image by dragging it from the Photos app to a third-party app that supports drag and drop. This works with most built-in apps like Mail, Messages, Notes, and Reminders. It is also convenient when working with third-party photo editors.

Step 1: Open a suitable image in the Photos app on your iPhone.

Step 2: Touch and briefly hold the subject of the photo until a bright outline appears.

Step 3: Start moving your finger without lifting it. You should see a copy of the subject being dragged out of the photo with your finger.

Step 4: Keep holding your finger on the image while using another finger to swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone screen to return to the home screen.

Step 5: Continue to hold your finger on the image, and use another finger to open the app you want to place the image in.

Step 6: In the destination app, drag the image to where you’d like to paste it, and release your finger to drop it into place.

What happens next depends on the application. Photo editors will usually add the subject image as a new layer that you can move, resize, and edit just like any other image. Placing the image in a messaging or social media app will paste it into a new post. If the destination application does not support pasting images, nothing will happen and the matter will be dismissed.

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