How to Mass Delete Photos on an iOS Device

I ran into a bit of a problem with my iPod touch. I had had iCloud Photo Library on at one point for testing, and, after turning it off, it seems that the iPod had downloaded my entire 5 GB photo library. On a 32 GB device – which really only holds 26 GB – this was becoming a bit of a problem.

You can delete photos from the Photos app; one at a time. That would take quite a while for the more than 1,200 photos I wanted to get rid of.

iOS is supposed to “optimize” the photo storage, deleting local copies of photos when space is needed. But since iCloud Photo Library was off, it wasn’t doing that.

There are lots of third-part apps that can delete your photos, but I wanted a simpler solution. I found it in Apple’s Image Capture, a utility that is part of macOS. (It’s located in your Applications folder.)

Connect your iOS device to your Mac, then launch Image Capture. You’ll see something like this:

Image capture

You can select a photo, right-click, and choose Delete IMAGENAME. But the Delete option was dimmed for me.

Now, if you look to the right of my iPod touch’s name, you’ll see that it’s got a cloud icon next to it. Image Capture was still seeing this device as having iCloud Photo Library on. In fact, when I went to the Settings, Photo Sharing was still on, even though iCloud Photo Library was turned off. So I toggled that setting off and returned to Image Capture.

So I selected all the photos, then right-clicked and chose Delete 1241 Items. In about a minute, all my photos were deleted.

Delete photos

Now, I could turn iCloud Photo Library back on if I want, and it won’t download all my photos, and they’ll still be accessible. But on this device, I don’t want the photos; I only use it for testing and for music. So I’ll leave it off in case I need my photo library later.