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6 ways to recover deleted photos on your iPhone

You can recover deleted photos from your iPhone in several ways. Isabel Fernandez Pujol/BI Photo

  • You can recover deleted photos from your iPhone’s Recently Deleted folder or an iCloud backup.
  • You can also recover deleted photos from cloud storage apps like OneDrive or Dropbox.
  • If photos are missing but not deleted, you may find them in the Hidden folder of the Photos app.

For many people, photos are the most important data stored on their iPhone — so losing your photos can be a catastrophe.

The good news is that even if you accidentally delete some (or all) of your photos, there are a few ways to get them back.

We’ll discuss those methods, and also explain a few safeguards you can take to keep your photos ultra-secure.

How to recover deleted photos from your iPhone

Apple provides a “recently deleted” photo folder in the Photos app, which is essentially the same as the Recycle Bin on your computer. It holds all the photos that have been deleted for 30 days.

On day 31, a recently deleted photo is deleted permanently — but until then it’s easy to recover. Here’s how to do it:

1. Open the Photos app.

2. Tap Albums on the bottom menu.

The Photos app on iPhone, with “Albums” highlighted on the bottom right.
Tap on “Albums.”

3. Scroll down until you reach the Utilities section and tap Recently Deleted.

The Albums page of the Photos app on iPhone, with the “Recently Deleted” option highlighted.
Tap on “Recently Deleted.”

4. Tap Select at the top-right of the screen.

The Recently Deleted folder on iPhone, with “Select” highlighted on the top right.
Tapping select will allow you to choose the photos you want to recover.

5. Select every photo that you want to return to your iPhone.

6. In the lower-right corner, tap Recover.

The Recently Deleted folder on iPhone, with “Recover” highlighted on the lower right.
Tap on “Recover.”

Quick tip: If you want to recover all of the photos in your deleted folder, tap Recover All instead.

How to recover deleted photos from a backup

If your photos are already gone from the Recently Deleted folder, then you may be able to get your photos back by restoring your phone from a previous backup.

The disadvantage of this approach is that all of your deleted files will be recovered from iCloud Drive — apps, data, text messages, and so on — with an older backup, which you might not want to do. If the backup you want to restore is fairly recent though, it might be worth it.

iCloud backup

If you recently uploaded photos to iCloud, you can easily recover them by accessing them from your device or the iCloud website. But if you use iCloud to back up your phone, follow these steps.

1. Back up your phone to iCloud so that if something goes awry, or you don’t like the content of the older backup and are willing to give up the photos, you can return to your current configuration.

2. After the backup is complete, perform a factory reset, and then restore your phone from a backup that’s old enough to include the photos you have lost.

3. When the restore is complete, check the Photos app to see if the photos you lost were recovered. If not, you can repeat the process and restore an older backup, or return to your most recent backup.

Quick tip: If the older backup has the photos you’re looking for, but you don’t like the rest of the older version, you can try emailing the photos to yourself or uploading them onto an external cloud service (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.), and then returning your phone to its later version.

iTunes backup 

Most people now use iCloud to backup and restore their phone, but if you’re still using iTunes for this, then restoring from a backup is pretty straightforward.

1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier, or your PC, and then click the iPhone icon when it appears in the upper-left corner of the iTunes window.

iTunes for Mac, with the iPhone icon highlighted on the top left.
Click on the iPhone icon.

2. Click the Summary tab in the pane on the left.

iTunes for Mac, with the “Summary” option highlighted on the left side menu.
Go to the Summary tab on iTunes on your Mac or PC.

3. In the Backups section, click “Restore Backup.

The Backups section of the iTunes Summary page, with the “Restore Backup” button highlighted.
Click on “Restore Backup.”

4. Choose the backup you want to restore your phone to.

5. When the restore is complete, check the Photos app to see if the photos you lost were recovered. If not, you can repeat the process and restore from an older backup, or return to the most recent backup.

How to recover deleted photos using Finder in macOS Catalina 10.15 or above

1. On your Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15 or above, open Finder.

2. Connect your iPhone to your Mac computer.

3. Click on your device in the left hand menu when it appears.

The menu that pops up on Mac when you connect your iPhone.
Select your device.

4. Click Restore Backup.

A window on a Mac showing the details of an iPhone, with the “Restore Backup” button highlighted.
Click on “Restore Backup.”

5. Select which backup date you’d like to use.

6. Click Restore.

How to recover deleted photos with a cloud storage service

Finally, if you use a cloud service like Dropbox or OneDrive, you can create a separate backup of all your photos, independent of iCloud and iTunes, which are then synchronized with a folder on your computer.

If you don’t already use one of these, you can install the Dropbox or OneDrive app on your iPhone so they automatically back up your photos.

Here’s how to restore a backup of your photos from Dropbox or OneDrive.

1. Open the folder on your computer that includes the backed up photos from your iPhone.

2. Also open your iCloud Photos collection in a web browser.

3. Drag the photos that you want to restore from the folder to the browser. They’ll automatically be uploaded to iCloud, and soon thereafter synced with your iPhone.

How to find hidden photos on your iPhone

If the photos are missing on your iPhone but you haven’t deleted them, they could just be hidden instead. If that’s the case, you’ll need to unhide them. 

Note: Hiding and unhiding photos only works if you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 14 or later.

1. Open the Photos app.

2. Tap Albums on the bottom menu

3. Scroll down until you reach the Utilities section and tap Hidden. If there aren’t any photos in the Hidden folder, you’ll see 0 next to it.

4. Tap Select on the top-right of the screen.

5. Select every photo that you want to return to your iPhone.

6. Tap the Share button on the bottom-left of the screen.

7. Scroll down and tap Unhide in the options below the photos and share options.

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