5 Things You Need to Know About Your iPhone’s Photos App

Apple’s Photos app saw some changes in iOS 8, and more changes are coming when iCloud Photo Library launches soon. Did you know that your photos app keeps copies of photos you’ve deleted?

The Photos app isn’t as complex as Apple’s new Health app, but it still has some features you might not discover unless you go looking for them. For example, it can hide your private photos.

It Keeps Your Deleted Photos For 30 Days

Ever take an embarassing or private photo and deleted it? It may still be sitting there on your phone. These photos are placed in the “Recently Deleted” album, so you can get them back if you deleted them accidentally or change your mind within 30 days.

You won’t see these photos in the standard Photos view. Instead, you have to tap the Albums icon in the photos app and select the Recently Deleted album. From here, you can delete those photos permanently — or just wait for your iPhone to delete them automatically. Tap the Select button, tap the photos you want to delete, and tap Delete to delete them. Or use the Recover button to undelete photos you want to keep.

You Can Hide Your Sensitive or Private Photos

The Photos app includes ways to hide photos. Long-press a photo in the list and tap the Hide button. You’ll be informed that the photo will be hidden from the standard Photos view. The photo will be placed in an album titled “Hidden” in your Albums list. You can long-press it in the Hidden album and tap Unhide to make it visible again.

This feature allows you to hide sensitive or personal photos you want to keep, but don’t want visible in your main Photos list. It won’t help much if you hand someone your phone and let them poke around. However, if you’re showing off your photos from the Albums view — or just scrolling through recent photos — and people are watching you, they won’t see those hidden photos. You’d have to tap the Albums icon and then tap the Hidden album before they see them.

You Can Edit Photos Directly From the Photos App

iOS 8 brought extensibility, and one type of extension apps can provide is a photo-editing extension. Install an app with photo-editing features and it can add itself as possible photo-editing tool you can use. From within the Photos app, you can tap a photo, tap Edit, and use either the tools built into the Photos app itself — it contains basic auto-enhance, crop, filter, and color-balance tools. You can also use a photo-editing extension provided by your favorite photo-editing app to edit the photo without switching to a different app first.

Better yet, the Photos app will always store the original copy of the photo, so you can go back to the original if you don’t like your changes. These photo-editing extensions don’t have the ability to modify or damage the original photo, so you don’t have to worry about making a backup copy.

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You Can Share Photos With Any App, Directly in Photos

iOS 8 also brought share extensions, making it easier to share photos. Before, you could share photos with apps like Mail, Twitter, or Facebook directly form the Share button. Now, thanks to share sheet extensions, any app can add itself as a share target. This means you can tap the Share button while viewing a photo in Photos, enable the share extensions you like, and share it directly with your favorite app. You don’t have to switch to the other app first and locate the photo you want to share from within it anymore.

Any app on iOS can install a share extension. If you can’t share a photo with your favorite app, it’s because the developer hasn’t gotten around to adding this feature yet. Photos can easily share photos to other iPhone, iPad, and Mac users nearby with AirDrop, too.

Understand How iCloud Photo Library Works

iCloud Photo Library is currently in beta, but expect it to launch soon. It replaces the confusing old Photo Stream system with a proper, cloud-based photo library system that keeps every photo you ever take on Apple’s servers — until you delete them or run out of iCloud storage space, anyway.

Currently, iCloud Photo Library can be enabled from the Settings app, under iCloud > Photos. To save space on your iPhone or iPad’s internal storage when using iCloud Photo Library, you can select the “Optimize iPhone Storage” option here. Your iPhone or iPad will keep lower-resolution photos and videos cached locally, storing the high-quality originals in the cloud. If you have a lot of photos and videos — and especially if you have one of the paltry 16 GB iPhones or iPads — this may be a very useful option.

When iCloud Photo Library launches, you’ll be able to use Apple’s new Photos app for Mac and the Photos web app on the iCloud website to access your photo library. They’ll be automatically synced betwene the Photos apps on all your iOS devices, too.


iCloud Photo Library is a more common-sense way to store and sync those photos. But the paltry amount of iCloud space Apple offers makes it feel more like a feature designed to upsell you. You may want to free up some iCloud storage space to make room for those photos — or delete some photos themselves.

You’re also free to disable iCloud Photo Library and automatically upload your photos to a competing photo-storage service like Dropbox, Google+ Photos, OneDrive, or Flickr.

Image Credit: Omar Jordan Fawahl

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.