Deleting images in iPhoto

Whoever designed the photo deletion interface in iPhoto rather botched the job. The system in both versions of iPhoto I have used (’08 and ’04) has been confusing and very easy to use incorrectly.

When you select a photo in an album and hit delete, it gets removed from only that album, not the photo library. This is sensible enough, though there should be an easier way to delete the image from both locations. What is much odder is that when you delete a photo from the library, it doesn’t go into the Mac OS trash. Instead, it goes into a custom iPhoto trash folder.

What is really unforgivable is that if you go into the trash folder, select an image, and hit delete, it actually gets returned to its original location. There have been plenty of occasions where I have gone through the photos from an entire trip (probably hundreds of images), removing the botched and boring ones. If you then hit the wrong key while looking at the trash folder, they all jump back to their original locations, and you need to repeat the whole selection process.

It would be far more sensible for iPhoto to behave like iTunes. When you delete a photo from the library, it should ask if you also want to delete it from your hard drive. Then, there is no need for an independent trash folder. Removed images would either get taken out of the iPhoto file management system but left in their original hard drive location, or they would be put into the general Mac OS trash. It should also be possible to delete images straight from smart folders. When a photo in such a folder is selected for deletion, it should automatically be moved to the Mac OS trash.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Deleting images in iPhoto”

  1. wow, i didn’t realized that this happen. I’ll have to double check to make sure my photos are deleted.

  2. One approach I have found to avoid mistakes is this:

    1) Create a tag with a name like ‘To delete.’
    2) Tag all the photos you wish to eliminate.
    3) Go into the main photo library view and search for the name of the tag.
    4) Select all the photos.
    5) Hit backspace to move them to the iPhoto trash.
    6) Empty the trash.

    This is useful for two reasons: (a) you can tag photos from any view, including within smart folders and (b) if you accidentally clear the trash back into your library, it is easy to find the photos a second time.

  3. You are right, what Apple should have done, is written it such that when you delete it from the iphoto trash, it uploads the photo to a public website called “Photos peopled tried to delete, but we all know that isn’t allowed”.

  4. I have found that sometimes even photos ‘properly’ deleted in iPhoto aren’t removed from your hard drive. They sometimes stick around in the iPhoto folder system, even if they are not accessible through its interface.

    iPhoto also doesn’t seem to offer the ‘secure delete’ function available for emptying the Mac OS trash bin. Given that photos are one of the things that a lot of people might want to be able to delete in an unrecoverable way, that seems a notable omission.

  5. “. Given that photos are one of the things that a lot of people might want to be able to delete in an unrecoverable way, that seems a notable omission.”

    You act as if the omission is accidental. But think of it in the opposite way – maybe there is a script that apple stores can run to recover all the “deleted images” from someone’s Iphoto if they bring it in for repair. How useful would that be for blackmail!

  6. I think it much more likely that they wanted to avoid situations where peoples’ grandmothers accidentally and permanently erase their entire iPhoto libraries, while fumbling with obscure key combinations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *