Prevent iPhone from backing up unwanted photos to the cloud

When using an iPhone every image taken with the camera app gets automatically sent to the camera roll. All of your images are put into the same place and mixed together. I find myself taking work photos, or just photos of random objects that I only need for a short time, such as a grocery list, price tag of a certain item, or a piece of paper at work that I need to reference later.

The problem gets worse when you have your phone backing up your images, to iCloud, Google Drive, Amazon Photos or some other backup service. It’s extremely important to have your phone backing up to the cloud to prevent losing those precious family photos in the event of your phone dying or getting stolen. But the problem is those random photos that you don’t want get backed up to the cloud and immortalized forever. This just clutters your backup with photos you don’t want that get in the way of you finding that photo from a year ago of your kid playing their favorite sport or your cat doing something stupid.

Cloud backup gets full of junk Images

Because I am afraid of backing up these superfluous images to the cloud and having the hassle of deleting them later. I find myself with the auto backup feature turned off on my Amazon Photos app, and rarely do I backup my images. I hold off on backing up my images until I can delete the random pictures I don’t want backed up. The problem is I never get around to deleting those images and so my important photos are not getting backed up on a regular basis.

What is the solution to the problem of having random pictures mixed in with the important ones and how do we prevent them from getting mixed together in the first place?

Camera+ a camera app for iPhone with a separate repository for images

The best solution I found is to use a camera app that doesn’t send its images to the camera roll by default. The best camera app for this is called Camera+ 2. This app costs $2.99, there is also a Camera+ Legacy which is the old version of this app. Both versions costs the same amount of money so go with Camera+ 2 so that you get continued support and updates into the future.

Camera+ by default will save its images into its own repository called the Lightbox. There is an option to set it to save to either the Lightbox, Camera Roll or Lightbox and Camera Roll. We want this app to save to the Lightbox this will keep images taken in Camera+ separate from the Camera Roll and they will not be backed up by our cloud image backup service of choice.

I have started to use Camera+ in my day to day when taking images that are not important, don’t need to be backed up and are separate from my important family photos. This is the best solution I have found to keeping my personal photos free from clutter and my cloud backup repository from getting burdened by junk images.

What if I want something more pro for my personal photos than the native iPhone camera app?

There are many pro camera apps for the iPhone, many with more features than the native iPhone app and even RAW support.

If I wanted to use a pro camera app with my iPhone I would use another of the many options available and continue using Camera+ for my day to day random images. Why? Because Camera+ is one of the few if not the only camera app that stores its images in a private repository by default, and it’s also one of the cheaper options in iPhone camera apps.

Some options to look at for Professional grade camera app as your daily driver for important pics, look at Obscura 2, Halide Camera or ProCam 6. There are also several others. Take a look at the Take Raw Photos collection on the Apple App Store for more camera apps.

Instead of a separate app can I exclude an album in my Camera Roll from uploading to my cloud backup?

To save the cost of a new app, and the complexity of using separate apps to take photos. is it possible to have the backup service exclude a certain photo album on the phone? Unfortunately the cloud backup providers like Amazon Prime Photo and Google Drive do not offer an option to exclude photos that they backup. The reason being is that this would not work logistically. You would need to go add a photo to an album after you take the picture. But with auto-sync turned on with the cloud backup service the image would get backed up before you had the chance to add it to the excluded album.

Is it possible to take pictures with the native camera app on an iPhone that don’t save to the camera roll?

No unfortunately the way iOS is designed, images go to the camera roll. It doesn’t matter if that image is a photo taken with the camera app, a screenshot taken on the phone, or a photo downloaded in safari or another app. All images go to the camera roll. This design plays into Apple’s longstanding philosophy of making their products simple and easy to use. In this manner Apple has always kept the under the hood parts of iOS hidden and made everything on the device as simplistic as possible. Apple recently has introduced limited file management capabilities in the files app but even still images are kept in their own silo and separate even from the files app.

Which cloud Photo backup service should I use?

There are five main options to consider. iCloud, Amazon Prime Photo, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.

If you want to stay with the apple ecosystem and keep a copy of all of your photos on your phone then iCloud is the way to go. iCloud offers multiple storage options, when backing up your photos the free option will get full pretty quick so keep that in mind. One unique feature of iCloud is it will allow you to keep a copy of all your photos on your phone but in a compressed format so they take up a very small amount of space on your phone or iPad.

Amazon Prime Members should check out the Prime Photo app. It will allow Prime Members to store unlimited photos in the cloud. Videos however are not unlimited with the free version you only get 5GB of video storage.

Use the Google Drive app, OneDrive app or Dropbox if you are tied into any of those ecosystems already. If you use Google primarily with a gmail account GApps account then you can use the Google Drive app on your device to keep your photos backed up. Same thing with Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox accounts.


Hi I am Jeremy. The goal of this blog is  to make using technology easier in your daily life. We provide reviews, guides and how to articles.