How do I find old photos on my iPhone?

If you’ve owned an iPhone for a while, chances are you’ve taken hundreds or even thousands of photos with it. Over time, these photos can get buried in your Photos app, making them hard to find when you want to look back on old memories.

The good news is, there are a few different ways to find old photos on your iPhone, even if you don’t remember when or where you took them. Here are some tips for locating lost photos in your iPhone’s Photos app.

Search by Date or Location

The Photos app has built-in filters that allow you to narrow down your search by date or location. Here’s how to use them:

  • Open the Photos app and tap on the Search tab at the bottom.
  • At the top, tap on the filter icon that looks like three sliders stacked on each other.
  • Select either the Places or Time tabs to filter by location or date.

Under the Places tab, you’ll see a map view with clumps showing how many photos were taken in each location. Zoom into the map and tap on a clump to see only photos from that area.

Under the Time tab, you’ll see an overview of how many photos you’ve taken in different years and months. Tap on a year or month to narrow it down quickly.

Browse by Album

If you previously organized photos into different albums, browse through those albums to look for old content.

All of your albums are listed under the Albums tab at the bottom of the Photos app. Simply tap through each album name to view the photos inside.

The Camera Roll album contains every photo you’ve taken, so this can be a good place to start. Your Selfies album is also likely to contain old photos too.

Use the Search Bar

You can also search for photos using keywords or descriptions. Here’s how:

  • Open the Photos app and tap on the Search tab.
  • Tap inside the search bar at the top and type something to describe the photos you’re looking for. This could be a location, date, person’s name, event, etc.
  • Hit Search on the keyboard to run the search.
  • All photos that match your search term will appear. Tap on any photo to view it in full screen.

You can really use any words that might be associated with the old photos you have in mind. Try searching for vague descriptions like “beach”, “snow”, “wedding”, etc. if you don’t remember specifics.

Recover Recently Deleted Photos

If you just recently deleted some old photos that you now want to retrieve, they may still be in the Recently Deleted album.

Photos you delete get stored in the Recently Deleted folder for up to 40 days. Here’s how to access it:

  • Open the Photos app and swipe up from the bottom to bring up the Albums list.
  • Scroll down and tap on Recently Deleted to open the album.
  • Browse through the deleted photos here. Tap and hold on any photo to recover it.

After 30 days, photos in Recently Deleted will be permanently removed. So if you need to recover any old images you just deleted, be sure to rescue them from Recently Deleted sooner rather than later.

View Old Photo Memories

Your iPhone will automatically generate collections of old photos for you called Memories. Here’s how to find them:

  • Open the Photos app and swipe up from the bottom to bring up the Albums list.
  • Under Utilities, tap on Memories.
  • Swipe through each Memory collection – they should be sorted by date, location, event, etc.

Tapping into a Memory will play a mini slideshow of the old photos. You can tap on any photo in the collection to view it in full screen.

Check Memories frequently, as your iPhone will add new auto-generated Memories to this album over time. It’s a great way to rediscover forgotten old photos.

Connect to a Computer

If you’re still having trouble finding a particular old photo, consider connecting your iPhone to a computer to browse the full photo library.

To set this up:

  • Connect your iPhone to your computer using the included USB charging cable.
  • Open iTunes on the computer. Your iPhone should appear in the top left under Devices.
  • Click on your iPhone icon, then switch to the Photos tab.
  • Check “Sync Photos”, select “All photos and albums”, and click Apply.
  • Open the Photos app on your computer. This will let you browse all the photos stored on your iPhone.

You can then search, filter, and organize photos through the Photos app on your desktop or laptop computer. When you find the old photos you want, you can save copies on your computer for easy access.

Try a Third-Party App

Another option is using a third-party photo storage app to give you more flexibility with organizing and browsing your photo library.

For example, Google Photos lets you search by image content, Google Maps location history, identified individuals, and other advanced criteria. Here’s an overview of using Google Photos to find old iPhone pictures:

  • Install the app – Download and install the Google Photos app on your iPhone from the App Store.

  • Sync photos – Open Google Photos and tap “Get started”. This will sync all photos from your iPhone to your Google Photos cloud account.

  • Search and browse – Use the Search tab in the app and advanced filters like Locations, Things, People, Dates, etc. to narrow down old photos.

  • Share out – When you find old photos you want to access again, you can share them to apps like Files or save them back to your iPhone camera roll.

Other apps like Dropbox, Amazon Photos, and iCloud Photos also provide enhanced search, browsing, and organization for your iPhone picture library.

Turn On iCloud Photo Library

Using iCloud Photo Library stores all your iPhone photos in the cloud automatically. This gives you another way to search and access your photo archives.

To enable it:

  • Go to Settings > Photos.
  • Tap to turn on iCloud Photo Library.
  • Choose Optimize [device] Storage or Download and Keep Originals.

Now you can log into on any computer or device and browse every photo you’ve ever taken. Use the Search bar to find old hidden pictures.

Check Other Devices

If you’ve previously backed up your iPhone photos onto another device, you may be able to find old pictures there.

For example, if you backed up photos to an external hard drive using iTunes on your computer, connect that drive and browse for images. Or if you synced photos to apps like Google Photos or Dropbox in the past, check those services.

Think back to any other devices you may have transferred photos to over the years – computers, external drives, SD cards. If there’s a chance some missing old photos got stored there, it’s worth looking.

Ask Friends and Family

Don’t forget to ask friends and family if they have any old digital or printed photos you’re looking for. Chances are you sent at least some of your iPhone pictures to others over the years.

Friends may have saved iPhone photos you texted them. Family may have prints of pictures you airdropped them. Co-workers could have snapshots saved from business trips or events.

Check in with anyone you might have shared photos with since originally getting your iPhone. They may be able to recover pictures from their own devices that you can’t find in your library.

Check Photo Albums and Storage

If you kept printed iPhone photos in photo albums or storage boxes, dig through those to uncover forgotten memories.

Browse old school photo albums, scrapbooks, and frames that you’ve made over the years. Look in storage bins, closet boxes, and attics for envelope folders or shoeboxes of printed iPhone pictures.

You may luck out and find some nostalgic prints of pictures you thought were long gone from your phone. Even if you end up finding photos you have digital copies of, the physical prints can make nice memorabilia.

Use Social Media as a Resource

Finally, don’t forget to check your social media accounts for old iPhone photos you may have shared publicly.

Scroll back through your Facebook history and check photo albums you’ve uploaded over the years. Look under tagged photos and albums where friends may have posted pictures with you in them.

Check Instagram and Twitter as well. Many people tweet photos from their iPhone or share Instagram shots to make up for limited storage space.

You can re-download and save any social media pictures to your device. Some sites like Facebook also let you download your entire photo archive.


Recovering old iPhone photos can take some effort, but is definitely possible if you use the right tools and techniques. Take advantage of built-in apps like Photos and iCloud, search diligently through backups and social feeds, and don’t forget good old printed photo albums.

With a mix of digital searches and physical checks, there’s a good chance you can reconnect with some of your long-lost iPhone photos. In the process you may unearth amazing memories from the past that you’ll want to treasure and share all over again.