11 Clear Tips for Organizing Photos On the Go with Apple Photos

by | Edit & Organize | 25 comments

organizing photos

Organizing Photos With Apple

Are you confused about the endless possibilities your iPhone has in organizing your photos? Scrolling through your camera roll to find that one photo you want to show your friend? Not sure if your memories are safe in iCloud? Once again Caroline Guntur, the Swedish Organizer clears things up for us in this second post about how to stay on top of organizing photos.

Want to read the first post? You can find it here: Photo Organized: How to Keep your Smartphone Free of Megapixel Clutter.

Thank you, Caroline, for this comprehensive and clarifying post about Apple Photos and iCloud!

Best Way to Organize Photos

Keeping your photos organized can be quite the task, but if you have an iPhone and a little bit of downtime, it’s easier than you think.

All photos taken on your iPhone end up on the camera roll. You’ve probably seen that. The camera roll is basically just a running list of all photos and videos that are saved to your device. Anything you save to your phone, such as photos from a text message or email, will show up there.

But let’s be real. The camera roll doesn’t really have that many features, and you want a better way to transfer and share all those memories, right?

Enter the Photos app.

#1 Simplicity in the Cloud

Apple Photos is a great option for those looking for a low-maintenance system that doesn’t require a whole lot of upkeep once the initial setup is done.

It’s available for free on any iOS device, and it automatically imports media from your camera roll to let you view, search, and edit all your memories in style. It groups photos by date and time taken, and it uses geo-tags and facial recognition to enhance your viewing experience. If you also enable Apple’s cloud storage system iCloud Photo Library, you can sync, share, and transfer photos to other devices and users very easily.

With the Photos app and iCloud, you can organize quite a lot on the go. There are two big parts to the process that you can easily accomplish with the app:

  1. Delete unwanted media
  2. Organize using Albums.

#2 Deleting Photos is Essential

As someone who organizes for a living, I can tell you that the most underutilized feature on any device is actually the delete button.

It’s OK to be selective in your photo life. You don’t have to save everything. Deleting photos and videos that you don’t need helps free up space on your device and actually curate your library to become manageable.

If you do nothing else to organize your photos, start doing this.

You can quickly delete photos and videos in the Photos app from the Moments view.

To get there, click on Photos in the bottom menu, then on any photo to go into the Collections view, and then on any other photo to get to the Moments view. It’s a tiered setup that allows you to see different overviews of your library. From the Moments view, you can either click on a single photo to enlarge it, view it, and delete it. Or you can delete in bulk by using the select feature.

Tip: You can also use the Moments view to quickly add entire groups of photos to albums.

#3 iCloud Syncs Your Photos

Something to keep in mind is that iCloud is a syncing service. It’s designed to look the same on all devices so that you always have what you need right at your fingertips.

Because of this, you cannot delete a photo on one device and expect it to stay on others.

I usually tell my clients to memorize the phrase “if you delete here, you delete there,” because so often it gets confusing about what is stored where. If you lose your phone, then yes, you’re technically backed up (because you can just sync another device to iCloud), but if you delete, you’re not.

#4 It Doesn’t Necessarily Back Them Up

Anytime you use a syncing service, you’re basically accessing the same photo through multiple devices, and anything you do on one device will reflect on all the other ones.

If you use iCloud Photo Library, your photos will all be stored in the cloud, plus on any devices that have the “download and keep originals” options activated in the settings.

Any device that is optimized for storage will only have smaller resolution thumbnails. Those are more than enough to view, but since they’re not the full-resolution originals, you can’t really do that much with them outside of Apple Photos. But deleting always works, so take full advantage of that even if you optimize!

#5 How to Delete Photos

  1. Open the Apple Photos app
  2. Click on the Photos tab on the bottom menu
  3. Click on any photo to get to the Collections view, then on any photo to get to the Moments view
  4. Next click on any individual photos to view or delete it, or use the select option to grab multiple photos at once.
  5. Click the trash button to send selected photos to the trash bin (Recently Deleted album).
  6. Made a mistake? That’s OK. You can head over to the Recently Deleted album to recover your memories for up to 30 days.
organizing photos, best way to organise photos, how to organize photos, photo organizer, Apple Photos, iPhone photo albums

Delete duplicates (and other photos that you don’t need) to keep your library in shape

#6 Different Types of Albums

Even if you prefer using the Apple Photos app on your iMac or MacBook Pro, you can organize on the go using just the app. A great way to do that is by creating albums.

There are two types of albums in Apple Photos: Smart Albums, and regular Albums.

Smart Albums are custom albums based on saved searches. They pull photos together based on metadata that you specify (like dates, people, locations, tags, names, etc) and they come in handy when you’re organizing on the desktop app.

Unfortunately, these types of albums are not available on mobile devices or in the cloud, so you’re stuck with regular albums on your smartphone. But that’s OK because those are pretty great too.

The regular Albums are exactly what they sound like – a group of photos with a cute cover that you name. You can put one photo in multiple albums, which is great if you have photos from an event and you’d like to organize by people or share with someone else, etc.

You can create these types of “hard” albums on any device, and they show up in the cloud too, which makes it easy to organize with them on the go.

