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Many iPhone users rely on the camera to take pictures of absolutely everything. While much of it can be classified as traditional photography, the iOS camera is also used to capture all sorts of useful stuff. Some of us use the iPhone camera as a memory device.
From flyers we see around town, to recipes we want to remember, to business cards and receipts, inspiring artworks, and designs that catch our fancy. The problem is we don’t need to keep all of those useful items in our Camera Roll alongside our cherished memories.
Here’s how to manage the Camera Roll mess, and recover some free space while you’re at it.
It Starts and Ends with the Camera App
We do it all in just one app. All of that information is stuck in one long scrolling screen. Because It’s just so simple. Swipe left, tap the shutter button, put the phone back in your pocket. So seamless.
But as we use our iPhones more and more, we end up with an unorganized mess of a photo library (that’s often not even backed up), and we risk losing a lot of important information.
One solution is to use specialized apps to capture specific photos. But in the immortal words of a meme I once saw on the internet – ain’t nobody got time for that. So here’s a different solution.
Harness the Power of iOS Extensions
My solution is to go into the Camera Roll every so often — like at the end of the month — and do some clean up. It’s manual labor, yes, but you can do this while watching a TV show and when it comes to retaining useful information, it’s a price worth paying.
Extensions in iOS make this really easy. Say you want to save a photo to the Apple Notes app. Tap on the Share button, select Add to Notes, select the note, and that’s it.
Say you’ve got a bunch of invoices in there you need to add to a shared folder in Dropbox (or any other major cloud storage service), so your accountant can access it. Well, just select those photos, tap the Share button and select Add to Dropbox from the bottom row.
If you don’t see this option, you may need to enable it from the bottom row of the Share sheet. Swipe to the end of the row, tap on More and select Add to Dropbox. Now, when you tap that button, you’ll be asked to choose a folder, select it and the photos will be uploaded in an instant.
Extensions have been out there since iOS 8 and you’ll be surprised just how many productivity apps support this interaction.
Delete Photos You Don’t Need
This is first on the list but it could be the most difficult thing. If the prospect of deleting a bunch of similar photos overwhelms you, skip right ahead.
But it’s best to first decide the photos you no longer need. When you’re scrolling around, you’ll get the feel of which photos just aren’t important anymore. Just delete them (you can always go to the Recently Deleted album to retrieve them later).
If trawling the Photos app doesn’t sound very appealing, free app Flic takes a Tinder-like approach to photo management. Photos from your Camera Roll show up. Swipe right to keep, swipe left to delete.
Send Photos to the Relevant App
If you take snaps of all the receipts, it’s time to clean up. There are multiple ways you can deal with this depending on how your workflow is set up. If you use an expense tracking or invoicing app, just send the images to that app. Or as I said above, you can send it to a Dropbox folder using the extension.
You can also retroactively scan the receipts to make them more legible. While there’s no extension for it, Scanbot app will let you import photos from the Camera Roll from within the app. Once they’re scanned you can then email them to your accountant or upload them to your Dropbox folder for your own, more organized tracking.
Organization behemoths like Evernote and its free Scannable app, or Microsoft’s competitor OneNote each include impressive scanning abilities, and they automatically store your notes in the cloud. Enable the respective Today screen widgets to further speed up your workflow.
If you capture photos of things you want to make or buy, it’s best to have them organized at some place. If you already use a note taking app like Evernote, use their extension to add them to the app. If not, get started using the built-in Notes app. The extension works well and once the image is in Notes, you can annotate it as well.
If you want to up your organization game, and maybe share your collections with the world, you can always upload photos to Pinterest, using the iOS app.
Milestones Go to the Journal
There are some moments in your life that clearly stand out and the photos from that moment deserve not to be lost in a sea of unorganized mess. So it’s best to take those photos and save them to a journal app. Add the photo, the date and some of your thoughts as well. If you already use an app like Day One ($4.99), that’s great – just use their extension. If you’re looking to start, Momento does the same.
Organize Images for Keeps with Dropbox
For anything that doesn’t fall in the above categories and for scenarios I failed to imagine here, my advice is to use different Dropbox folders. The workflow of adding photos to Dropbox from the Photos app is simple and having different folders, organized in a cloud storage service just makes sense.
Once You’re Done, Delete Photos Again
Once all your organization is done, it’s time to go back to the Photos app, select all those photos and to delete them once and for all. To actually get the storage space back, you’ll need to delete them from the Recently Deleted folder as well, which is purged every 30-days automatically.
Speaking about storage space, I’ll leave you with one tip. Live Photos take a lot more space than still images but sometimes Live Photos just turn out to be amazing. If you want to keep the feature turned on at all times, but still don’t want them taking up space, check out Lean ($1.99).
It’s a really clever app that lets you select photos that you want to strip the Live part away from. It creates a copy of the photo that’s just the still image. Again, to actually free up the storage space, you’ll need to empty the Recently Deleted folder.
What does your photo management workflow look like? What all apps do you use? Share with us in the comments below.