How can I manage photos on my iPhone 4S such that I can sync the photos to my computer, leave them on my computer and yet selectively remove photos from and leave photos on my iPhone? Simply said, What options exist for heavy duty (12 GB photo library to start with room to grow) and more efficient way to manage photos and videos between my computer and an iPhone.

I am asking this because recently, my iPhone is complaining to me that I have no more storage space. I have a lot of photos and videos shot on my iPhone and I usually leave them on my iPhone. I back up my precious photos and videos via the back-up feature in iTunes and that's all. But iTunes doesn't allow me to view the photos that it has backed up and removing any image from my iPhone is going to do the same to the back-up copy. I have depleted the storage space, I need to clear some of the photos from my iPhone.

I could back up the photos by copying them from the iPhone icon under My Computer. However, this method gets confusing in the long run, especially when I am selectively removing photos over time and putting them back.

So I'm starting to ask myself if everyone else does it this way (the confusing method). What is a way to manage photos and videos more efficiently between my computer and iPhone, such that my computer is the main library of all the photos and videos -- that's deleting items from iPhone when sync'ed with computer does not remove the copy on my computer and new items on my iPhone gets transferred to the computer?

The leading solution of using a Cloud service may be too expensive. It would be great if I could transfer between just an external hard drive and my iPhone.

  • I think you could use Dropbox. Use it to upload your photos to the cloud with a bi-directional sync. After that you can delete any local photos. You can still view your pictures on your iPhone, but the iPhone will always re-download them (the computer on the other hand will keep all photos offline per default). If you want to view them longer, you can mark them as favorites and then Dropbox will store them locally. – gentmatt Jul 11 '12 at 16:29
  • I have too many photos to upload to Dropbox. I also have videos, which are taking up a lot of storage space. I am thinking if I could do this on an external hard drive. – xenon Jul 11 '12 at 16:32
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    BTW, you can still use Dropbox. Via invites it's possible to get up to 16GB of free storage. 500MB per invite. It's a long way to get there, though. – gentmatt Jul 11 '12 at 16:46
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    Too bad (I don't think) you're on a Mac. iPhoto does just what you need very well. It recognizes photos that haven't been imported previously, and will offer to import them. You can delete pictures from your iPhone without affecting iPhoto as well. – bassplayer7 Jul 11 '12 at 19:18
  1. When importing new photos and videos from my iPhone, I always click to delete them on my iPhone, so the master copy moves to the iPhoto library.
  2. The only photos & vides I keep on my iPhone are those I explicitely synch to it: I use a smart album of last 12 (or whatever) months plus whatever hand picked photos and albums I want.

This works of course because I use a Mac. Since you tagged your question "Windows" and you speak of "My Computer" icons, I suppose you're on a PC and this answer will not be very useful to you. But I am still posting it in hope that it maybe inspires you to find a solution that works for you.


For windows PC's Photo albums:

  1. Create a master sync folder on your pc with no photo files at the root level of the folder. (e.g. C:\Pix\iPhone)
  2. Create sub-folders within the master sync folder with the subfolders named what you want the ipad's photo albums to be named. (e.g. C:\Pix\iPhone\2013-01-01 New Years Party!)
  3. Place the photo files you want to sync in the appropriate subfolder within the master sync folder. (e.g. C:\Pix\iPhone\2013-01-01 New Years Party!\IMG001.jpg)
  4. In itunes on the photos tab, select the master folder as the sync folder. (e.g. C:\Pix\iPhone)
  5. After syncing, each subfolder will be an album on the device with the proper photos contained there-in. (e.g. Albums\2013-01-01 New Years Party!)
  6. Delete photos from the iPhone\DCIM folder that you've copied.

The trick here is to copy content from iPhone\DCIM to your local Pix\iPhone and sync back via iTunes. Delete the originals from the iPhone\DCIM after copying each time. You can create an Pix\Inbox folder where you copy all the pictures, and only move the ones you want on the iPhone to the Pix\iPhone\[ablum name]

see Apple Forum


My solution is to use Apple Photostream with iCIoud in conjunction with the two Photosync tools (an iPhone app and a PC program). Photostream automatically sends pics I take on my phone to the photostream folder on my phone and then to the cloud. The cloud only holds 1000 pics, but that's ok because it functions just as a temporary holding space for pictures. I have Photosync running on my PC. it monitors the cloud and automatically downloads new pics to a PC folder. I occasionally take the pics from that folder and organize them into my picture library on my PC. Deleting old pics from my phone (camera roll and photostream folders) never deletes them from the PC, so I delete several hundred pics whenever the phone is getting close to full. I also have it set up so my wife's iphone shares the same photostream, so her pictures appear in my iphone photostream folder and vice versa. That detail won't be to everyone's liking for privacy reasons, but for us it's great because we take mostly baby pics and like to see the others' shots. Thats all free. I also want to be able to see my pictures from years ago on the phone. To do this, I use a paid syncing service with my PC called sugarsync. It copies my entire library to the cloud so I can always find old pictures in the cloud using the sugarsync app on my iphone.

Videos I take with my iphone have to be handled separately since Apple's photostream only does photos. Occasionally, every month or two, I use the Photosync iphone app to push all my videos to my PC wirelessly. Then I can delete them at will from the phone to gain space. You could also use this method for photos, but I like the speed, instantenaity, and sharability (I made up those two words) of our photostream method. I can also access old videos through sugarsync as desired as well.

It can all get a bit confusing but it really works well for me. Frankly the biggest challenge is deleting hundreds of pics from my phone at once. The fastest way is to connect the phone to the PC, but I resent ever having to wire up my phone, or heaven forbid, connect to iTunes. So I just delete them by hand on the phone.


You could try Together

All videos will be linked to your account, synch is done over the air (no need to plug in), web management interface is available. Also there are some cool features for working with videos.

The basic idea behind the service is that people usually need to delivery stories and not the chunks of their experience (separate photos, funny video clips). That's why the service aggregate individual media pieces (photo and videos) into groups (by date, by tag, by album, by location). All that videos could be easily downloaded to any PC through the web interface. Also you could work not only with individual content units but albums as a video clip consisting of numerous video scenes and photos.

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    Can you share some details about what the application will do and how it solves the asker's problem? Also, please read the FAQ, especially the part about self-promotion. – nohillside May 16 '13 at 4:34

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