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Where are my iPhone photos? How to use the new photo management features in iOS 8

While there are many new features that have been added to both the camera and the photos app on iOS 8 (flagging favorite photos, additional filters, straightening rather than rotating photos, quick access to manual exposure, a timer function and a couple new shooting modes, to name a few), some features have been removed. One big loss: iPhoto is no longer supported on iOS 8. There were quite a few features that iPhoto for iOS had that the new Photos app is lacking.

The following outlines some of the changes that have made it a bit more challenging when it comes to managing the photos you take using your iOS device running iOS 8:

iOS 7 iPhoto Journals

Removal of iPhoto from iOS 8 means no more online journals

[company]Apple[/company] has had an on-again off-again relationship with online photo journals and web sites. In November of 2010 .Mac HomePages gave way to MobileMe Web Galleries. Then in June of 2012, MobileMe Web Galleries ceased to exist as iCloud came online. Now the most recent successor, iPhoto Web journals, is being shut down, or at least that is how it appears. With each transition, users of the previous online journaling feature really had little to no options available when it came to migration to a new or replacement feature.

Like its many predecessors, iPhoto Web Journals were a way of personalizing an online gallery of photos. It was like creating a digital scrapbook in the cloud. With it you could add titles, insert comments, include maps, weather and other information intermingled with your photos. Users of journals would typically spend a good amount of time personalizing the delivery of their online photos by telling a story alongside their photos.

The problem this time around is that there was very little notice and there really is no recourse or action that can be taken to preserve your iPhoto projects. And unfortunately there is no easy fix for this. According to Apple’s own support page concerning the migration, “Photo Books, Web Journals, and Slideshows are converted into regular albums in Photos. Text and layouts are not preserved.”  And thats it, no more iCloud scrapbooking per Apple.

Recently Added Camera Roll

Only film needs a Camera Roll, not iCloud

In what is likely one of few remaining skeuomorphic design ties to film-based cameras, Apple has finally removed the concept of the Camera Roll. Now all of the photos you take show up in the “Recently Added” folder. What is also missing from iOS 8 is a seperate “My Photo Stream.” That is because all of the photos you have taken, whether they are on your device or not, now show up in the same “Recently Added” folder. This is not just a simple name change, it is a completely different experience. All of your photos are now synced across all of your devices, or at least the last thirty days worth.

Under the hood, not much has changed. Using a tool called iMazing (formerly know as Digital DNA’s DiskAid), I was able to look at the file structure on my new iPhone 6 running iOS 8 as it was tethered to my Mac. The photos taken on each device are still being stored within the /Media/DCIM/ folder. This is the name of the folder that all digital cameras use to store photos.

Thankfully, Apple did not intermingle all of your shared and other device photos into this folder. The only photos located in this folder will be the photos taken directly from the device. The “Recently Added” folder is behaving like some sort of smart folder that shows all of your recent photos. This means that all of the applications you are used to using on either your Mac or PC will still be able to find only the photos taken with that device.

If you are looking to restore the iOS 7 “Camera Roll” behavior on your now upgraded iOS 8 device you are in luck. Seeing as how this is really just a smart folder of sorts, by disabling the “My Stream” functionality of iCloud Photo Streams, the only physical location that “Recent Photos” can look for photos will be your device’s /Media/DCIM/ folder; at least for the photos you have taken in the last thirty days. This would be a great option to choose if you prefer using some other third-party service to automatically upload your photos like DropboxAmazon Cloud DriveYahoo! Flickr orMicrosoft’s OneDrive.

iMazing Look at the DCIM Folder

Hidden photos aren’t hidden and deleted photos aren’t deleted

One new feature in iOS 8 is the ability to hide photos. It is important to note that you are hiding the photos from the Photos organizational feature of the Photos app, not the Albums (two different tabs on the bottom of the Photos app). If you tap and hold a photo in your “Recent Photos” album, the photo will not disappear. The photo will however be removed from the Moments, Collections and Years categories located in the Photos section of the Photos app. As a convenience feature, a new Hidden album will be created in the Photos app that will make all of your Hidden photos that much easier to find. Since the photos are not really hidden, a more appropriate name for the album would be something like “Embarrassing.” And perhaps deleting such photos would be a better course of action to take.

