Using iPhone Photo Albums

Default albums automatically organize your photos and videos

Person holding a photo album created and printed with online software
Melinda Podor / Getty Images

With the release of every new iOS, managing and organizing your photos gets easier. The iPhone Photos app is smooth to navigate and makes it a breeze to manage and sort your photos and videos into albums. 

The Photos app has many great features including default albums that include selfies, favorites, videos, places and others. You can also create new albums and sync your media files with iCloud.

The album features in Photos keep your memories organized. It's all easy to do if you know where to look.

Information in this article applies specifically to iPhones running iOS 12, iOS 11, or iOS 10.

Albums and Your Phone's Storage

Organizing your photos into albums is a great way to keep similar photos and videos together. Some users are cautious about adding too many albums because they fear that it takes up too much space. This is not an issue on iOS devices.

When you create a new folder on your computer, you use disk space. However, albums in the iPhone Photos app do not work this way. The albums are an organization tool for your media. A new album does not use additional space on your phone. Also, moving a photo or video to an album or multiple albums does not create a copy of that media file.

Feel free to create as many albums as you like; your storage space is safe.

Syncing to iCloud Photos

The introduction of iCloud Drive, which requires iOS 5 or later on iPhone 3GS or later, has made it easy to store your photos online in iCloud Photos and access them from any device. You can also manage them and move photos around in albums within iCloud Photos.

The albums you create on your iPhone are not necessarily the same as the albums in iCloud Photos. Although you can set the feature in iCloud to automatically upload and sync your phone's library, you need to enable the feature first.

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings.

  2. Tap your name at the top of the Settings screen and then tap iCloud.

  3. Tap Photos in the iCloud settings screen and move the slider next to iCloud Photos to the On/green position.

    Path in iPhone settings to turn on iCloud Photos
  4. To save space on your phone, also tap Optimize iPhone Storage.

The Optimize iPhone Storage feature replaces high-resolution files on your phone with optimized versions. The high-resolution files are still in iCloud, and you can download them at any time.

If you do not enable iCloud Photos, any edits you make to the albums on your iPhone do not sync to iCloud Photos.

It's important to keep up with how much storage is left in your iCloud account. You can do this by glancing at the bar at the top of the iCloud settings screen. Your account comes with 5 GB of free space, but you can purchase additional space inexpensively. You may need it if you have an extensive photo library. Tap Manage Storage on the iCloud settings screen to select the size and price that best suits your needs.

iPhone Photo Albums

The launch of iOS 8 brought many changes to the iPhone Photos app and the way your images are stored in albums. It was designed by Apple to make your photos more searchable.

Users were shocked when the familiar Camera Roll disappeared. Since that remake and the changes that followed, iPhone users have grown accustomed to the default albums in iPhoto and enjoy the automatic sorting of their favorite pictures.

Default Albums

The Photos app now comes with many default albums. Some of these are created right away, while others appear when you take the first photo or video that corresponds to the album category.

The most significant benefit to the default albums is that you no longer need to search through hundreds or thousands of images to find that selfie, vacation picture, or video you're looking for. As soon as you take one of these specialty photos, it's automatically categorized into an album for you.

The default albums you can expect to encounter are:

  • All Photos: All of your media files are here for those times when you want to scroll through everything. Every photo appears in this album, but it may also appear in other albums. When it does, no extra space on the iPhone is used because the image is not duplicated.
  • Videos: Find all your videos in one place.
  • Favorites: You can favorite a photo (tap the heart) in an album, and it appears in the Favorites album as well as its initial album.
  • Live Photos: Here's the collection of moving Live Photos taken on the iPhone, a la Harry Potter style.
  • Selfies: When you use the front-facing camera, the photo is automatically placed in this album.
  • Slo-mo, Time-Lapse, and Burst: Each of these three camera features creates a separate album after you use it the first time. For Burst mode, it includes all the photos taken in the Burst album.
  • Panoramas: All your extra-wide panoramic shots end up here.
  • Screenshots: Simultaneously pressing the Side and Volume Up buttons on recent iPhones or the Power and Home buttons on earlier models takes a screenshot of whatever is happening on the iPhone's screen. Those are stored in this album.
  • People: When your iPhone detects people in your photos, it collects the photos in this album.
  • Places: For phones that have Location Services enabled, the Places folder makes it easy to remember where you were when you took your photos or find all photos you took in one place.
  • Recently Deleted: This is possibly the most important album. If you accidentally delete a photo, you up to 30 days to retrieve it from this folder.

Beyond these default albums, you can create your own custom albums.

How Places Works With Photos

On GPS-enabled iOS devices like the iPhone, every photo you take has information embedded in it about where you took the picture. This information is usually hidden, but in apps that know how to take advantage of it, like Photos, this location data can be used in interesting ways.

One of the most fun options in the Photos app is the map view in the Places folder. This feature groups photos by where you took them based on the geographical location embedded in the images rather than when they were taken, which is the standard way.

Pins show up on a scrollable world map with a count of the number of photos you took at each location. You can zoom in or out and click on a pin to view all of the photos taken at that location

Map view of the Places album on an iPhone

How to Create New Albums

It's easy to create your own albums in the Photos app on your iPhone. There are two ways to create a new album: add an empty album first or select the photos first.

Add an Album Before Selecting Photos

  1. Go to the main Albums page in the Photos app. 

  2. Tap the + sign in the upper left corner to open a dialog box.

  3. Tap New Album.

  4. Enter a name for the new album and tap Save.

    iPhone Photos app showing Albums settings

Your new album has been created, and it is currently empty.

To Add a New Album From Selected Photos

  1. While viewing an album full of photos, such as the All Photos album, tap Select in the upper right corner.

  2. Tap each of the photos you want to add to a new album. This places a blue circle with a check mark on the selected photos.

  3. Once you've selected all of the photos you want to move, tap Add To at the bottom of the screen.

  4. Tap the New Album thumbnail.

    Selection of images in the Photos app on an iPhone
  5. Type a name for the new album in the field provided and tap Save to generate a new album filled with the selected photos.

How to Edit, Move Photos, and Delete Albums

Using the Select button in the upper right corner of any album screen allows you to select individual photos. Once an image is selected, you can perform several actions on it:

  • Delete Photos: Tap the trash can in the lower right to delete selected photos and videos. (Remember, the Recently Deleted album stores deleted files for up to 30 days. It's useful if you accidentally delete a photo.)
  • Delete Albums: Deleting an entire album is even easier. On the main Album screen, tap See all and then Edit. Tap the red circle on the album to delete it. This does not delete the photos themselves, just the album. The photos remain in the All Photos album.
  • Move Photos to Another Album: While photos are selected, tap Add to and select the destination album.
  • Share selected photos: Tap the Share icon (the box with an arrow coming out of it) at the bottom of the screen to open options to share the photos in an album by message, email, printing, among many other options.