How to Capture Still Images from Video on Mac

Discover three simple and free methods for capturing a still image from a video on your Mac.

How To Take A Still From A Video On Mac 1
Text & Photos By David Coleman
Last Revised & Updated:
Filed Under: Video
Topics: YouTube

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Quick Summary

  • QuickTime Method:
    • Open video in QuickTime, pause at desired frame.
    • Save frame to clipboard (CMD + C).
    • Open in Preview (CMD + N) and save as desired format.
  • VLC Method:
    • Open video in VLC, pause at desired frame.
    • Use Video > Snapshot or CMD + ALT + S.
    • Image saved to predefined location.
  • Standard Screenshot:
    • Play video in full screen, use CMD + SHIFT + 4 for screenshot.
  • SnapMotion App:
    • Paid macOS app specifically for capturing high-quality stills from videos.
  • Professional software like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X also offer still capture features.

There are times when you might need to take a single still image from a video. There is any number of reasons you might want to do that. You might want to use a frame in a photo book or other format that only supports still images. One of the most common reasons is to use it as a video thumbnail on YouTube or on Vimeo. Once you’ve exported the still image, you can edit it or add text and graphics in any way you’d normally edit an image file.

There are a number of different ways to take a still from a video on Mac. Most video editing software has the capability, and I’ve previously posted a guide to doing it with Adobe Premiere Pro.

But if you don’t want to fire up your video editing software, there are also other quick and free options. So here are a few quick ways to take a still from a video on a Mac. All of these use free software or tools built right into macOS.

I’ll start with using QuickTime, followed by VLC, and finish up with using the built-in screenshot tool.

How to Capture a Still Image from Video with QuickTime Player

An advantage of using QuickTime is that it’s baked right into macOS. A disadvantage is that it’s a two-step process that requires another app that’s also built into macOS (Preview).

Open the video in QuickTime Player and go to the frame you want to grab. Pause the playhead there.

You then want to save a copy of the frame to the clipboard by pressing CMD + C.

Open Preview (Applications > Preview, from Spotlight, a launcher like Alfred, or from your Dock.

From the top menu, go to File > New from Clipboard or use the shortcut CMD + N. The image will now display in a new window.

You can now save it as a still image. Most of the time, you’ll probably want to save it as a JPG or maybe a PNG, but the full range of options are JPG/JPEG, JPEG 2000, HEIC, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, and TIFF. For some, such as JPG, you get the option of controlling how much compression to apply (more compression makes smaller files but can negatively impact image quality).

You now have the still image saved, and you can open it in any image editing app to apply text or graphics or other edits if you wish.

QuickTime 7 Pro

An older (and in many ways more powerful) version, Quicktime 7 Pro, had a built-in “Movie to Picture” function that performed the task of taking a still from a video. But QuickTime 7 Pro will not work in macOS Catalina and subsequent versions.

If you’re using an older macOS and still have Quicktime 7 Pro installed, you can take a still by going to File > Export > Movie to Picture. You can choose your saving and image file format options and save the file directly.

How to Take a Still from a Video with VLC Media Player

Another option is to use VLC, a free, cross-platform, and very capable video and music player app. I’ve put together a more detailed guide to saving stills from video using VLC, but here’s the quick version:

Open the video file in VLC and move the playhead to the frame you want to use. Pause playback at that point.

From the top menu, go to Video > Snapshot (or right-click on the video screen and choose Snapshot, or use the keyboard shortcut CMD + ALT + S).

A thumbnail of the captured frame will appear in the top right of the video screen.

If you want control of the image format and where it’s saved, you can set those in Preferences > Video > Video Snapshots.

Taking a Standard Screenshot

A third option is to use a simple screenshot function that’s built into macOS in combination with a video playback app such as QuickTime Player.

