Using iPhone Photo Albums

Mother and baby posing for cell phone
Tuan Tran / 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. 

If you're running an iOS 8-10 phone, you will find that the Photos app has many great features including default albums for selfies, videos, and places. You can also create new albums and sync your media files with iCloud.

No matter which iOS your iPhone has, utilize the album features to keep your memories organized. It's all very easy to do if you know where to look.

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 your iOS devices.

It's true that if you create a new folder on your computer, you will be using disk space. However, albums in the iPhone Photos app do not work this way. The albums are simply an organization tool for your media and a new album will not use additional space on your phone. Also, moving a photo or video to an album 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 Photo Library

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

It is important to note that the albums you create on your iPhone are not necessarily the same as the albums in iCloud Photo Library. Yes, you can set the feature in iCloud to automatically upload and sync your phone's library, but you need to enable the feature first.

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings.
  2. Tap iCloud, then Photos.
  3. Enable iCloud Photo Library.
  4. To save space on your phone, also enable the Optimize iPhone Storage* option.

*The Optimize iPhone Storage feature will replace high-resolution files on your phone with "optimized versions." The larger files can still be found in iCloud.

If you do not enable the iCloud Photo Library, then any edits you make to the albums on your iPhone will not be synced to your iCloud Photo Library. It's also important to keep up on how much storage is left in your iCloud account.

iPhone Photo Albums and iOS 10

The launch of iOS 8 brought many changes to the iPhone Photos app and the way your images are stored in albums. This update has followed through to iOS 9 and 10 and it was designed by Apple to make your photos more searchable.

Users were first shocked when the familiar 'Camera Roll' disappeared and their older photos were funneled into the Photos app's 'Collections' section. Since that 2014 remake, iPhone users have become accustomed to the new albums and many enjoy the automatic sorting of their favorite pictures.

Default Albums in iOS 10

With the big shake-up of iPhone's Photos app came many new default albums. Some of these are created right away while others are created once you take the first photo or video that corresponds with the category.

The biggest benefit here is that you longer need to search through hundreds or thousands of media files to find that selfie, family picture, or video you're looking for. As soon as you take one of these specialty photos or series of photos, it's automatically categorized into an album for you.

The default albums you might encounter in the latest iOS include:

  • All Photos - Literally, all of your media files for those times when you do want to scroll through everything.
  • Videos - Find all of your videos in one place.
  • Favorites - You can favorite photos (tap the heart) in any album and they will appear in this album as well.
  • 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 will create separate albums after you've used them. For Burst mode, it will move all of the photos taken to the Burst album.
  • Screenshots - Pressing the Power and Home buttons simultaneously will take a screenshot of your iPhone and those are stored in this album.
  • People - If your iPhone detects people in your photos, it will store the photos in this album.
  • Places - For phones that have Location Services enabled, this is a convenient way to remember where you were when you took your photos or find all photos taken in one place (more on this below).
  • Recently Deleted - Possibly the most important album, if you accidentally deleted a photo within the last 29 days, go here to retrieve it.

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

    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, this location data can be used in pretty interesting ways.

    One of the really neat options in the Photos app is Places. This feature allows you to view photos based on the geographical location they were taken rather than when they were taken, which is the standard way.

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

    Managing Photo Albums in iOS 10

    You will also want to create your own albums and move photos from one album to another. It's all very easy to navigate in the latest Photos app on your iPhone.

    How to Create New Albums in iOS 10

    There are two ways to create a new album in the iPhone Photos app and both are very easy to do.

    To add an album first:

    1. Navigate to the main Albums page in the Photos app. 
    2. Tap the + sign in the upper left corner and a dialog box will pop up.
    3. Add the name for your new album.
    4. Tap Save. Your new album has been created and it is currently empty, see below for instructions on moving photos into this album.

    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. Select the photos you want to add to a new album (a blue checkmark will appear over selected photos).
    3. Once you've selected all of the photos you want to move, tap Add To in the bottom bar.
    4. All of your current albums will appear along with a box that says New Album..., tap this box.
    5. A dialogue box will open and you can then name your album.
    6. Tap Save and your new album will be created and filled with your selected photos.

