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How to Delete Photos on Your Mac: 6 Best Ways

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Last updated: October 11, 2023

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To delete photos on your Mac, open the Photos app, select the images you want to remove, and hit the Delete key. For permanent removal, empty the Recently Deleted album within the app.

Before proceeding, always ensure you have a backup of your photos. You should also delete duplicate photos and unsync iCloud Photos before deleting photos on your Mac.

Key Points

  • The Photos app on Mac provides multiple methods to select and delete photos, including manually, using keyboard shortcuts, and through the right-click method.
  • Deleted photos are moved to the Recently Deleted album and aren’t permanently removed until you empty the Bin.
  • If you wish to delete your entire photo library, you can do so through the Finder, but ensure you have backups of cherished memories.
  • Occasionally, issues such as iCloud syncing, locked files, insufficient permissions, or software glitches might prevent you from deleting photos. Addressing these issues will allow you to manage your photos effectively.

Got too many photos on your Mac? It happens to the best of us. As you snap more, your digital space gets crowded. But tidying up doesn’t have to be tough and you have a number of built-in features to clean up your Mac and save space.

This guide is your shortcut to a cleaner photo library. In a few simple steps, you’ll declutter, save space, and make your Mac run faster. Ready to delete photos on your Mac and lighten the load on your device? Let’s jump in!

Before We Begin

Ending up with duplicates is quite common if you have hundreds of photos on your Mac. They can fill up space and slow things down. Looking for them one by one? That’s hard. But, MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder can find the duplicate photos in a single click and you can delete them in no time.

Why Delete Photos on Your Mac?

Regularly curating and deleting photos from your Mac can lead to a more organized, efficient, and secure digital experience. Here are a few reasons why you may want to delete photos on your Mac:

  1. 🚀 Free Up Storage Space: Photos, especially high-resolution ones, can take up a significant amount of storage. Deleting unnecessary photos can free up space on your Mac for other important files.
  2. ⚡ Boost Performance: A cluttered storage can slow down your Mac. By removing excess photos, you can speed up a slow Mac and help it run smoother and faster.
  3. 📸 Organize Your Library: Deleting unwanted photos makes it easier to find and access the pictures you truly care about.
  4. 🧹 Reduce Digital Clutter: Just as physical clutter can be overwhelming, digital clutter can also cause stress. Keeping your photo library tidy can give you a sense of order and peace.
  5. ☁️ Save on Backup Costs: If you use cloud storage or external drives for backups, reducing the number of photos can save you money and time during backup processes.
  6. 🔒 Enhance Security: Fewer stored photos mean fewer personal moments that could potentially be accessed by unauthorized individuals in case of a security breach.
  7. 🔄 Streamline Syncing: If you sync your Mac with other devices, having fewer photos can make the syncing process quicker and more efficient.

Before You Start Deleting Photos

Photos are more than just pixels, they’re memories, moments, and milestones. So, before you hit that delete button, there are some essential steps and considerations to keep in mind. This will not only streamline the process but also ensure you don’t accidentally erase cherished memories.

Here are a few preparatory steps before you delete photos on your Mac:

a. Backup Everything

Always ensure you have a recent backup of your photos, either on an external drive, cloud storage, or both. This way, if you accidentally delete something important, you can easily retrieve it.

Backing up your data on a Mac is straightforward, thanks to the built-in backup solution called Time Machine. Here’s how to use Time Machine to back up your Mac:

  1. Get an external hard drive or SSD with a storage capacity that’s at least as large as your Mac’s internal drive. Connect it to your Mac.
  2. To format the drive on Mac, open Disk Utility (you can find it using Spotlight with Command ⌘ + Space).
type disk utility in spotlight search
  1. Select your external drive from the list on the left.
select a drive from left in disk utility
  1. Click the Erase button in the top toolbar.
click the erase button at the top of the window to Format a Drive on Mac
  1. Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or APFS as the format and give it a name if you wish.
  2. Click Erase.
type your drives name choose its format and scheme and click erase

Remember, this will delete everything on the drive, so ensure it doesn’t contain important data.

  1. Go to System Settings > Time Machine.
click the time machine icon
  1. Click Select Backup Disk and choose your external drive from the list.
  2. You can choose to encrypt your backups by checking the Encrypt backups box.
  3. Click Use Disk.

Time Machine will start its first backup automatically after a short delay. This initial backup might take a while, depending on how much data you have. After the first backup, Time Machine will backup hourly for the past 24 hours, daily for the past month, and weekly for all previous months.

b. Delete Duplicate Photos With MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder

MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder is a handy tool designed to help you declutter your Mac by identifying and removing duplicate files, including photos. Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder to delete duplicate photos on your Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper on your Mac and click Duplicates Finder in the left sidebar.
click duplicates finder in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in duplicates finder
  1. Select a folder in the left menu to review duplicate files before deletion.
click an item in the left sidebar
  1. Alternatively, you can click Check All and tap the Remove Selected button to remove all duplicate files at once.
click check all and tap remove selected
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder
  1. This will remove the selected files, and you’ll get a Removal Completed message. Click Finish to end the process.
click finish to complete the process

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides removing duplicate photos, MacKeeper offers valuable optimization tools to clear the cache, delete unwanted apps, and optimize your Mac’s storage. Read my detailed Mackeeper review to learn more about its features.

c. Unsysnc iCloud Photos

With iCloud Photos activated, deleting images from the Photos app will also remove them from iCloud and all devices linked to the same Apple ID, such as your iPhone.