#7 Go Beyond the Default Albums

Apple Photos starts everyone off with a set of default library albums – All Photos, Favorites, People, Places, Videos, Selfies, Bursts, Live Photos, Screenshots, Animated, and Recently Deleted. Apple Photos also has a feature called Memories, which is essentially also a collection of albums that it pulls together automatically to help you remember past adventures.

These are all smart albums because they’re automatically updated whenever you take new photos that fit their criteria. But they’re “hard” albums in that they show up everywhere.

#8 Create your Custom Albums

In addition to the default albums, you’re able to create your own custom (regular) albums on your iPhone.

When you open the Photos app, navigate to the Albums tab to see all of your albums. The default albums will load on top and if you scroll down, you’ll see the section called My Albums on the bottom. In the top right corner, you’ll see a plus sign. To create a new album, you click on that plus and enter a name. Then you click Save.

You’ll be prompted to add photos to the album from your library and to add them, you click the select link for each group you want and then press done. You can also add or remove individual photos by clicking directly on them to select or deselect.

My Albums

Once you have finished, you’ll see the new album appear under My Albums, and you’ll also see it update on any other device you have as well as on iCloud.com. If you have any integrated social media apps, such as Instagram or WhatsApp, they’ll show up there too.

A great way to be productive is to use your downtime to create these types of albums and organize your photos. You can easily do it while waiting in line at the grocery store, or while commercials are interrupting your favorite show. A few minutes a week keeps your photo library in tip-top shape.

#9 How to Create a Custom Album

  1. Open the Apple Photos app
  2. Click the Albums tab on the bottom menu
  3. Click the plus sign on the top menu bar (left) and name your album
  4. Add photos to it by selecting groups or individual photos from the library
  5. Click Done
  6. Scroll down to view your new album in the My Albums section
organizing photos, best way to organise photos, how to organize photos, photo organizer, Apple Photos, iPhone photo albums

Create new albums with a consistent naming pattern in order to stay organized

organizing photos, best way to organise photos, how to organize photos, photo organizer, Apple Photos, iPhone photo albums

Select and add photos to multiple albums as needed

If you’re going to use Apple Photos with iCloud, you may have to upgrade the available storage to fit your entire library. At the time of writing, your first few GBs are free, and then you can upgrade to either 50GBs for $0.99/month, 200GBs for $2.99/month, or 2TB for $9.99/month.

That’s very affordable despite the fact that it’s an ongoing subscription, and it puts iCloud right up there with the other top choices for cloud storage.

Even if you have a ginormous amount of video in your collection, you should find plenty of space in one of these plans, and if you have more, well then you’ll just have to hire a certain photo organizer to help you downsize.

#10 How to Name Albums

A great way to stay organized as your photo library starts to fill up is to name your albums according to a set pattern, for example, YY-MM-DD-Event. This system will help your computer and cloud solution display them in order automatically.

The chronological system is popular because we naturally think of our photos as a certain point in time, and we often remember occasions based on when they took place.

However, there’s also nothing wrong with categorizing your albums in different ways if that’s what you like, for example, according to what it is, or where the event took place.

Pick a naming pattern that fits who you are and what you want to remember, and then stay consistent with it. If you can master this concept, it’ll get you very far in your organizing efforts.

#11 It’s a Work-in-Progress

Your photo collection will never be quite “finished” or “perfectly organized,” because you’re constantly adding new memories as you journey through life.

That’s why the faster you get started organizing the better. Delete what you don’t need and create custom albums when you take new photos. And don’t forget to name them consistently. You’ll save yourself from the snowball of disorganization and enjoy a beautifully organized photo collection for years to come.

Caroline Guntur
Caroline is a Swedish Certified Photo Organizer and Personal Historian, specializing in digital organizing and family history. She is the owner of The Swedish Organizer, LLC, a company that provides customized family history solutions to clients all over the world.

Hi, I’m Karin

Your Photography Mentor

You want to pick up your camera with confidence and joy but the truth is your camera is a mystery to you.

You’re stuck in auto mode because you don’t want to miss the moments that matter while you’re fumbling with your settings.

I feel you and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. Join Photography Playground now for overwhelm-free training and creative empowerment!


“Her unique approach produced almost immediate results. I would highly recommend Karin as a warm, talented, and effective instructor.”


See Fresh

“See Fresh shifted my perspective and gave me a much-needed reminder of the beauty each day brings. It brought back freshness and zest for life.”



“Thank you Karin for your presence, generosity, and patience. I am excited to see where this photographic journey takes me!”



“Your approach to photography inspires me and is wonderful to read. In contrast to all those websites and books about technology and gear, your approach opens a completely different door for me. Instead of reasoning, it triggers my imagination.”


See Fresh

“Great examples were given to illustrate what we would try to capture via the prompts.  Most of all Karin and the other students were very supportive – a no-judgment zone.”


Recent Posts

Photography Courses

free photography training | Travel Photography Playbook | Copyright Karin van Mierlo | Photography Playground
learn photography online, learn smartphone photography
free photography training | Travel Photography Playbook | Copyright Karin van Mierlo | Photography Playground

Free ebooks

You might also like…


  1. Norbert Fortelny

    Great blog!

