What does iOS photo optimization really do?

First I need to explain why I have between 70,000 and 75,000 photos. I’ve been using iPhones since the iPhone 3. For years I couldn’t depend on automatic backups, so I periodically had to back up manually. Now I have multiple copies of hundreds, possibly thousands of photos and I haven’t had the time to delete the duplicates.

I have optimize photo storage on both my iPhone and my iPad. My iPad shows I have only 12 GB of photos and only 45 GB out of 256 used. But I wasn’t able to back up to my MacBook pro with 139 GB free space. After hours working with Apple Mac support it backed up, but shows a backup of 147 GBs. An iOS support rep claimed this is because an iTunes backup includes everything on the iPad. She couldn’t explain what Optimizing iPad Photo Storage was doing if it wasn’t optimizing iPad photo storage. This is also the same situation with my iPhone.

Is this just my problem? Does anyone else see this?

By this, do you mean downloading as many photos as possible (with margin for error on storage space) to the iPad?

This is one of the two reasons I run a Mac Mini to hold the true Photos library and back it up to BackBlaze.

There should be a few apps for iOS to help you delete duplicate photos off your iPhone or IPad.

Optimizing Photo Storage on any device is designed to do the same thing. It is going to store a smaller compressed version of the image on your device while uploading the larger, full res image to your iCloud storage.

It sounds like before you try to troubleshoot this any further you really need to get the duplicate images deleted. It is hard to say how many duplicate copies may be found…and there may be more on one device than on another.

After that is cleaned up, there are system tools that can tell you what types of files your storage is being allocated to. But it is premature to start troubleshooting there when you are already aware of all of this wasted space due to the dups.


Maybe you can help share some insight. I’m hesitant to optimize my photos. I’m afraid that if I do want to print a photo I won’t have access the finest photo. My older iPad mini tells me to optimize when I open Photos. However, I have other newer iOS devices which have plenty of space. They are all backed up, in the Cloud.

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As was said, the original high-quality image goes in the cloud. The originals of any images or videos that you select (for viewing, manipulation or printing) get retrieved from iCloud before they’re available for upload or manipulation.Good overview here:

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