Where to store all your iPhone photos when you run out of space

Photos & Videos routinely show up in the top two to three apps when it comes to how much storage space is being used on my iPhone. If you happen to have purchased a phone with the least amount of storage (16 GB or less), this can quickly become an ongoing struggle between the memories you already have experienced and the ones that are yet to come. And unlike conventional digital cameras, you cannot simply swap out the memory card when you run out of space.

To see how much space your photos take up you can go to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage. The list is organized by which apps use the most space on your iPhone. The problem is what to do about it. Running out of space can mean that you wont be able to take any more photos. The following options will help you manage your photos and ensure that you don’t have to choose between the past and the future.

The Old Apple Way

Camera Roll – Behaving more like a traditional digital camera, the Camera Roll continues to represent the primary storage location of Photos you have taken with your iPhone. It can be difficult at times to remember where the Camera Roll is located. By launching the Photos app, you navigate to Albums, (not Photos) to select Camera Roll. These are the photos you have taken on the device. When you tether your iPhone to a Mac or a PC using a USB cable, this is also what is known as the Digital Camera IMage or DCIM folder. Most photo applications look for this directly when you attach your camera to your Mac or PC. When you sync or offload photos, this is where they come from. You do need to manage your Camera Roll manually and using a Mac or PC will prove to be the most convenient way of deleting all of your photos from your device.

My Photo Stream – You can configure your iCloud account to save a copy of the most recently taken photos to iCloud. My Photo Stream is a rolling collection of 1,000 photos you have taken in the last 30 days. These are not full resolution copies of your photos, they are an optimized version of the photos meant to be viewed on your various devices. So if you plan on making prints of these photos, you may not want to rely on My Photo Stream as your sole means of storing photos. To turn on My Photo Stream, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos. The great thing about My Photo Stream is that the photos are synced to all of your devices. Keep in mind that videos are not automatically saved to My Photo Stream.

Shared Photo Streams – One way to keep more than 1,000 photos in your Photo Stream longer than 30 days is to create a Shared Photo Stream. Shared Photo Streams never expire and can be used to store videos as well. The trouble with Shared Photo Streams is that you have to manage them manually. That means you must select which photos you want to save to each Shared Photo Stream. To turn on iCloud Photo Sharing, go to Settings > iCloud > Photos. From within the Photos app, tap on the Shared tab to add a new Shared Album. Then when you want to add a photo to one of your Shared Photo Libraries, you select the photo from your Camera Roll Share it to your iCloud Photo Sharing.

The good news about both My Photo Stream and your Shared Photo Streams is that it does not count against your iCloud storage quota. The downside is that this takes up additional storage space on all of your devices, including the device you took the photos with. Storage space you cannot get back unless you turn off photo streaming all together.

The New Apple Way (beta)

iCloud Photo Library – The answer to not having to opt in to a photo stream and manage multiple shared photo streams manually is what Apple calls iCloud Photo Library. Still in Beta, this solution will count against your iCloud storage quota. The upside of this particular solution is that it replaces both your Camera Roll and My Photo Stream with a new album titled All Photos. Behind the scenes full resolution copies of both videos and photos are saved to your iCloud account. Similar to My Photo Stream, these photos are instantly accessible by all of your devices. While the full resolution photo is store in iCloud, a smaller optimized version of your original photos are viewable on all of your devices. This helps cut down on the amount of storage your photos use on your device. The only downside is that it is still in beta and it may not quite be the time to trust completely with all of your photos.

Alternatives to Apple

Automatically Upload Photos – There are plenty of alternatives that can automatically upload the photos you take to the cloud. DropBoxMicrosoftAmazonGoogle+ and Flickr all have options to automatically save the photos you take to their online storage in the cloud. You do have to install their apps first and set the option to automatically upload. The differences between each solution is the cost of online storage. While Yahoo’s Flickr and Google+ offer the most free storage up front, Microsoft includes up to 1TB of space for Office 365 users and Amazon includes unlimited storage for Prime subscribers. What these solutions are missing when compared to iCloud Photo Library is that they will not automatically manage your storage space locally on your device. You will still have to do that manually on your own.

Consider a Personal Cloud – As a final alternative, personal cloud solutions are gaining in popularity and can be used to store all of the photos you take. Basically you connect a hard drive to your WiFi network at home, and gain access to that hard drive from anywhere in the world over the internet. What you need to consider when attaching a hard drive to your network at home is whether or not there is an app that will allow you to automatically upload your photos to that hard drive over the internet. SynologyWestern DigitalSeagate and Transporter all have mobile apps that allow you to upload photos from your Camera Roll directly to your personal cloud. With the ability to start out with just one hard drive, or scale up to a raid array of four or even eight hard drives, the amount of storage you can have access to can become quite economical given the fact that it is a onetime upfront cost rather than an ongoing monthly rate.