How to undelete deleted photos on iOS

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Trashed a photo by mistake? Here's how to undelete it.
Trashed a photo by mistake? Here's how to undelete it.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

We’ve all done it. We’ve woken up after a big night out, and before we even rinse the sleep from our eyes, we reach over and delete last night’s photos on our iPhones. We even squint, or kind of half look at the screen as we do it, just so we don’t get a reminder of whatever the hell it was we got up to last night.

But wait. Later, after the hangover clears, you’re hunting around for the photo you took of that totally sweet guy’s phone number, the one he wrote on the napkin while you were checking out his awesome forearms. “I’ll lose that piece of paper,” you told him, and took a snap of it with your iPhone camera, just in case. And it turns out that this was a way smarter move than that fifth round of chili vodka shots, because you did lose that napkin number. Only now you’ve gone and deleted the photo too, you big dummy.

No problem. Undeleting a photo on iOS is as easy as agreeing to another drink that you don’t really want. Let’s see how to do it.

The Recently Deleted album

The Photos app on both iOS and macOS keeps photos in a Recently Deleted album, which acts just like the Trashcan on the Mac, only it’s harder to empty. You’ll find this album in the Photos app under, under the Albums tab, alongside all your other albums. In iOS 11 and earlier, it looks just like a regular Album, with a thumbnail of one of your deleted photos as its key-frame. On iOS 12, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the Albums tab to find a new section, called Other Albums. Here’ you’ll find Recently Deleted, alongside Import History, and Hidden albums.

Deleted photos are kept for 30 days before being permanently removed. The oldest photos are at the bottom, and the more recent at the top. There’s a panel of text explaining how this works. The text actually says that permanent deletion can take up to 40 days, but 30 is the norm. Each photo is individually labeled with the number of days it has left, like a kind of death row for pictures.

How to undelete a photo on your iPhone.

The Recover buttons sends photos back to wherever they were before you trashed them.
The Recover buttons sends photos back to wherever they were before you trashed them.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Undeleting in the Photos app is called recovery. To recover a photo, just tap it, and then tap the Recover button which appears. The photo is then put back to wherever it was before you deleted it. If you go back to your timeline, you’ll find your recovered photo correctly-placed in order, on the day it was created. To recover multiple photos, tap Select in the Recently Deleted album, and then make a multiple selection as usual, and then tap Recover.

How to permanently delete photos form your iPhone’s trash album

You can also permanently deelte a photo at any time.
You can also permanently deelte a photo at any time.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can also permanently delete any image from this Recently Deleted album. Just follow the same steps as for recovering a photo (or multiple photos), and then tap the Delete button instead of the Recover button. You’ll see a warning, and when you confirm, those phots will be gone forever. FOREVER!

So there you have it. You now know how to both recover that lost photograph of the phone number, and to permanently delete those other images that you never wanted to see again.