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Using iCloud for Your Photos: How to Delete Photos from iCloud

Delete photos

Reading Time: 9 minutes read

The great thing about digital photography is the ability to control our image libraries. iCloud Photos can safely store all your original photos and, in just a few easy steps, you can access, alter or remove images at your discretion. So, if you’ve recently taken lots of photos during your recent holiday, or if you went a bit overboard at the latest family reunion, you may want to get rid of some images that aren’t very good and are just taking up space on your device.

Simply pick and choose your favourite photos and delete those you’re not entirely happy with. By deleting unwanted images, you will free up space on iCloud from your photo’s app on your device.

The deletion method varies slightly depending on how much you wish to delete and the type of device you’re using. We’ll cover all the various deletion methods in our guide below.

What you need to know before deleting photos from iCloud

What happens when you delete photos from iCloud? When you delete images they will be placed in a ‘Recently Deleted Album’, where they will remain, temporarily, for 30 days. Thereafter, these deleted photos will be permanently erased from all your devices that are set-up for iCloud Photos.

If you suddenly realize you made a mistake and sent the wrong photo to the bin, don’t worry. You can recover your deleted photos within 30 days of deletion.

Deleting a selection of photos from iCloud

If you wish to delete only selected photos from iCloud, you can follow these simple steps:

1. Go to iCloud.com and login using your Apple ID and password.

iCloud - iPhone Sign in

2. Select ‘Photos’, which will open up all your photos. You could also select ‘Albums’ and open a specific photo.

iCloud - iPhone Select Photos

3. On iPhone or Ipad, choose ‘Select’ in blue letters at the top right-hand side. This option will allow you to choose photos for deletion. Selected images will display a blue checkmark.  If you are using a Mac, move ahead to the next step.

iCloud - iPhone Choose photos for deletion

4. For Mac, you can select individual photos by clicking on them. Alternatively, to select multiple photos, hold down the ‘Cmd’ key on your Mac while clicking on the images.

5. Select the ‘Trash Bin’ and confirm your action by tapping on the ‘Delete # Photos’ pop-up that will appear. All your selected photos will be deleted from your device and iCloud account.

iCloud - iPhone Trash Bin

Deleting all photos from iCloud on iPhone or iPad

Deleting all your photos from iCloud using an iPhone or iPad is quite simple.

1. Open the Setting’s app.

iCloud - iPad Settings

2. Select your name (at the top of Settings) and open the Apple ID menu.

iCloud - iPad Open Apple ID

3. Select iCloud on the menu.

iCloud - iPad iCloud Menu

4. Select the ‘Manage Storage’ option.

iCloud - iPad Manage Storage

5. Select ‘Photos’ and then ‘Disable & Delete’ (in red letters) on the photo’s page.

iCloud - iPad Photos Disable & Delete

6. Select the ‘Delete Photos & Videos’ confirmation pop-up that will appear. This action will delete all the photos from your iCloud storage.

iCloud - iPad Delete Photos & Videos

How to disable iCloud Photos Library

If you disable iCloud Photos Library on your device, your images in the stream folder will be deleted off your device but not from the iCloud. Follow these steps if you want to turn off iCloud Photos from all devices.

Disabling iCloud on an iPhone.

1. Go to Settings and select your name (at the top of Settings) and open the Apple ID menu.

2. Tap on iCloud from the menu.

Disable Photos - iCloud Menu

3. Once you are in iCloud, select ‘Photos’ and toggle the ‘iCloud Photo Library’ to the ‘off’ position.

Disable - iCloud Photo Library

Disabling iCloud on a Mac.

1. Navigate to ‘System Preferences’ and select iCloud.

Disable iCloud on a Mac

2. Once you’re in iCloud, select ‘Photos’ and thereafter ‘Options’. In ‘Options’ you will deselect ‘iCloud Photos’.

Delete photos from My Photo Stream

When My Photo Stream is activated on your device, it will create two copies of the same photo, which will take up twice the amount of space. By deleting photos from My Photo Stream you will free up space on your device. Follow these steps to delete images.

1. Go to ‘Photos’ on your device and select ‘Albums’.

2. Once you are in ‘Albums’ select ‘My Photo Stream’ and select the images you wish to delete.

3. When you have selected the images you wish to delete, select the ‘Trash Bin’ icon and click on ‘Delete Photos’.

Delete photos from shared album

You can delete photos from a shared photo album providing your are the owner. When you delete photos from a shared album they will be removed from all your devices. Only the owner of the shared stream can also delete photos added by subscribers. Follow these steps to delete photos from a shared album.

1. Go to ‘Shared Albums’ and double-click on the album from which you wish to delete photos. Please note that you will not be able to delete any photos from the ‘Activity’ view.

Delete - Share Album

2. Right-click on the photo and select ‘Delete’. This action will delete any photos from the shared photo album.

Delete Album

If I delete photos from iPhone, is it deleted from iCloud?

Yes, if you delete a photo from iPhone it will be deleted from iCloud. This is because your iPhone automatically backs up to your iCloud account. However, there are a few ways to get around this issue, one of which is by Disabling iCloud Photo Library. Another way is by turning off iCloud Photo Sharing or by using a service, other than iCloud, for your photo backups.

How to clear your recently deleted photos

If you’ve deleted photos you no longer want, they will be moved to the ‘Recently Deleted’ folder where they will remain, temporarily, for 30 days. The ‘Recently Deleted’ folder cannot be disabled and, if you wish to permanently delete these photos forever, follow these steps.

1. Go to the ‘Photos’ app and select ‘Recently Deleted’ from the menu on the left hand side.

Recently Deleted - Menu

2. Each photo in this folder will bear a number indicating how many days are left before it is permanently deleted. Tap ‘Delete All’ to permanently wipe all the photos in the album.

Recently Deleted - Delete All

3. If you wish to delete only certain images, you can manually select each one and hit ‘Delete’ on the bottom right.

How to optimize your iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library is an optional feature offered by Apple’s iCloud Service. Once enabled it will automatically back-up and sync any images to iCloud. It’s compatible with iPhone and Mac. By optimizing your storage, you will free up space and you won’t have to delete your photos.

You can optimize your storage space by following these steps:

Iphone and Ipad (skip to Mac instructions)

1. Select the ‘Settings’ app on your device.

Optimize iCloud Photo Library - Setting

2. Select ‘Photos’ and then ‘Optimize Storage’. Once you have enabled this service iCloud will make the storage option operational and all your older full-resolution photos will be removed from your device and stored, in their native formats, in iCloud. Only your most recent photos will appear on your device.

Photos - Optimize Storage

Mac

1. Click the Mac icon on the top left of your screen and then click on “About this Mac”.

Optimize iCloud Photo Library - About this Mac

2. With the new window open, click on storage.

3. Click “Manage…”

Optimize iCloud Photo Library - Manage Storage

4. Finally, navigate to “Photos” and then click on “Optimize Photo Library”.

Photos - Optimize Photo Library

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