If you want to keep the photos on your cloud, unsync iCloud Photos by following these steps:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac by searching for it in Spotlight search.
type photos in spotlight search
  1. Go to the menu bar, click Photos, and select Settings.
click photos and select settings
  1. Navigate to the iCloud tab.
  2. Uncheck the box next to iCloud Photos.
select the icloud tab and uncheck icloud photos option

How to Delete Photos on Your Mac

Now that you’ve prepped your Mac for deleting unnecessary photos, let’s dive into a comprehensive guide on how to safely delete photos on your Mac. It will not only free up space but also make your cherished memories more accessible.

1. How to Select All Photos on Mac

Selecting multiple photos simultaneously can be a great time-saver, especially when you’re looking to organize, move, or delete a large number of images.

Always double-check your selection before making any changes to ensure you don’t accidentally modify or delete cherished memories.

Here’s how to select all photos in your Photos app on Mac:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac by searching for it in Spotlight search.
type photos in spotlight search
  1. Inside the Photos app, click the Library tab in the left sidebar to display all the photos you’ve stored on your Mac.
click library in the photos app
  1. To select a specific group of photos, click the first photo you want to select. While holding down the mouse button, drag the cursor across multiple photos to select them.
select specific photos in photos app
  1. If you wish to select all the photos in the library at once, you can use the Mac keyboard shortcut Command ⌘ + A.
select all photos in photos app
  1. Alternatively, navigate to the menu bar, click Edit, and choose Select All.
click edit and tap select all

2. How to Delete Photos on macOS Manually

Now that you know how to select photos on your Mac, deleting them manually needs just one more step. But there are a few different ways to delete photos on your Mac manually. Below, I’ve shared all methods:

Before proceeding, make sure you’ve selected all the photos you wish to delete. If unsure, review the previous steps on how to select multiple photos.

a. Using the Right-Click Method

  1. With the photos selected, right-click (or Control ^ + click) any of the highlighted photos.
  2. A context menu will appear. Choose Delete X Photos from the options.
right click a photo and select delete x photos

b. Using the Keyboard Shortcut

  1. With the photos selected, simply press the Delete button on your keyboard.
  2. This action will prompt the photos for deletion.
  3. Click Delete on the prompt to confirm deletion.
click delete on the prompt to delete selected photos

You can use the same methods to delete an entire album or folder in the Photos app. Just select the album or folder and follow the deletion steps mentioned above.

Deleted photos are moved to the Bin or Recently Deleted album. They aren’t permanently removed until Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.

right click the bin and select empty bin

Alternatively, in the Photos app, go to the Recently Deleted album, select the photos, and choose Delete All.

go to recently deleted and click delete all

3. How to Delete Entire Photo Library

If you transferred your entire photo collection outside the Photos app, you can remove the original Photos library. It will help you reclaim some storage space on your Mac.

Here’s how to delete the entire photo library on your Mac:

  1. Click the Finder icon, typically found in the Dock, to open a new Finder window.
click finder in your dock
  1. In the Finder menu bar at the top, click Go, and select Home. This will take you to your user’s home directory.
click go and select home
  1. Within the Home directory, find and open the Pictures folder.
open the pictures folder in the home directory
  1. Inside the Pictures folder, you’ll see a file named Photos Library or something similar.
  2. Right-click the Photos Library and choose Move to Bin.
right click the photo library folder and select move to bin
  1. Click the Photos Library to select it and press the Command ⌘ + Delete keys on your keyboard.
  2. To permanently delete the Photos Library and free up space, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

4. How to Delete Photos Outside the Photos App

Got your photos scattered everywhere on your Mac, or using a different app instead of Photos? Maybe you’ve got a unique folder setup or, let’s be honest, a bit of a photo mess? If that’s the cae, you can use Smart Folders to organize your photos in one place.

Here’s how to organize and delete your photos using Smart Folders:

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click File in the menu bar and select New Smart Folder.
click file and select new smart folder
  1. Choose This Mac in the top toolbar.
choose this mac in the top toolbar
  1. Click the plus (+) icon in the top-right corner.
click the small plus button in the top right corner
  1. Use the dropdowns, pick Kind, and select Image. Then, click the Save button to save your Smart Folder.
set search parameters and click save

Voila! Every pic on your Mac, all in one spot. Skim through, and toss out what you don’t want.

