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How to Manage All Those Photos Taking Up Space On Your iPhone

5 minute read

With 2018 on the way out, you’re probably going through your photos, looking for the best snapshots and videos from years past. Well, trying to.

Once you get past all the blurry photos and packs of burst shots taking up space, you’ll have to find where the photos from two years ago went. Didn’t you have a new phone then? Did you back those up? All of them? If you’re like me, you’ve got more than a few pictures you’d consider disposable, and would love to keep the ones you still have from years past so they’re not little more than lost memories. Also, all the cropped and annotated screenshot jokes just have to go. They’re all taking up space both in your iPhone and your mind. You want to bring all those photos, all that clutter, into the New Year? Of course not.

So here’s how to deal with all the photos you want to keep, and ditch the ones you don’t.

Sync them everywhere with iCloud Photo Library

Since you’ve got an iPhone, the easiest and quickest way to keep your photos safe is by using Apple’s own iCloud Photo Library. Keep in mind it’s different from Apple’s other big photo-related feature, iCloud Photo Stream, which provides a free and temporary way to view up to 30 day’s worth of photos (no videos or live photos, however) across your devices. If you care about keeping your images for posterity, use iCloud Photo Library instead.

You can use iCloud Photo Library to store every image and video you take in the cloud, accessible on all of Apple’s devices or through iCloud’s site if you’re on a computer. Unfortunately, Apple only offers 5GB of free iCloud storage, meaning a fun summer can quickly fill up your allotted amount. You can upgrade your storage space easily, starting at 50GB of storage for a buck a month. All your photos and videos will be stored in their full resolution, too.

If you want some breathing room on your iPhone, you can enable photo optimizing in your iCloud’s settings page and keep smaller versions of the images on your device, potentially freeing up dozens of gigabytes of storage.

Or Use Your Own Cloud Storage

If you’re a Mac and iOS user exclusively, iCloud Photo Library’s syncing across devices and deep integration with Apple’s own Photos app makes it a logical choice when it comes to photo storage.

Don’t want to rely on Apple or iCloud to manage your images? Bounce around between different operating systems and devices? Already pay for another cloud service like Dropbox or Google One (formerly Google Drive)? You can store your iPhone’s images elsewhere pretty easily, and benefit from features not found in Apple’s offering, features like the ability to search for particular objects and people in your images.

Cloud storage services like Google Photos and Dropbox can automatically upload your photos and make them easily accessible on any device, though they require you to disable Apple’s iCloud Photo Library if you want automatic syncing.

While many might be concerned about image resolution, uploading to Google Photos using its “high quality” mode will let you upload an unlimited number of images, and won’t count against your storage space. That means you could simply sign up for the free plan and store images that way. Huge images or 4K video content will be resized to the 16-megapixel limit or the 1080p resolution limit. That should be just fine for most people, especially since the latest iPhone XS and XS Max have 12 megapixel cameras (but still shoot 4K video). Storing images at their original resolution will, of course, count against your storage space.

Ditch the duplicates

The images and videos you’d rather never see again may be taking up the most space on your device. That means extra photos, videos, or selfies are taking up valuable digital real estate on your device when they can be dealt with either manually or using an app.

The manual method for deleting all of it involves using the Photos app to separate your content by category. In your iPhone’s Photos app, scroll to the bottom of the Albums section to see your media categorized by type. You can pick through selfies, portrait mode photos, screenshots, and GIFs, among other options. As someone with a few hundred screenshots, mostly for comedic purposes, it’s safe to say you also probably have plenty of images you can safely ditch. Select your category, hit the Select option, pick your candidates (or hit Select All), and delete them.

Whether you’re too impatient to pick through your images or just want something to handle the heavy management workload, you can always turn to an app like Gemini Photos, which can make quick work of your photographic detritus. After counting all the photos you’ve got on your device, Gemini Photos makes suggestions about which photos to delete, and separates them by category. It’ll show you your screenshots, your blurry images, and duplicate shots, letting you swipe to keep or delete. It’s like Tinder for your own images, and it makes quick work of them if you know what you want to get rid of.

No matter which option you choose, or which storage option you prefer, taking stock of your image inventory and putting it where it belongs could inspire you to do more with your photos besides keep them stored in a folder on the web — printing them for framing in your home, for instance.

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Write to Patrick Lucas Austin at patrick.austin@time.com