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How Big is YOUR Smart Phone Photo Library?

Updated: May 29, 2020

This bit of rambling is all about phone pictures, and specifically I am talking about Apple. You could definitely apply what I’m saying to an Android phone, as well, but for now, I'm using Apple as my example. I want to start by saying how much I love Apple. I use a Mac. I use an iPhone. I love going into the Apple store. I love Apple products. They are so clean and shiny and fresh and glossy. What’s not to love about high gloss? Their packaging is so minimal and beautiful. It's a dream. That being said, I am a photo organizer and spend way too much time thinking about the state of photos in the world and what we are passing to the next generation. I spend a lot of time thinking about the way I'm passing my pictures on to MY kids.


I have to remind my clients that Apple is a for-profit company. They are making money regularly off of each and every one of us. Not only do we buy new iPads, computers, and phones, there is the monthly cost of Apple Music, iCloud Storage, the App get my point. It's easy to spend money regularly with Apple. And using Apple products is a walk in the park. No need to move your data from your old computer to your new one because Apple can do that for you! Getting a new iPhone? Just enter your Apple ID and you’re phone populates with everything you had on your old phone. It’s SO easy you don’t have to do anything! Run out of space on your hard drive? Upgrade your memory or, better yet, buy a new computer. Run out of storage space in the Cloud? Don’t do anything, just get a bigger plan! Cloud storage is cheap! It’s so easy! Look how Apple organizes your pictures by year! See? You don’t need to do anything! You don’t have to organize them. Just take the picture and forget about it. (Insert emoji of me hitting my forehead.)

Does anyone else see an issue with this? Have you ever bought a new piece of actual furniture? Let’s say you bought a new desk. Would you just take the new desk and pile it on top of the old desk or would you clean up the old desk, neaten up the piles, throw out the junk and put the keepers nice and neat in the new desk? I’m guessing you would clean up, throw away, organize and edit. It seems so obvious when you talk about physical items but why isn’t this happening with digital data and pictures?


Recently I have been working with a lot of clients in their Apple Photos. “Overwhelmed” is often a word people use when they talk about their phone pictures. There are so many pics, literally tens of thousands from a 10+ year period of life. Many people have run out of space on their computers to store all these pictures. Their computers may have stopped working or they are running slow, they are frustrated, they have bought more computers, more external hard drives, they play with their settings and end up storing their photos in the cloud to free up space. Now, they need to buy a larger cloud storage package. To me, this is like buying a bigger house because you have too much stuff. Where is the idea that we should delete our unwanted pictures? Live within our means (I'm talking about gigabytes, here). Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Today I mentioned to the client that having over 70,000 pictures on her Apple Photos is only a great idea for the company who is collecting money every month from her to pay to store all these pictures. Who is the big winner when she doesn't delete her unwanted pictures? APPLE! More photos = more money for them. I don’t think there is any ill intent, it’s just the situation that has become the new normal. Smart phones makes it just TOO easy to click and forget about it and we are drowning in pictures. And it’s only going to get worse.

I just finished a book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. (Great book! Highly recommend!) In the beginning, the author references a 60 minutes segment where the man being interviewed is talking about technology. He says, “It’s not neutral. They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money.” BINGO. That was the exact idea I was telling my client earlier in the day. Apple wants you to take pictures, store them in their system (which they control and update whenever they want) and they want to keep you as a customer for life! If you have 70,000 pictures now from a 10 year period, what’s going to happen in 10 more years? Will you have 140,000? How much is that going to cost you in cloud storage? How are you ever going to find a single picture you want from one of those years a few years back? How are you going to pass on all those pictures for your children to enjoy? How are you going to enjoy them?

Let that sink in.


Apple is BRILLIANT. Look, I know paying for cloud storage is a drop in the bucket and I’m not against it. I give my fair share of money to Apple each month to keep the dream alive. I’m merely suggesting that some of our technology issues, such as computers running slow, running out of space, spending more money on cloud storage....these issues could be solved if we edited down our photo collection to a manageable amount. Not only would you be able to better find your favorite memories (because they wouldn’t be hidden between 5000 screenshots and 9000 burst mode pics) but you would be able to save money on cloud storage you don’t really need AND better yet, you would be getting into a rhythm of culling your pics on a regular basis. Just like you have to do laundry or go to the gym or clean your dishes or remember to take your trash out….Your pictures need a little bit of regular TLC, too. I know that’s not what anyone wants to hear, but I hate taking the trash out, too.

So clean up your phone pics!! Delete, delete, delete. And if you need some help getting it organized, you know where to find me! I have my own ideas of how to navigate the system to make it work for YOU. Apple Photos is really a great system, you just have to know how to use it to your advantage.

Happy deleting! May the odds be ever in your favor.

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