John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Unravelling iPhone photos

More and more we use our phones to take pictures, but as you do a large mess begins to get started that Apple have made difficult to unravel. First off let’s talk about how an iPhone (or iPad) manage photos. By default, the phone backs up your photos to the Apple cloud, icloud. Sounds good. But unknown to you, the original is no longer stored on your phone. Over time, next thing you know, you are getting nagged that your iCloud storage is full and you need to pay for more. Hmmm this sounds self serving. So I have managed this by simply deleting photos on the phone and this makes the nag go away for a little while and then it comes back again and again. So I decided I would take a look at solving this ongoing problem, because I don’t want to pay for more and more storage on Apple’s cloud, it just irks me. By the way, Apple explain all this if you read …

I looked into a number of apps that would run on the phone and use my own storage and that’s when I bumped into the issue that the photos are actually not on the phone. Amazon photos tried to deal with this by downloading the photos and then uploading them to Amazon. As a prime member I have unlimited storage. For whatever reason, this just kept failing enmass.

So I headed over to iCloud and decided the first thing to do is download the photos I have and then I can delete them from iCloud. This is easier said than done. First of all they only allow you to download 1000 at a time, I had over that. Second, once downloaded all the dates on the files are the date you downloaded them, loosing the date taken. This is discussed all over the place. To fix this issue I found a fantastic free tool called jhead that will replace the date on the file with the EXIF date taken field. It works like a charm by using the command:

jhead -ft *.jpg

This worked almost perfectly, except on the occasions the file was downloaded and there was no EXIF data.

Ok so now all the files are downloaded, date corrected so now I can delete them from iCloud. Well Apple want to be 100% sure you did what you wanted so deleted files are moved into a recycling box for 30 days. So you will need to go and clean them out of the recently deleted. The iPhone continued to keep the photos I’d deleted, I assume this would eventually sort itself out but I wanted this resolved NOW so I went ahead and turn photos off from the icloud settings and all photos were deleted and cleaned up. Finally the mess is untangled.

Now, I can download Amazon photos with a clean slate and go forward with UNLIMITED storage (as long as I pay for Prime) and NEVER be nagged by Apple about buying more space again. I am shocked how complicated this was, and I can totally see why people just give up and pay Apple.

There’s a point worth noting, Apple brought about it’s own image format to support live photos. Live photos are a series of frames taken that can then be manipulated within the iPhone photos app. Manipulations include things like loop, bounce, long exposure (etc). Downloading images on a PC looses these frames and all you get a MOV of the frames and a jpg of whatever manipulation was used on the photo. It MIGHT be different if these were downloaded on a Mac.

November 13, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment