I have an iPhone 11 Pro that I back-up regularly both to macOS and manually to windows (by copying the ###APPLE folders).

This phone is now full and I must delete older photos. Ideally I'd just delete the older ###APPLE folders but I believe this will mess the phone up.

I don't use iCloud since Google Photos is free and I also backup there for a worst case cloud scenario.

So how do I mass delete photos from the phone without messing it up to free up some space?

  • This is relevant as well when iCloud messes up. I was about to ask this since I removed iCloud from my phone and now have the dregs left over (34,000 photos and 50 GB) that I need to clean now that iCloud is out of the picture. I’ll add an answer if none work for this case. For the OP - are your photos in camera roll or stored in google app sandbox? – bmike Jun 17 '20 at 16:05
  • @bmike they are all in the camera roll – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 16:09
  • Nice - if you have access to the folders, that doesn’t clean the database - so this is an excellent question. Thanks for clarifying – bmike Jun 17 '20 at 16:24
  • @bmike ImageCapture on macOS ended up working but it's a pretty terrible experience (I documented it below in the answer). I wish there was a better way. Ideally I just wanted to blow away the sub-folders in DCIM but due to the SQLite database it appears you can't do that which is really annoying. – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 17:51
  • I know of nothing else that does a proper job. I’m testing an alternative that won’t need a mac, but it’s going to be a PITA I fear. – bmike Jun 17 '20 at 17:54

On macOS, you can use ImageCapture to select as many photos on the iPhone as you want and delete them. You can also import these photos to macOS with ImageCapture. Using Image capture is good since it cleans up thumbnails, database entries as well as the full resolution images.

Accessing the exposed DCIM folder isn’t the same as actually deleting the referenced photos via USB and software Apple makes.

  • I have never used ImageCapture, I can check it out – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 16:08
  • So yea this works, but it's a terrible experience. I want to delete from bottom -> top (oldest -> newest), so I select the bottom most photo, scroll way up then shift+select. But it always selects top->down which is ridiculous. In addition it crashes after each chunk of deleted photos (regardless of amount). I can't believe Apple has such a bad experience for mass deleting. On Android you just delete the photos in DCIM sorted by date and call it a day. – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 17:50
  • 2
    I've been using Image Capture for a decade & never seen the behaviour you describe. Perhaps earlier manual editing has corrupted the database. The iPhone was never designed to be mounted as a drive. – Tetsujin Jun 18 '20 at 7:41

This is simple:

  1. Select all photos/videos.

  2. Delete them.

Well, to elaborate:

  1. Open Photos app and open the relevant album.

  2. Tap on the Select button at the top right corner to enter selection mode.

  3. Tap down to select an image. Now without lifting your finger, simply drag your finger in the direction of unselected images (i.e. towards the bottom of the grid of images). As your finger moves, the grid of images will automatically start scrolling, selecting the images encountered on the way. The further away you move your finger from the starting point, faster the selection will be.

  4. You'll find that you have quickly selected all the images.

  5. Hit the Delete icon at the bottom right.

  6. Navigate back to the Albums screen and tap on the Recently Deleted item.

  7. Tap on Select button at the top right.

  8. Tap Delete All at the bottom left.

  9. Voila! All the photos are now deleted. Here's a visual demonstration of the same:

    Selecting multiple Photos on an iPhone

  10. You may of-course want to not delete all the photos, so you can stop midway to halt selection. Or tap on individual images to de-select them.

  11. The above approach can help speed up the selection process.

  • Unfortunately I have about 50,000 photos and looking to delete half or so (25,000). I don't think doing this in the UI by scrolling the finger is going to really work. I'd be there all day. – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 17:11
  • @automaton I think in that case, using the Image Capture.app on a Mac is the best way to go. This process can still significantly speed up the selection process if you do not have access to a Mac. – Nimesh Neema Jun 17 '20 at 17:13
  • Okay I will try it, thanks. – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 17:19

Use Google Photos' free space option.

  • Tap Menu [icon] and then Free up space and then Remove.
  • When you’re asked for permission to delete photos, tap Delete.
  • Open the iPhone or iPad Photos app (not the Google Photos app).
  • Tap Recently Deleted and delete those same photos and videos.


  • Yes but I don't want to delete all of them. Maybe just half or something. – automaton Jun 17 '20 at 16:07

I would use FileBrowser app. Gives you full access to your photos from a file manager view. Add / delete / move.
I use this constantly also for moving my Photos to and from my NAS to iPhone and iPad. You can go to individual Albums ore all Photos „select - all - delete“ and they‘re gone. Price of the app? Don‘t know anymore.


To delete all photos from iPhone or iPad: https://apps.apple.com/ru/app/photo-deleter/id1490995938

Fast and easy!

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