5. How to Delete an Entire Album in Photos App

The Photos app organizes your images into albums, accessible from the left sidebar. You can modify or remove any of these albums as needed. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac by searching for it in Spotlight search.
type photos in spotlight search
  1. In the Photos app, click the My Albums tab in the left sidebar.
click my albums in the left sidebar
  1. Scroll through your albums to find the album you wish to delete.
  2. Click the album you want to delete to select it. The album should now be highlighted.
select an album you want to delete
  1. Right-click the selected album and choose Delete Album.
right click an album and select delete album
  1. A prompt will appear asking you to confirm the deletion. Click Delete to confirm.
click delete on the deletion prompt

Deleting an album will remove the album organization, but the photos in the album will remain in your main Library. If you wish to delete the photos themselves, you’ll need to delete them separately.

6. How to Delete Photos Permanently on Mac

Want to ensure your photos and videos are gone for good without waiting for the usual 30-day period? Here’s how to permanently erase photos on your Mac without delay:

  1. Open the Photos app on your Mac by searching for it in Spotlight search.
type photos in spotlight search
  1. Inside the Photos app, locate and click the Recently Deleted folder. This is where photos and videos are temporarily stored before they’re automatically deleted after 30 days.
  2. Browse through the folder and select all the photos and videos you want to permanently remove.
  3. Click and drag to select multiple files or use the Command ⌘ + Click method to select individual items.
  4. Click the Delete All button in the top-right corner.
go to recently deleted and click delete all
  1. A prompt might appear asking you to confirm that you truly want to erase the selected items forever. Confirm your decision to finalize the deletion.

Once you’ve taken this action, those photos and videos are irretrievable. It’s always a good practice to double-check your selections to ensure you don’t permanently delete something important.

How to Recover Deleted Pictures on macOS

Oops! Deleted a photo you didn’t mean to? Don’t fret, you’ve got a 30-day grace period to get it back. But after that window, they’ll vanish for good.

Here’s how to retrieve mistakenly deleted snaps from the Photos app:

  1. Open the Photos app.
  2. Click the Recently Deleted folder in the left sidebar.
click the recently deleted tab in the left sidebar of photos app
  1. Select the Photos you want to restore. Selected images will be highlighted with a blue checkmark.
selected photos highlighted with blue checkmark
  1. Once you’ve chosen your photos, click the Recover button, usually in the top right corner of the window.
click the recover button in the recently deleted tab
  1. It will restore the photos to their original places.

Why Can’t You Delete Photos From Your Mac?

There could be several reasons why you’re unable to delete photos from your Mac. Let’s explore some common issues and their potential causes:

  1. ☁️ iCloud Photo Library Syncing: If you use iCloud Photo Library, photos deleted from your Mac will also be removed from iCloud and all other devices connected to that iCloud account. If there’s a syncing issue, it might prevent deletions.
  2. 🔒 Locked Files: The photo file might be locked, preventing any modifications. You can check this by right-clicking the photo, selecting Get Info, and looking for a checked Locked option.
  3. 🚫 Insufficient Permissions: You might not have the necessary permissions to delete the file. This is common if you’re not the admin or if the photo is in a restricted folder.
  4. 🖼️ Active Use: The photo might be open in another application, preventing you from deleting it.
  5. 💽 Corrupted Files: Sometimes, corrupted files can’t be deleted in the usual way. You might need to use specific software or terminal commands to remove them.
  6. 🔌 External Storage Issues: If the photos are on an external drive, there might be issues with the drive’s format, write protection, or connection.
  7. 💻 Software Glitch: Occasionally, a temporary software glitch can prevent file deletions. Restarting your Mac can often resolve this.
  8. ⏳ Time Machine Backup: If the photos are part of a Time Machine backup, they’re meant to be preserved and can’t be deleted in the usual manner.

Clear Out Your Photos Library on Mac

Managing photos on your Mac can be tricky, but with the right knowledge, it’s a breeze. Always remember to back up your precious memories and double-check before deleting.

Here are a few more tips to keep your photo library organized and clutter-free:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where are photos stored on Mac?

    On a Mac, photos are stored in the Photos app, located within the Photos Library in the Pictures folder. This library keeps all images and videos easily accessible through the app. Additionally, you can save photos in other directories based on personal preferences.

  2. What is the best way to delete photos on Mac?

    The best way to delete photos on a Mac is through the Photos app. Select the images, and hit the Delete key. For permanent removal, empty the Recently Deleted album within the app. Always backup before deleting to prevent accidental loss of cherished memories.

  3. How to recover recently deleted photos on Mac?

    On a Mac, open the Photos app and navigate to the Recently Deleted album. Here, you’ll find photos deleted within the last 30 days. Select the images you want to recover and click Recover. They’ll be restored to their original locations. Act promptly, as they’re auto-deleted after 30 days.

  4. What happens if I delete a photo with iCloud enabled?

    If you delete a photo with iCloud enabled, it’s also removed from iCloud and all synced devices. However, it’s temporarily stored in the Recently Deleted album for 30 days, allowing recovery. After 30 days, it’s permanently deleted from all locations.

Hashir Ibrahim


I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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