Starting fresh with Photos for 2019

The annual photo reboot. 

Like with so many other things, January is a good time to revisit your photo strategy and get everything in order for the coming year. 

Maybe you have an endless stream of digital Post-It’s - those pesky reminder photos of labels, signs, decorating ideas, and, of course, the inevitable collection of food porn that was taken, shared, and then generally buried under all the remarkable  meals that followed. 

Or perhaps there are 3 takes of every selfie and dozens of burst photos - whether intentional or not. 

And you may just love taking lots of photos. Awesome. The iPhone has made photographers out of us all and our lives are much richer for it in so many ways. 

So it’s all good until it isn’t, and one day you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the digital clutter or running out of storage space on your iPhone, iCloud or your Mac. 

Time to do a photo reboot. 

I find that there are two good places to start:

1. Clean up attachments in mail and messages as well as downloaded files and installers the download folder.

2. Delete or move screenshots and reminder photos out of the Photos Library.

Attachments and Downloads

One consequence of iPhone photography is that the ease of sharing our pictures has added to the storage overwhelm on all our devices. Unless you’ve created a separate strategy for culling and organizing emails in your mail software, chances are you have one long stream of emails that goes back months. Many of these emails have shared photos attached that had one time value and are now just taking up space.

To review the attachments, just filter your email to show only mail with attachments and scan through them, deleting anything that is out of date or just plain junk. For the photos and documents that you want to keep, save those to the Photos library or an appropriate folder where they can actually be found by some relevant criteria. 

Message attachments have the same problem. Maybe more so because we can text videos and photos so easily and they get buried in old conversations. But if you go into the Info tab in each conversation, you can access the Images history for the conversation and delete one or more photos from Messages. Just save any Photos you want to keep first. One trick, you have to turn on the Messages sync to iCloud to get the option to delete.

The Downloads folder on your Mac is a bit more tedious, but you can sort by file size in List View and identify the biggest files quickly, again moving the “keepers” to a logical folder and deleting the rest. Any files with “.dmg” are app installer files that are likely out of date anyway and the newer versions can be downloaded if needed. PDF’s and other documents can be moved to a better location or deleted. 

Reminders, Screenshots, and Photo Clutter

Just like all the files coming into our Photos universe as attachments or downloads, the ease of making quick reminder snapshots of labels, signs, and objects creates ongoing clutter in your library that breaks up the flow and takes precious space. 

Fortunately, Photos identifies screenshots in their own album. Likewise, selfies and photo bursts, which usually have extra takes by choice or design, have albums too. This makes it fairly easy to edit down to favorites and best-of-series choices that really deserve to be kept in the library. Taking 5 or 10 minutes every couple days to weed out the clutter it not that hard and makes a real difference in your user experience. 

Reminder photos are their own thing and as such, should really have their own place to live outside of the active Photos library. Two great options are the system Notes app and a 3rd party app called Evernote. Both apps (and others) now can take and store photos right in the app without saving it to the Photos library. So not only does that keep these digital “Post-It’s” from cluttering up your Photos collection, but they offer the ability to annotate, edit, and mark up the photos for later reference. As part of your reboot, just create some categories in your app of choice and as you edit out the reminder photos, just move the “keepers” there and delete them all from the library. Going forward, take your reminder photos right in the app. 

Finally, you need to go through what’s left in Photos and delete all the unnecessary extras. 

  • Edit down to the best version of each selfie and group photo.

  • Get rid of bad shots - the finger over the lens; out of focus; poor crop; 3rd party or downloaded shots that are no longer relevant; and the “why did I even take this?” photos.

It can feel challenging to hit that delete key as much as you need to, but it gets easier with practice. And the one guarantee is that you will be taking many more photos over the years to replace them. One of the secrets of professional photographers is that they often choose and show only 1 photo for every 20 or 30 that they take. Editing down to the best pictures and keeping your Photos library interesting and relevant just makes your whole experience more enjoyable and finding the photos you want to share that much easier. 

These two tasks are simple and easy places to start. Don’t feel that you have to do them all at one time. Space it out and before you know it you will have a cleaner, slimmer Photos library to help you start off the new year. 

If you want some more tips and detail about ways to declutter you iPhone, download my free iPhone Space Saver Cheat Sheet here. Just follow the link and I will email you the PDF along with some details about other ways to get control of the photo organization and storage space in your Apple Photos ecosystem.