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How to delete and recover pictures and videos in Photos for Mac

Whether you're trying to free up storage, battling duplicates, eliminating personal photos no one else ever needs to see, or just cutting out the bad shots, Photos for Mac makes it easy to delete single or multiple pictures or videos in a snap!

If you're using iCloud Photo Library, anything you delete on your Mac will also be deleted on all your other iCloud Photo Library-enabled devices, including your iPhone and/or iPad. Deleted pictures and videos can be recovered for up to 30 days (unless you have zero storage space on your computer), or can be deleted immediately and forever. Here's how!

How to delete pictures or videos in Photos for Mac

You can select one picture or video by clicking on it, a range of pictures or videos by clicking on the first one and then shift-clicking on the last one, or a number of arbitrary pictures or videos by command-clicking on each of them in turn.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Select the picture(s) or video(s) you want to delete

  1. Right-click on an image or shift-click on a bunch and then right-click and click Delete. (You can also click on an image and press delete on your keyboard, or command + delete to skip the confirmation dialog.)
  2. Click Delete to confirm, if prompted.

How to delete an entire Album in Photos for Mac

You can also delete some or all of the pictures or videos intelligently grouped by Photos into an Album.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click on the the Album you would like to delete.

  1. Right-click on the album you want to delete and click Delete. (You can also click on an album and hit the delete key on your keyboard, or command + delete to skip the confirmation dialog.)
  2. Click Delete to confirm.

The Album will no longer appear in your sidebar.

How to recover deleted pictures or videos in Photos for Mac

If you delete a picture or video by accident, or later regret it, you have 30 days to reverse it.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click the Recently Deleted folder in your sidebar.

  1. Click on the pictures or videos you want to recover. A blue check-mark will appear to indicate that they've been selected.
  2. Click on the Recover button at the top right.

How to permanently delete pictures or videos in Photos for Mac

If you want to make sure a deleted picture or video is eradicated immediately and can't be recovered, you can do that as well.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click the Recently Deleted folder in your sidebar.

  1. Click on the pictures or videos you want to permanently delete.
  2. Click on the Delete button at the top right. A prompt will appear on screen: just hit delete, and you're good to go!

Any Photos for Mac questions?

If you need help deleting pictures or videos, or have any questions at all about Photos for Mac, drop them in the comments below!

Updated March 2019: Updated steps and made sure everything is up to date for the latest version of macOS.

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau

4 Comments
  • Need help. My work laptop is critically low on space. I had a photo library with ~125GB of photos that were mostly personal and family photos. I moved them all to my personal mac at home and attempted to delete the from my work laptop. I went into the "Pictures" folder and deleted the "Photos Library" file. I then emptied the trash and reboot my machine. The trashcan shows empty, but when I check 'about my mac' storage, the hard drive is still full. Nevermind -- I think I just solved the problem. I have been searching posts to no avail so I will still leave my comments here. I think the Mac was deleting the files in the background. Although trashcan showed empty the hard drive was still full and the processor was running hard. I think it was taking time to delete the 123GB in the background. After 20 - 30 mins I check 'about my mac' storage and now the space is showing free. I hope this helps someone else in the future.
  • Thank you. You save me some time.
  • I'm using a late 2013 iMac with MacOS Mojave. I have some directories of jpgs that are *not* in Photos. I won't go in to why I put them there but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I am now trying to get rid of duplicates. However, when I right click on some images and try to 'move to trash', I receive an error -43 message which tells me the photo can't be moved because it can't be located, i.e. it isn't there. What I need to know is whether there is a way to remove these 'non-existent photo files'. I imagine that they have been referenced files originally but what I moved to the directories were all supposedly actual files from within Photos so I'm not sure if that is the case or not. If you have any ideas or knowledge relating to this I would really appreciate the help. Cheers, roger.
  • I need to delete all the duplicates in Photos to save space. First, is there a good app you can recommend to help do this quickly? Secondly, if I delete duplictaes in the main Photos (under Library), will that also delete from the Albums? Or do I need to delete duplicates from each Album individually? Lastly, I read a recommendation to save space by choosing an option not to make a copy of photos to the Photos Library. If I choose not to make a copy to the Photo Library, where do the photos end up? Thanks.