With the introduction of iOS 7, Apple removed a quick and convenient way of deleting all photos off of your iOS 6 device. The iPhone is the only digital camera I own that does not have a way to easily delete all of the photos stored on the device. The easiest way to offload photos from your iOS device is to use the OS X Image Capture app on your Mac or Photo Gallery on PC. It is only through such tools located on either your Mac or PC that you can quickly remove all of your photos.

iOS 8 has actually made it even harder to delete photos stored on your device. Tap and hold a photo in your “Recently Added” album and delete it from the album. It will move into the newly created “Recently Deleted” album. It has not yet been deleted from your device. You can still select the image and restore it to the “Recently Added” album. In order to delete the photo for good, you need to delete it again from the “Recently Deleted” album. At least this album has the much-anticipated “Delete All” button that is shown after tapping on the Select button in the top right corner, so your second delete will be a better experience than your first.

A photo that has been deleted from the “Recently Added” album will remain in the device’s /Media/DCIM/ folder. I confirmed this by reviewing the contents of the folder again using iMazing. What is interesting is the fact that iPhoto, Aperture and Image Capture on the Mac could not see the deleted photo. Navigating to the “Recently Deleted” album on the device and selecting restore places the photo back into the “Recently Added” albums and once again iPhoto, Aperture and Image Capture on the Mac can access the image. The actual file in the /Media/DCIM/ folder appears to have remained unchanged. So your deleted photos may not actually be deleted until your iPhone says they are deleted.

13 Responses to “Where are my iPhone photos? How to use the new photo management features in iOS 8”

  1. I am still confused on why my photos keep disappearing. For some reason, my photos disappear from my recently added folder (but it seems to be going in some order). But the thing is, they’re still in my photos when I go to “Collections”. I noticed you had said something about 30 days…. Are my photos being sent away after 30 days? Please help. This is extremely aggravating!

  2. Sooooo…. how do I get my photos off my iPhone and onto my computer? This article just left me more confused, and failed to answer what I consider to be THE most important question people reading it will have.

  3. How do I get my recently added album to show up when I try to access my photos while in an app like Twitter or Instagram? If I want to post a photo from inside those two apps, I am not seeing the recently added folder.

  4. Lots of confusion and misinformation re some of these issues. In our family, with nine iOS devices, only those updated to iOS 8.02 have lost the camera roll. They have the new extremely irritating “collections” sorted by date, but in albums on the 8.00, and 8.01 the camera roll is still in albums. These are a mix of 4s and 5s as well iPads of the same vintage – no 6s.

  5. I truly miss the flag feature in iPhoto, with it, I could flag all the good shots then select all the non-flagged ones and delete all. There is no such feature in IOS8 photo app and it blows.

    • There is now a ‘Favorites’ feature for photos that are physically stored on your iPhone (aka ‘Camera Roll’ on iOS 7). But there is no way to select all non-favorites and delete them. But I agree that would be a very useful feature to have in the new Photos app on iOS 8. And perhaps just the right sort of compromise that would allow one to free up some space on their iPhone.

  6. Most of the changes are geared towards the really AVERAGE user who is easily confused about where to find things (yes, to us, “camera roll” and “photo album” are understandable concepts – and especially people who click on DELETE ans then ask, ‘what did I just do?’ so it is what it is – hopefully there are enough apps to deliver the power user experience to everyone who needs it.

    • I do hear what you are saying. And I guess you can either make it easy to keep, or easy to remove.

      Given the number of people that ask me ‘how do I delete all of the photos off of my iPhone’ I would have to say that making it easier to keep your photos on your iPhone is winning.

      The problem this eventually causes is that many people run out of space on their iPhones and don’t know what to do. Especially when deleting photos the first time does not actually clear up any storage space.