Need more space on your iPhone? How to quickly delete all photos from your Camera Roll

iPhone Camera Roll

The end of summer is near. All the tell-tale signs are there: Apple rumors abound concerning fall product releases, and your iPhone’s Camera Roll is filling up with photos from all of your summer activities. Since you can’t just swap out an SD card on your iPhone like you can with your old point-and-shoot camera, managing how much free space you have left on your Camera Roll is a vital part of being able to continue taking photos — especially for those among us with 16 GB versions of the iPhone packed with a whole lot of home videos.

Note: Before reading further, be absolutely sure that you have either downloaded to your Mac or uploaded to the cloud all of the photos from your iPhone that you want to keep. Because without that step, once they are deleted, you may not be able to get them back.

When iCloud’s Photo Stream becomes a river

The best way to offload the photos you take on your iPhone is to turn on Photo Stream. However, this feature does potentially double or even triple the amount of storage that your photos takes up on your iPhone. Each photo you take will be stored in your Camera Roll as well as your Photo Stream albums. When you share that same photo in a Shared Photo Stream, you create yet another copy.

Photo and Camera Usage on iPhone

To see the total amount of storage that photos use, access the Usage option under the General section of the Settings app. Scroll down until you see Photos & Camera. Here you will see a breakdown of the amount of storage taken up by the Camera Roll, Photo Library and Photo Stream.  One way to keep this duplication of photos to a minimum is to delete them from your Camera Roll after downloading them to your Mac.

Accessing the Camera Roll from your Mac

You may think that connecting your iPhone to your Mac is not necessary if you are also using Photo Stream on your Mac. Having all of your photos automatically available to you when you open iPhoto or Aperture is so convenient that you may never tether your iPhone to your Mac. Unfortunately, doing this will allow your Camera Roll to grow in size well beyond the 1,000 image limit imposed on Photo Streams.

Delete Camera Roll with iPhoto

When you do connect your iPhone to your Mac, both iPhoto and Aperture (depending on which one you’re using) will ask you if you want to delete the photos in your Camera Roll after offloading them.  Additionally you can use the Image Capture app on the Mac to select the photos in the camera roll and delete them all at once.  Launch Image Capture on your Mac, click on your iPhone under devices, choose “Select All” from the File menu, and press the delete button on the bottom of the window.  (Prior to iOS 6, this was the only option available to delete photos from your iPhone’s Camera Roll.)

Delete Camera Roll with Image Capture

Removing all photos without your Mac

You may have already tried to use the Photos app on your iPhone to try to remove your photos from the Camera Roll. And you may have discovered that you can only select your photos one at a time — there is no “select all” option to be found. While this is a good way to selectively trim the size of your Camera Roll, there is now another way to delete all your photos.

Delete Camera Roll on iPhone

Again access the Usage option under the General section of the Settings app and tap on Photos & Camera.  This time swipe your finger across the Camera Roll item in the list to reveal a Delete button. By clicking on thus button you will remove all photos from your iPhone’s Camera Roll. This action is not reversible, so be sure you are willing to delete all photos before you tap on the Delete button.

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