I had 25GB of photos on my 4s. I have deleted all of them, some via the photos app, and some via windows explorer.

Unfortunately, phone usage and iTunes is still showing 16GB of photos. I backed up the image and imported it to a new 5s and it is also showing 16GB (458 photos) on the new phone.

iCloud and all the sync settings are off.

When I open the photos app, all the albums are completely empty. I have done countless soft and hard resets but I can't get rid of this phantom 16gb of used photo storage. I've also tried countless suggested fixes from web searches but nothing is working.

What can I do?

  • photos don't 'live' in albums, that's just a collection & organisation method; they live in photos.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:20
  • Whether I look at albums or photos everything is completely empty. But when I look at storage it says 16.4gb exists in the photo library.
    – Simon
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:42
  • what does iTunes think, in the photos tab? Anything selected? Sometimes you can toggle it to refresh the count.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:46
  • Recently deleted has also been cleared btw.
    – Simon
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 12:46
  • 1
    I had this too on my iPhone 5s. I created a fake, empty folder on my desktop and then on iTunes i selected only that one to sync and it seems to have gotten rid of my phantom 3.5gb of photos
    – user106216
    Commented Dec 26, 2014 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


The best way to attack this is to make a good backup (perhaps two - one to iTunes and another iCloud) and then restore the device.

When you activate the phone, don't sign in to iCloud at all (or the app store) - just set it up as a new device. From there you can look at storage and then slowly add your Apple Accounts.

When you sign in to iCloud - look at the storage and see if it's downloading photos from the iCloud Drive, the Messages archives, the photo stream, etc...

My suspicion is you have iCloud and the "photos" are from the data that comes down from the server - even without having any photos in the photo app / camera roll.

Once you have a good feel for what item is causing the "photos" to arrive, you can then erase the phone and set it up from your backup if desired. You can also just reinstall the things you want on the device that was "set up as new" if that's easier than restoring a backup and deleting things you don't want.

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