How to delete images from Photos for macOS without getting rid of them

Glenn Fleishman
11 January, 2017
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Othman Al Serri writes in with a deliciously existential question:

I have been using iPhoto for the past eight years. Using it is like a breeze, and it is so flexible with organising my photos. When deleting photos they just remain in the deleted folder forever, which is perfect so I can always go back and look or recover whichever photo I want.

With the new Photos app, when I delete any photo it goes to the Recently Deleted folder, but I am only given 30 days to recover the photos or else it will automatically delete (like iOS)!

I have a 1TB Mac. I don’t want the app to delete anything from the Recently Deleted folder, because I have tons of space. When I do choose to delete them, I want to delete them at my convenience – not automatically.

I confess this is the sort of question your Mac 911 correspondent loves best, because it involves working around Apple’s sometimes odd restrictions and finding a better method that fits your needs precisely.

I’ve heard many, many times from readers about their frustrations with the automatic deletion in Recently Deleted in Photos. The moment you drop an image or video in that folder through any deletion option, a clock starts ticking that runs about 40 days, according to Apple’s message in that album. You can reverse that within that time, but you’re given no guarantees. (You can also force deletion by selecting one or more images and clicking Delete [X] Items or clicking the Delete All button with no items selected.)

mac911 hide photos macos

But Photos for macOS also offers the Hide option, which may let you simulate the desired effect. In any view in Photos, including a smart album, you can select one or more items and select Image > Hide [X] Photos/Videos/Items. You can also right-click on a selection and choose that item from a menu.

If you choose to hide items from an album view, the item remains displayed, because albums are specifically chosen collections of things to view. However, those items disappear from Moments, Collections, Years and Memories.

mac911 smart album hidden

All hidden items automatically show up in the Hidden album. For more granularity, you can use Photo Is Hidden as a parameter in a smart album to separate out images even further.

If you switch to hide instead of delete, you can mostly simulate the effect you want and the control you’re looking for.

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