How to Use Live Text on iPhone in Photos & Camera

* This article is from our Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

Live Text is an iPhone feature that lets you copy, paste, and share text straight from your Camera or Photos app. Your iPhone will recognize text in a handwritten note, a business card, a nutrition label, a street sign, and so many other places. We'll teach you how to use Live Text on iPhone in Photos and Camera.

Related: How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to Computer

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Why You'll Love Live Text

  • Save handwritten notes to other apps (like the Notes app) using Live Text so you can save or share the information without having to type it manually.
  • Use iPhone Live Text to do things like recognize a restaurant sign, look up the restaurant, and share it with friends or make a reservation.
  • Translate and look up text anywhere, as long as you have your iPhone with you.

How to Use Live Text: iPhone Photos

iOS 15 Live Text on iPhone uses OCR (optical character recognition) technology to identify text in visual media, which makes it incredibly simple to copy, paste, look up, share, and save text from the Photos and Camera apps. Since Live Text is new to iOS 15, if you have an earlier software version you will need to update to iOS 15 before using this tip. To learn more about the cool new features offered in iOS 15, check out our Tip of the Day newsletter! 

Compatibility: Live Text is only available on devices with A12 Bionic chips (or later), which includes iPhone XS, iPad Pro 2020, iPad mini (5th generation), iPad Air 2019, iPad 2020, and all later models in those lines, as long as the device is running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 or later.

Here's how to use Live Text in pictures with the iPhone Photos app:

  1. Open the Photos app.

  2. Tap on the photo containing the text you want to select.
  3. Tap the Live Text icon. This will appear in the bottom-right corner once your iPhone Live Text feature recognizes available text in a photo.

  4. Live Text will create a bright box around the recognized text.

  5. To select some or all text, long press a word within the highlighted area.
  6. Select your desired text using the cursor or by tapping on specific words.

  7. You'll see a toolbar where you can choose Copy, Select All, Look Up, Translate, or Share
  8. You may have to tap on the over arrow to see more options.

  9. Tap Select All to highlight all recognized text.

  10. Tap Look Up to get more information about the selected text.

  11. You'll see a menu at the bottom of your screen containing definitions and other information for the text you selected with Live Text.

  12. To share the selected text, tap Share.

  13. You'll be able to send the text via Messages or another app, or select another sharing method from the Share menu.

  14. To translate the text into another language, tap Translate. Live Text's currently supported languages include English, Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, German, and Portuguese.

  15. Use the Translate menu at the bottom of the screen to translate the selected text and copy the translation if you need to. To see the full Translate menu, swipe up on it.

  16. If you want to copy the selected text to paste it into another app, tap Copy. You can paste it into any other app, like Notes or Safari.

Isn't it fun? Our team here at iPhone Life has been getting a real thrill out of using Live Text to copy our scribbled notes to save in Reminders, Notes, and more. Interested to learn how to use the Live Text feature while using the camera, not just in existing photos? Keep reading!

How to Use Live Text in the Camera on iPhone

You can also use Live Text to recognize text before you ever take a picture! This allows you to use your iPhone as a live-lookup device for things like signs you're passing, commercials you're watching, and other time-sensitive text in the real world. Here's how to use Live Text on iPhone in the Camera app.

  1. Open the Camera app.

    Live text camera iPhone
  2. Point the camera at the text you want to look up, translate, share, or copy.
  3. Tap the Live Text icon in the lower-right corner of the screen. This will appear when your iPhone recognizes text in the camera's field of vision.

    Live text camera iPhone
  4. Live Text will highlight recognized text.
  5. If the camera highlights only some of the text, you can always swipe or tap a blank part of the screen, then tap other text to focus Live Text on it.

    How to Use iPhone Live Text Camera
  6. Once you've selected the text you want, you'll see the same CopySelect All, Look Up, Translate, and Share options as are available in Photos with Live Text. You may have to tap the over arrow to see more options.

    How to Use iPhone Live Text

At this point, you can use Live Text the same way you would as though you were using it within a still photo! Your iPhone will save the text you're currently working on until you're done.

And there you have it! My favorite thing to do with this new iOS 15 feature is to send my friends URLs from my laptop using the Camera app. It saves me so much time instead of emailing the URL or trying to share it some other way. What's your favorite thing to do with Live Text on iPhone? Next, learn how to add Medications using your Camera app on your iPhone.

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Author Details

Elisabeth Garry's picture

Author Details

Elisabeth Garry

Elisabeth Garry is an Associate Editor for iPhone Life. Formerly of Gartner and Software Advice, they have six years of experience writing about technology for everyday users, specializing in iPhones, HomePods, and Apple TV. As a former college writing instructor, they are passionate about effective, accessible communication, which is perhaps why they love helping readers master the strongest communication tools they have available: their iPhones. They have a degree in Russian Literature and Language from Reed College.

When they’re not writing for iPhone Life, they’re reading about maritime disasters, writing fiction, rock climbing, or walking their adorable dog, Moosh.