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.
While using iCloud Photos all of the images you capture on your iPhone are automatically backed up 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.
If you want to regain total control over your photos once more 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.
Can I recover photos I've accidentally 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, open the Photos app and tap on the Albums tab at the bottom of the screen. Scroll down to the bottom until you find the Recently Deleted option, then tap it and select the photo you want to reinstate.
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.
How can I get more space without deleting photos?
If the main reason for wanting to delete photos off your iPhone is to save space, there is another, easier option available.
Open Settings then click on your account name. Next, navigate to iCloud > Photos and you'll see an option to Optimise iPhone Storage.
Selecting this option will keep the full-resolution versions of photos and videos on iCloud but use smaller versions on your iPhone to save space. You can still access the full versions by downloading them from iCloud, so everything remains safely stored but the impact on your local storage is diminished.
For other ideas on getting the most from your device's storage, read How to free up space on an iPhone.