iCloud can be a little confusing at times, and this can make you wary of removing images on your iPhone when you want to save space: what if they also disappear from your iCloud storage and are lost forever? In this article we explain what happens when you delete photos from your iPhone, and show how to save space on your device without accidentally trashing your digital memories.

Can I delete photos on my iPhone without affecting iCloud?

If you use iCloud Photos then the answer is no. To check whether this service is turned on, go to Settings and tap on your account at the top of the screen. From there navigate to iCloud > Photos and you should see a toggle switch for iCloud Photos. If this is enabled then the service is already up and running.

Does deleting photos from iPhone delete them from iCloud (and vice versa): iCloud Photos

While using iCloud Photos all of the images you capture on your iPhone are automatically uploaded to the iCloud servers and synced with all of your other iCloud devices. This is convenient for ensuring you can access them from your iPad or Mac, but also means any deletions are also executed on the iCloud servers and your devices.

The upshot of this is that any photos deleted from your iPhone will also be deleted from your iCloud Photo library.

However, your photos may not actually be taking up room on your iPhone. If you are thinking of deleting photos from your iPhone to save space then you should instead ensure that you have the following feature - Optimise iPhone Storage - turned on.

How to save space on your iPhone keeping photos in iCloud

If you have iCloud Photos turned on you can choose for high-res versions of your images and videos to be saved in iCloud, but only small versions on your iPhone.

  1. Go to Settings and tap on your Apple ID
  2. Tap on iCloud
  3. Tap on Photos
  4. Now make sure that Optimise iPhone Storage is selected rather than Download and Keep Originals.

As Apple explains: "If your iPhone is low on space, full-resolution photos and videos are automatically replaced with smaller, device-sized versions."

Therefore there is no need to delete photos from your iPhone - they won't be taking up much space anyway.

Does deleting photos from iPhone delete them from iCloud (and vice versa): Optimise iPhone Storage

How to hide photos on your iPhone

If you are wanting to delete the photos from your iPhone because you don't want someone to see them, rather than because you want to save space, then the best advice is to Hide them.

  1. To hide an image on your iPhone tap on the image to select it.
  2. Now tap on the Share icon in the bottom left.
  3. Scroll down to Hide. Tap that.
  4. Now tap Hide Photo.

This way that photo will not appear anywhere other than in your Hidden albums, which can be found under Other Albums.

If you want your photos to only be on your iPhone then you could consider disabling iCloud. Should this be the route you want to take, read How to turn off iCloud Photos without deleting anything as it has some helpful tips.

How to recover photos I've deleted

If you've already deleted a photo, only to realise that it's vanished from your iCloud Photo library, all may not be lost. Apple gives you a grace window of 30 days to undelete these images for cases such as this.

To do so follow these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app and tap on the Albums tab at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Scroll down to the bottom until you find the Recently Deleted option, then tap it and select the photo you want to reinstate.
  3. The image will open and you'll see a Recover button in the bottom-right corner. Tap this and your photo will once again appear in your Photo library.

Does deleting photos from iPhone delete them from iCloud (and vice versa): Recover Photos

For other ideas on getting the most from your device's storage, read How to free up space on an iPhone.