How to Recover Deleted Photos from iPhone

Upset young girl using mobile phone on sofa
Milkos / Getty Images

It can be easy to accidentally delete a photo from your iPhone that you actually needed to save. Deleting photos is one of the fastest ways to free up storage space, but people are sometimes too aggressive in pruning old photos. That can lead to mistakes and regret.

If you've deleted a photo that you need to hold onto, you may be worried that it's gone forever. But don't despair. Depending on a number of factors, you can recover deleted photos from your iPhone. Here are a few options for how you can do this.

Multiple screenshots of looking at deleted photos
 Sam Costello

How to Recover Deleted Photos on the iPhone

Apple knows that we all accidentally delete photos sometimes, so it built a feature into the iOS to help us recover deleted photos. The Photos app has a Recently Deleted photo album. This stores your deleted photos for 30 days, giving you time to restore them before they're gone for good.

You need to be running iOS 8 or higher in order to use this feature. If you are, follow these steps to recover your deleted photos:

  1. Tap the Photos app to launch it.

  2. On the Albums screen, scroll down to the bottom. Tap Recently Deleted.

  3. This photo album contains all the photos you've deleted in the last 30 days. It shows each photo and lists the number of days that remain until it will be permanently deleted.

  4. Tap Select in the top right corner.

  5. Tap the photo or photos you want to save. A checkmark appears on each selected photo.

  6. Tap Recover in the bottom right corner. (Alternatively, if you want to delete the photo right away, rather than waiting 30 days, and free up storage space, tap Delete in the bottom left.)

  7. In the pop-up menu, tap Recover Photo.

  8. The photo is removed from Recently Deleted and is added back to your Camera Roll and any other albums it was a part of before you deleted it.

    desktop mac photos on the photo app
     Sam Costello

Other Options to Recover Deleted Photos

The steps outlined above are great if you've got iOS 8 or higher and deleted the photo you want to save less than 30 days ago. But what if your situation doesn't meet one of those requirements? You've still got a couple of options in that situation. 

The downside is that these options are less of a sure thing than the first approach, but if you're desperate, they might work. I'd suggest trying them in the order they're listed here.

  • Desktop Photo Programs: If you sync the photos from your iPhone to a desktop photo management program like Photos on the Mac, you may have a copy of the photo you want to get back saved there. In this case, search the program for the photo. If you find it, you can add it back to your iPhone by syncing it through iTunes, or emailing or texting it to yourself and then saving it to the Photos app. 

  • Cloud-Based Photo Tool: Similarly, if you user a cloud-based photo tool, you may have a backed-up version of the photo there. There are a lot of options in this category, from iCloud to Dropbox to Instagram to Flickr, and beyond. If the photo you need is there, just download it to your iPhone to get it back. 

  • Third-Party Recovery Tools: There are a ton of third-party programs that let you dig into the file system of your iPhone to find hidden files, browse "deleted" files that are still hanging around, or even comb through your old backups. Because there are dozens of these programs, it can be hard to assess their quality. Your best bet is to spend some time with your favorite search engine, finding programs and reading reviews. Most of these programs are paid, but some may be free. 

  • Other Apps: Could you have shared the photo you want to recover in another app? Did you text or email the photo to someone or share it on Twitter? If so, you'll be able to find the photo in that app (or on that website). In that case, just find the photo and save it to your Photos app again.