Open the video file in QuickTime Player (or any other video player, for that matter). Put the screen into fullscreen mode by going to View > Enter Full Screen (or using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + CMD + F). This makes it easier to avoid title bars and playback controls being visible and needing to be cropped out.

Then press CMD + SHIFT + 4 to go into screenshot mode. Press the spacebar until the window turns a pale blue, and the cursor becomes a small camera icon. Press Return to take the shot. The file will save automatically to the location of your screenshots (by default, they go to the Desktop, but you can change that in macOS preferences.

There are also plenty of more specialized screenshot apps available, and they will also work well for this and might give you more direct control over the naming and image format of the file being saved.

Use SnapMotion

SnapMotion is a paid macOS app designed specifically for capturing high-quality still images from videos. It offers batch processing, precise frame selection, and customizable output settings. You can find it here.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open the video in SnapMotion.
  2. Navigate to the desired frame.
  3. Click the capture button or use the keyboard shortcut Command+C.
  4. Choose your desired output settings and save location.
  5. Click the export button to save the image.

Professional Software for Extracting Still Images from Video

Most full-featured video editing apps will include a way to extract a single frame as a JPG. Examples are Adobe Premiere Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and Final Cut Pro.

Adobe Premiere Pro

I have a more detailed post on how to export a JPG frame from video in Adobe Premiere Pro, but here’s the quick version:

  1. Open or create a new project and import the video.
  2. Drag the video to the timeline.
  3. Navigate to the desired frame using the Program Monitor.
  4. Click the camera icon below the Program Monitor or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+E.
  5. Choose your desired output settings and save location.
  6. Click the Save button to save the image.

Final Cut Pro X

I have a more detailed post on how to export a JPG frame from video in Final Cut Pro X, but here’s the short version:

  1. Open or create a new project and import the video.
  2. Drag the video to the timeline.
  3. Navigate to the desired frame using the viewer.
  4. Click File > Share > Save Current Frame (or use the keyboard shortcut Shift+F).
  5. Choose your desired output settings and save location.
  6. Click the Save button to save the image.

FAQs About How to Capture Still Image From Video on Mac

What are the best formats for saving still images from videos?

The most common formats for saving still images from videos are JPEG/JPG and PNG. JPEG offers good image quality with smaller file sizes, making it suitable for most purposes. In most instances, it will be the best format for this.

Can I extract still images from video in high resolution?

Yes, the resolution of the extracted still images depends on the resolution of the original video. For example, if the video is in 4K resolution, you can extract still images with 4K resolution. Keep in mind that the quality of the extracted image may vary depending on the video codec and compression used in the original video file.

How can I extract multiple still images from a video at once?

Some third-party applications and professional software, such as SnapMotion, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro, allow batch processing, enabling you to extract multiple still images from a video at once. This can save time and effort, especially when working with lengthy videos or when you need to capture a series of images.

Can I improve the quality of the extracted still images?

The quality of the extracted still images depends on the original video’s quality. However, you can use image editing software like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to enhance the appearance of the extracted still images. Techniques like sharpening, noise reduction, and color correction can help improve the overall quality of the images.

Are there any mobile apps for extracting still images from video?

Yes, there are mobile apps available for both iOS and Android devices that allow you to extract still images from videos. Some popular apps include Video to Photo (iOS) and Video to Image Converter (Android). These apps typically offer similar features to desktop applications but may have limitations in terms of video resolution and output formats.

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David Coleman

I'm a professional photographer based in Washington, DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and many places in between. I've been shooting for 30+ years, and my photos and time-lapse videos have appeared in a bunch of different publications, from major newspapers to magazines and books, billboards, TV shows, professional sports stadiums, museums, and even massive architectural scrims covering world-famous buildings while they're being renovated. You can see some of my travel photography here and here.

Discussion

      • I think the previous poster asked whether this can be done within the Apple Photos app, the one that syncs between Mac and iPhone using iCloud. I’ve searched around and there doesn’t seem to be a way to do this.

        Reply

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