    Improve it by showing a date for each blog post. Apple is very dynamic in upgrading/changing features/user interfaces.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Thank you 🙂

  2. Bo Rutberg

    I have recently collected all pictures I have found on an array of old computers. The heap amounted to 35000 pictures. I have managed to reduce it into 5500 with the help of PhotoSweeper. Now I am about to organize them into subfolders in “Pictures”. And I start doing it, but it is a task for several hours, or even days. And I do not remember where I end from one session to another. It would be very helpful if Apple let a small etiquette be visible under every picture connected to an album. Or is there such a feature I haven’t found yet?

  3. Jane

    So informative- thank you – if I use apple photos do I still have to keep all the photos on my phones camera roll or can I delete them from there?
    Still confused!

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Jane, I get it, it is a little confusing. So, what I do – just to be sure – is to export photos to an external hard drive. Hope this helps 🙂

    • Caroline Guntur

      Hi Jane,

      If your Apple Photos library is synced with iCloud, and your phone is connected to iCloud, then it’s a two-way street. Whatever you delete in one place will be deleted everywhere. Syncing is meant to keep everything in balance. If you disconnect iCloud from your phone, you can empty the phone without affecting anything else.

  4. James

    I am making an album for trip with family and am combining photos from several devices, camera’s, i-phone and some scans to make a photo essay of the trip. Unfortunately not all camera’s synced with time and the I-phone not linked to my cloud photos. How do I keep the cloud from reorganizing my photos by date. I was mostly thru the process and then then noticed next time I signed in all were reorganized.

    Do I really have to either change the time on the photos or make a label naming system to sort by. Can get tedious and tough for large trip album.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hello James, that sounds annoying. I think the solution is to rename your files. It is indeed a bit tedious. Right-click on the photo, then select Get Info, at the top you have the option to change the title, in this case, I would recommend changing it into a number. Do this for all your files. Then go to View in the top menu bar, select Sort, and then select Keep Sorted By Title. Hope this helps 🙂

    • Caroline Guntur

      Hi James,

      There’s no efficient way to keep Apple Photos from organizing based on date in your library. Most solutions organized by the EXIF Date Time Original field by default. You can update this in date field (“Change Date and Time”), and you can create an album, keyword , or smart collection to be able to corral all the photos together.

  5. Dawn Stolzman

    When one creates folders are we duplicating the storage since the photo still appears in the icloud photos??

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Dawn, excellent question! No, I don’t think you’re duplicating the storage when you create folders. You’re creating shortcuts so to speak. Hope this helps 🙂

  6. Jason Mixon

    Can you a one photo in multiple albums?

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Jason, great question. Yes, you can 🙂

  7. Julianne Johnson

    Let me know how folders and albums work together. Im afraid I started with folders and have treated them like albums.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Julianne, aren’t folders and albums the same? Maybe you can ask Caroline who wrote the article 🙂

      • Caroline Guntur

        In Apple Photos, folders are used to organize albums and collections. Albums and collections are for organizing photos.

  8. Melanie

    Hello – The names/labels for my albums and folders are words, not dates. Is there a way to alphabetize them? Also, I want to sort photos within an album, but don’t see the More button (needed to sort). Thanks for any suggestions.

  9. Cmatch

    Why doesn’t Apple make it easy to organize albums in alphabetical order instead of making customers drag n drop.

  10. Iman

    I have a lot of duplicates on my computer. I want to consolidate all my fotos from my computer, phone, icloud and an a foto stick. What is the easiest way to get rid of duplicates in the consolidation process?

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Glad you liked the article. Sorry, I can’t help you with getting rid of duplicates.

    • Caroline Guntur

      The best way to get rid of duplicates in Apple Photos is to use PhotoSweeper from overmacs.com. Consolidate first, deduplicate second.

  11. Lokitos

    Apple has its corky ways of doing things that even after a full explanation like the one here it all seems very confusing still, gone are the day where you can transfer images to a folder and that was the end of it. But any ways I here is a question for you…

    Because my iPhone only has 32 gigs total which only 12 of those are always available, I had to surrender and purchase the 50gig for .99/month, the money is not a big deal, but uploading my photos to their servers is something I don’t like.

    Anyways, now I have a big chuck of the 50 gig already filled up with images, all desorganized.

    What is the easy way to go through the 50 gig of icloud storage, weed out all the photos I don’t like, then download/transfer to an external drive all my favorite photos, and clear out the 50 gig until it fill up again.

    what is the easy way to transfer out all the photos from the iCloud ?


    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Lokitos, That’s a lot of pictures 🙂 I don’t think there’s a shortcut to do this. You just have to go through all the photos and delete the ones you don’t like. Once you’ve done that you can export the files to an external drive by selecting the photos, clicking on File and then Export. Like caroline is suggesting it is best to do this on a regular basis so you don’t end up with thousands of files to go through and it becomes this insurmountable task 🙂

  12. Riya Patel

    Organizing your photos on the go with apple photos and the cloud is so complicated if we dont know how to do it but this article s going to teach us how to manage photos on the cloud.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Thanks 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *