It seems to me that all photos taken with the iPhone go into:

  • the iPhone Camera Roll
  • the iCloud photo stream
  • iPhoto/Aperture projects (e.g. "Photo stream for Decembre 2014")

Can I clear completely my iPhone's camera roll without losing any photo?

I.e. will the duplicates in the iCloud stream and in iPhoto/Aperture projects will be deleted or not?

My goal is to free some space on the iPhone while, of course, not losing anything.

Edit: when I say iPhoto/Aperture projects I mean that there are projects automatically created in Aperture for every month and my iPhone's photo are automatically added to it. I don't know how/why it works…

I haven't imported my phone's photos manually.



("flux de photos" means photo stream, "févr" means february, "janv" means january)

7 Answers 7


Some explanations about where your iPhone photos are stored:

  1. the iPhone Camera Roll Sure. This is the only standard thing that happens.

  2. the iCloud photo stream Happens only when you have enabled the My Photo Stream option in Settings->iCloud->Photos

  3. iPhoto/Aperture projects Will be the case if you connect your iPhone to you Mac and sync/export your photos.

Now based on the above, deleting photos from you Camera Roll do the follow in each case:

  1. will simply... delete them from your Camera Roll. They may still be in the Recently Deleted Album of your phone for some days.
  2. will also delete them from your Photo Steam since this is something for sharing, not storing/backing-up. Do not confuse this with the iCloud Photo Library (Beta)
  3. will not affect your photos in the iPhoto projects, since these are not synced automatically or something.

Edit after your explanations:

Deleting a photo from your Camera Roll will also delete it from the Photo Stream. And this applies to all your linked devices.

One should think the Photo Stream as a single common Album that all the devices have access to. Hence, any change to it, is reflected to all devices.

Long story short, if you have your photos saved in your mac you can safely delete them from your iPhone. If you feel uneasy with that, you can simply try it with a couple of photos and make sure that everything worked as you expected

  • Sorry for the confusion, by Aperture projects I meant projects that are automatically created and my iPhone's photos ends up in there automatically! So that's why I'm afraid. I have added a screenshot to my question. Feb 4, 2015 at 20:27
  • I have never backed anything manually… So I'm not even sure I have all my iPhone's photos or videos on my Mac (or Cloud). Feb 4, 2015 at 20:28
  • I edited my answer to cover exactly what you wanted. Regarding your second question check Settings->iCloud->Photos of you iPhone (and any other iOS devices you have). That is the place were you have "My Photo Stream" enabled. There are some explanation for each option and reading them should make things more clear for you. If you don't want all your photo to be synced automatically you have to disable those preferences. Note that the iPhotos app (and probably Aperture, but I don't have it) have similar settings in Preferences
    – LyK
    Feb 4, 2015 at 23:58
  • Thank you for your help, I think we are still not on the same page but you helped me understand things. The iPhoto/Aperture stuff is actually called Automated Import and it downloads from the Cloud to put inside the iPhoto Library. See support.apple.com/en-us/HT202682 Feb 5, 2015 at 2:43
  • 1
    The big question is: are photos downloaded with this automated import saved forever? And I think the answer is yes, so I can delete from iPhone & iCloud without any fear. If you can confirm this to me I'd feel more at ease too ;) I have also tried to delete something from the Cloud/Photo stream and the imported photo in Aperture/iPhoto is still there, which is reassuring. And it makes sense: my photo library is independent from the Cloud… Import doesn't mean "synchronization" so I should be good! Feb 5, 2015 at 2:45

I downloaded Dropbox and save them in the Camera Uploads file included. Every photo I've ever taken remains in this folder despite what I've deleted on my iphone or from my iCloud account. Unless I manually delete them from the file, there they remain. A real life saver.


Since all of my pictures were sent to my mac, I just went into Finder, opened up a new folder on my desk top. I then went into my photos and selected them all and moved them into the folder. I then shut off iCloud on my phone and moved everything back into my photos. Now, I am keeping iCloud off until they come up with a solution to delete without deleting everything. I don't mind downloading from my phone onto my mac.


I had a similar issue trying to free up space on my iPhone. At first I thought it was the trick Apple uses to force you to download and update the iOS. But it's not. It's the crappy storage on a 16G iPhone.

My first recommendation is to upgrade the phone to a larger capacity iPhone, but if that's not an option (i.e. tight budget and/or company phone) there is another way to limit the Photos app's impact on your storage.

This background info is necessary. In addition to a 16G iPhone, I also have a Mac computer, both are for work. I had iCloud Photo Library enabled on both devices, which means all my photos had been synced to iCloud. In order to free up space (on the iPhone, not iCloud) yet not lose all my photos in the iCloud Photo Library, I had to do two simple tasks, consecutively:

  1. On the Mac, open Photos>Preferences and enable "Download Originals to this Mac." This will keep the Photos from being lost after step 2. If this was not already enabled, it may take some time to download the original photos and videos, relative to how many you have stored on iCloud Photo Library. Also make sure that your WiFi is working and that it is enabled on your iPhone.

  2. ONLY AFTER STEP 1 IS COMPLETE: On the iPhone, open Settings>iCloud>Photos and disable "iCloud Photo Library." This will remove all photos from the iPhone, but as long as you follow Step 1 first, you're okay. Not sure about folks without a Mac, but I imagine the concept is the same.

Once these steps are completed, you will now have removed the photos from you iPhone. Any new photos will no longer sync to your iCloud Photo Library automatically. You will need to plug the iPhone in to your Mac and upload it to the Mac the old-fashioned way. The Mac will upload them to iCloud (if enabled).

If you have a larger storage capacity iPhone, it is a little more convenient to leave this feature enabled so that the photos can sync wirelessly via iCloud. But if you have a 16G iPhone, it will only set you back if you're having the storage issues that come with a 16G iPhone.

Hope this helps! Please comment if there's a better way....I'll use it myself!


Easiest thing on the world: start using Dropbox, automatically upload your photos there. Never lose a photo and you can delete all photos and videos from the iPhone and still access those uploaded photos via Dropbox app.


Take a look at AnyTrans; it's not expensive and it works well. I can simply copy all my photos and paste them anywhere on the Mac HD or USB HD.

I was struggling before I used to this program.

I am used to a PC where this sort of thing is easy.


To clear your iPhone's camera roll without losing any photo, get the Utiful app. Utiful is a complementary photo library, so you can freely move photos between the Camera Roll and the Utiful folders. So, unlike the Photos app than only duplicates photos into albums, Utiful makes it finally possible to physically MOVE photos out of the Camera Roll. It's available both for iPhone and iPad, here's the link to the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/utiful-divide-rule-your-photo/id1034958660?ls=1&mt=8

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