iOS prides itself on obscuring its file system. That design choice can make it easier for tech-wary people to approach computing, but it can also make file management a much bigger pain than it needs to be. Case in point: the Photos app.
Remember the iOS 6 days of scrolling through a seemingly-endless grid of tightly grouped photos, just to find the one photo you took last April during that one winter storm? iOS 7 helped change that for the better with the concept of Moments, Collections, and Years in a dedicated Photos tab (within the Photos app). The Photos app in iOS 7 read the metadata (date/time/place) in your pictures and videos, and then spaced all of that media out in a chronological order that was much easier for the eye to follow. However, finding a set of pictures you’d taken months (or years) ago, could still took some hunting and pecking.
One of the major improvements in iOS 8 is the addition of a search bar in the top-right corner of the Photos app. I love this feature for making library management easier, especially when I’m trying to cull shots to keep my library size down. I have about 9000 shots in iCloud Photo Library now, and I’m finding this is enough to actually slow down the photo dialogue in apps like iMessage and Instagram (on my iPhone). iCloud Photo Library makes it possible for me to have all my photos on all of my devices, but the experience on my iPad is definitely suffering for it.
To counteract this, I’ve been hacking away at photos and videos I don’t really care about. Search has been a big help in this regard. The search feature in the iOS 8 Photos app lets me pinpoint the exact Moment I want to see, filters everything else out, and then allows me to delete what I want.
Here are a couple of search examples I could run:
- Montreal (all media from Montreal)
- Montreal, 2013 (all media from Montreal in 2013)
- July 2014 (all media captured in July in 2014)
- July (all media captured in the month of July, regardless of year)
Once I find the search result I want, I can tap on it to see the relevant pictures and videos. Deleting photos and videos is a matter of tapping the Select button, tapping on individual pictures (or entire Moments), and then tapping on the trash button on the top bar. As a cool bonus of using iCloud Photo Library, deleting pictures or video on my iPad will also delete it from my Mac and iPhone as well. This makes library management so much easier.
The caveat is that I can only do this for search results that show up as a date or a place (i.e. Moments). If I search for something like “birthday” and a result for “2007 Birthday Party” shows up…that search result isn’t actually a Moment (which iOS recognizes automatically by metadata), it’s an Album I’ve created.
Albums are different from Moments; they’re comprised of pictures and videos from Moments that I’ve manually selected and created an Album from. I can’t delete photos while viewing an Album because Albums created on iOS are really just tags. You can add a picture or video to more than one Album, and deleting an item from an Album will only remove it…no files will actually be deleted. This setup really discourages me from using Albums; I’d much rather have an extra option to remove pictures from an Album and delete the files, simultaneously.
This article actually turned out to be longer than I’d initially intended, and that’s because the more I wrote about iOS photo management, the more confounding I realized it truly is. However, if you’re like me and insist on sticking with the Photos app for managing your growing library of pictures and video, I highly recommend using search to filter your media, and I’d caution you to be wary of Albums.