    How to Edit, Rearrange, Move and Delete Albums

    Using the Select button in the upper right of any album screen will allow you to select individual photos. Once selected, you can delete, edit or move all of the media files at one time.

    • Delete Photos - Tap the trash can in the lower right to delete all of the selected photos and videos. You will be asked to 'Remove from Album' or 'Delete.'
      • Remember, there is a Recently Deleted album that stores deleted files for 29 days. It's very useful if you accidentally delete a photo.
      • When you remove a photo from an album, it will still be stored in the All Photos album.
    • Delete Albums - Deleting an entire album is even easier. Simply tap the red circle on the album when on the main Albums screen and confirm that you want to delete it.
      • This will not delete the photos themselves, just the album. The photos will remain in the All Photos album.
    • Move Photos to Another Album - While photos are selected, tap the move button (a box with an up arrow) in the lower left of the screen. A dialog box will open that allows you to choose a destination album for the selected photos and videos.
    • Rearrange Photos or Albums - Don't like the order of your photos or albums? You can rearrange them. Tap and hold a photo and drag it to the desired spot on the screen. This also works for albums in the main Albums screen.
    • Edit Albums - If you want to rename any of your albums, navigate to the main Albums screen and tap the album name. Type in a new name and Save it.

    iPhone Photo Albums in iOS 5 and Other iOS

    While the following instructions refer specifically to an iPhone running iOS 5, you may find it helpful for other iOS platforms as well. Many of the iPhone Photo Album features received only minor changes from one iOS to another.

    The navigation in your older phone's iOS may be slightly different, but in many instances, you will be able to find what you're looking for with these tips.

    iOS 5: Creating Photos Albums on the iPhone

    If you're running iOS 5, you can create new photo albums from within the Photos app. To do this:

    1. Open the Photos app
    2. Tap Edit in the top right-hand corner.
      1. If you're not on the default Albums screen, tap the back button in the top left corner until you get back to the screen titled Albums that shows all your photo albums.
    3. Tap the Add button in the top left corner to create a new album.
    4. Give the new album a name and tap Save (or tap Cancel if you've changed your mind).
    5. You'll then see a list of photo albums. If there are photos in an existing album that you want to move to the new album, tap the existing album and tap all the photos you want to move.
    6. Tap Done and the photos will be added and the album and saved.

    iOS 5: Editing, Arranging and Deleting Photos Albums

    Once you've created multiple photo albums in iOS 5, you can also edit, arrange, and delete them. To do any of these things, begin by tapping the Edit in the top right corner.

    • Edit - To change the name of a photo album, tap the name of the album and use the onscreen keyboard that appears.
    • Arrange - To re-arrange the order of the albums, tap and hold on the far-right icon that looks like three horizontal lines. Drag the album to the new location you want it in and let go.
    • Delete - Tap the red circle icon on the far left of the album name and then tap the Delete button that appears on the right. This will permanently delete the album, but the photos in it will not be deleted.

    Moving Photos to New Albums

    To move your photos from one album to another, begin on the album that contains the photo you want to move, then:

    1. Tap the box-and-arrow (Select) button in the top right and tap on the photos you want to move. Red check marks appear on the photos when they're selected.
    2. When you've selected all the photos you want to move, tap Add To at the bottom of the screen.
    3. Tap Add to Existing Album.
    4. Select the album you want to move them to.

    To View Photos in Places

    In older iOS, you might find that Places works a little differently than iOS 10. This feature allows you to map all photos in a particular album.

    1. Open the Photos app.
    2. Tap on the photo album you want and tap the Places button on the bottom of the screen.
    3. This will show you a map with pins dropped on it that represent where the images were taken.
    4. Tap the pin to see how many images were taken there.
    5. Tap the arrow that pops up to see those photos.

    On the Desktop: Creating Photos Albums

    If you are running an older iOS and not using the iCloud feature, you can also create photo albums on your computer and sync them to your iPhone. You will need to set it up in your photo management software then change your sync settings in the iPhone's photo albums.

    There are so many photo management apps for the various desktop operating systems that it would be impossible to describe how to do this in all of them here. Consult the help for your photo management program for instructions on how to set this up. Some may even be able to support iCloud.