Can't delete photo albums on your iPhone or iPad? Here's why!

Can't delete photo albums on your iPhone or iPad? Here's why!

The Photos app that comes built-in to every iPhone and iPad not only lets you edit photos, it also lets you organize them into albums. However, some iPhone and iPad users seem to experience some confusion when it comes to managing albums. Mainly, they can't figure out why some albums can be deleted, while others can't. If you're one of these people, or you just want to better understand how the Photos app works, here's what you need to know!

Why you can't delete some photo albums on your iPhone or iPad

While most of us sync our data with iCloud these days, it's still safe to assume that some of us also sync with iTunes in order to bring down older photos, videos, and media types. If this is something you do, it explains why photo albums are causing you problems. So here is a breakdown of what you can and can't delete within the Photos app of your iPhone or iPad:

Photo albums created in iOS

If you created an album in iOS by tapping on the plus sign, naming it, and adding photos to it, you can easily tap edit and delete that entire album whenever you'd like. Deleting the album will not delete the photos from your iPhone or iPad. It only deletes that album. The photos themselves will remain in collections, other albums, and in Photo Stream.

Photo albums automatically generated in iOS

Newer versions of iOS automatically sort some types of photos into albums automatically for you. For example, panoramas can all be found in one album, as can slow motion videos or regular videos. These albums currently can't be deleted by the user.

Photo albums synced from a Mac or PC

If you've plugged your iPhone or iPad into your computer in order to transfer existing photos via iTunes, these are the albums that you can not delete. If you want to delete them, or specific photos within them, you'll need to go through iTunes again. For example, if you want to delete select photos from an album, you'll need to delete them from the album on your computer and then apply sync changes in iTunes. If you want to remove an entire album, just uncheck it in iTunes and sync again.

Photo albums created by App Store apps

Some albums created by third party apps seem to give users trouble when it comes to managing them. Some of them have a way to disable this functionality, while others don't. For example, Snapseed by default will create its own album in the Photos app and store any photos you've edited and saved. While convenient for some, it may be annoying for others. You can go into Settings > Snapseed in order to disable this behavior. Other apps offer a disable toggle as well so be sure to check the Settings app for it.

iOS 8, Yosemite, and the future of the Photos app

While we have to deal with some of these kinds of frustrations now, Apple is bringing a lot of changes to the way we manage photos in iOS 8. Not only that, a brand new Photos app for the Mac will replace products such as iPhoto and Aperture starting in early 2015. The future looks bright for photo management but until these changes are actually made, hopefully some of the above tips will help you better manage your photos in the mean time.

As always, if you have any tips for better managing photos on your iPhone or iPad, feel free to share them in the comments!

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Can't delete photo albums on your iPhone or iPad? Here's why!

12 Comments

OK, now I'm slightly less confused than I was before about this (thank you, Ally!). Apple made managing photos on the iPhone way harder than it needed to be, I feel. This is another reason why I'm so looking forward to iOS 8.

I think a lot of it has to do with the evolution of iOS. It worked in the beginning but they didn't keep up with functionality - and cross-device support. Glad to see that's changing in iOS 8 and Yose.

Exactly. I mean, even my ancient BlackBerry from 2007 would let me manage photos any way I wanted to. I couldn't really edit photos much, but I could easily organize them into folders that I made, rotate them, and even rename them. It was a clunky old system, but it was functional and it worked.

When that old BB 8320 (the original Curve) finally gave up the ghost in 2010 and I got an iPhone 4, that was one thing that drove me nuts about iOS; why couldn't I organize my photos the way I wanted to, and why couldn't I even delete them from my device? It really bugged me. So I worked around this by just leaving all my photos on my camera roll so I could delete them at will, and then upload the "keepers" into my Mac at home.

Nowadays on my iPhone 5S I tend to just upload them to Dropbox and be done with it, so I can still access them on non-Apple devices if needed.
But I have a good feeling about iOS 8, and I haven't been this excited about an upcoming iPhone and iOS update since the iPhone 4, so next month should be quite interesting.

I look forward to the day when photos could be managed totally on mobile devices without involving a PC, where any photo can be moved rather than mirrored into any other folders, deleted from any folder, shared via any other applications, moved into hidden folder, and shared securedly (auto destruction within set seconds )via popular chat platforms, all from within the native photo application.

Thanks for clearing that up. I guessed most of it, but some I didn't know. I just wish the printed text on blogs and articles was darker. It's getting harder and harder to read material all over the net and in apps. The text has become too light of grey to read without straining. I had an app with a tutorial so faint I could not read it at all. I deleted the app. Is there an explaination for why printed text has become so light washed out grey? Not everyone has 20/20 vision.

Never understood why apple doesn't let you delete anything right from your phone. Why they won't just because you synced it from a computer or iTunes makes no sense to me.

It makes sense to me, there should be only one master file unless the consequences are clear as to what happens to the master when you delete from a non-master source. Unless of course all you devices are iOS and you sinc to only one source with no other platform inputs other than those you downloaded directly to your iOS devices. Mouthful huh.

Sent from the iMore App

That makes sense to you? Um... OK. You completely lost me there.

To each his own, I guess, but wouldn't it still be better, simpler, and easier to just be able to delete whatever you want, whenever you want? I could do easily do that on my non-Apple devices, so I see no reason why Apple shouldn't be able to manage it in iOS somehow.

In response to the section, "Photo albums synced from a Mac or PC," my iMac crashed. So now I have these orphan albums on my iphone 5S that I cannot get to from my iMac with new hard drive. I can't see them when I open up my iphoto or itunes, and of course, I can't delete them directly on the phone. Any idea how I can get to them? I'm trying to delete them so I have more space on my iphone 5S. Thanks!

I figured it out. I created a new empty folder in itunes and synced from that. That deleted the previously synced albums from my iphone 5S. Thanks!

I had issue in photos synced from Mac. The worst part there was no folder created under pictures (mac) instead the photos are added directly to the folder, then the photos were synced to iPhone & I was unaware of that. So iTunes wasn't showing selected folder option since no folder was created.Serious joke I was flummoxed why selected folder isn't showing up in iTunes & how to delete these from iPhone . Finally I found the melodrama, went back to Pictures in mac and created a empty folder then synced. Voila !!

These are simple things but at times it's haemorrhaging until you find out!