How do I get unsaved shared photos out of my Photos Library?

Hi folks!

I have hundreds of photos in Photos on my iPhone with this “Messages” icon on them:

Tapping on them shows who sent this to me in a message, and presents the option to Save Shared Photo.

The problem is, I always save shared photos that I want to keep, at the time that I receive them. And if I don’t want them, I don’t want them showing up in my photo library like they are here. And their presence it making it particularly hard for me to audit what has synced to iCloud and what hasn’t, which is a separate major problem I’m facing:

And now I have no idea what to do with these hundreds of photos. Many of them, I want. But they should already be in my library. So do I click Save again and risk hundreds of duplicates to sort through?

I recently enabled iCloud Shared Photo Library and also recently upgraded my iPhone to 16.2. Not sure if those are relevant, but I don’t remember seeing this problem before then.

I thought maybe there might be some switch in settings to hide these, but I can’t find anything like it. And on my Mac, these “Messages” photos don’t clutter the same library. And, btw, an audit shows that those totals in the previous screen shot from my iPhone, which match the numbers on my Mac, do NOT include these “Messages” photos, since the latter don’t appear to be present on my Mac. But I say the latter with hesitation, since I have >110,000 photos in my library, and if they’re not sorted the same on my Mac, I may be drawing a false conclusion.

Anyway, maybe someone has seen these before and has a suggestion about why they’re here and how to “manage” them??


I would first try to toggle this option under iOS Messages (is that where you get most shared images?), and then give it overnight to sync the cloud and correct things in the photo library.

I don’t think these pictures are in your library. If you launch Photos on a Mac that isn’t signed in to your Messages account, do you see them there as well?

I think the iOS Photos app is simply presenting images from Messages. If you delete the photo from Messages, it will go away from Photos as well, unless you saved it.

Mac Photos does have a nice Duplicate finder and culler. The algorithm is pretty good and easy to use. Try that out on what you currently have. If you feel comfortable with the matches, you can also merge all of them with a button on the top right instead of one match at a time.

Yea, it certainly used to have a nice duplicate detection feature. I can’t find it anymore. Did they remove it when I enabled iCloud Shared Photo Library?

And by the way, when the feature was still present, I had hundreds if not thousands of duplicates. Most were solid. But I found at least one where the took two COMPLETELY different looking photos and called them duplicates. So I knew I couldn’t trust it blindly. And I forget now what other issue I ran into that prevented me from using the “merge all” feature. So I blew a couple hours merging individual “rows” before I gave up and decided to wait for Apple to give me an upgrade the provided a manageable way to accomplish this.

One thing that would have helped is if I could have selected MULTIPLE ROWS and have it merge all the photos WITHIN EACH ROW together. Then I could have covered a lot more ground faster. But when I tested that, it merged all the photos in all the rows together! Which makes absolutely no sense.

Bam, that was it! I looked in Photos settings, but had no idea this would be under Messages settings.

Now I can move forward with my more basic problem of trying to get all my photos in the Shared Library…


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No, they’re not. But they’re confusing everything I’m looking at.

On the Mac, enabling this same feature creates a new “Shared with You” item in the Photos sidebar, where all such items are grouped together. It does NOT commingle them into my my view of Photos as it does on iOS. The Mac approach is much friendlier. Remember, totals are drawn at the bottom of the “All Photos” view, and it does not add up when these phantom “shared” entries are cluttering the view.

I’m sure it will. I don’t want to delete it from messages, but I also don’t want it showing up in my Photos. Ray’s suggestion above fixed that.


Albums tab, scroll down, there’s the duplicates (under “Utilities”).

Do you have iCloud shared photo library enabled?

Interestingly, I see that the Duplicates album is present on my iMac, though not on my MacBook or iPhone.

I’m wondering if the reason is that only the iMac has Originals downloaded. The Apple tech I spoke to says the “machine learning” for dup detection is done on the device. It makes sense to me that the software would disable dup detection if it only has access to low-quality thumbnails. But again, this should be documented somewhere. It’s a valuable feature that could swing people towards downloading originals in some cases.

@ddmiller , does your device with this album have originals downloaded?

Yes. Both my iPhone and iPad have all photos downloaded. I’m away from any Macs, but almost all of them don’t optimize storage. I’ll be home tomorrow.

(Also, still no shared library. My wife is still on 15.7.X on one of her devices, so we’ll wait until she’s up to 16.X before we try it. (It will be super-useful as we both basically have a lot of old picture duplicates of the kids.)

It may be my most requested, and most anticipated Apple feature OF ALL TIME. We have been downright crippled for probably a decade. Now we are finally emerging from a hell of confusion between our devices that had the same Apple ID on them so we could share pix. I was prepared to buy a new Mac just so that it was Ventura / Shared Library capable (I found out this iMac could run it, though).

I checked my spare iPhone, which uses optimized storage for Photos. Yes, the duplicates detection is there. As I said, I don’t have the new shared photo library feature turned on yet, though.

Also, I’ve been through duplicates before, and cleared them all, but it’s now found 20 more. I’d almost like a notification when that happens.

Gotcha. Yea, I’d like to know if anyone else can chime in: the question is, with iCloud Shared Photo Library enabled, do you have the “Duplicates” album visible when you have Originals downloaded, and Duplicates missing when Optimized?

Yea, that would be nice to be notified, as long as I could disable it :wink:

Slightly related to this post, the Settings/General/iPhone Storage function allows you to list all the large photos in Messages. They can be quickly deleted by swiping left:

Afterwards you need to go to the Photos app and delete deleted photos to recover memory (wish my brain worked like that :blush: )


I’m not sure what changed, here. I probably should have noted my OS when I did that test I mention above. But now I’m running macOS 13.2.1. And two observations:

  1. I still don’t have a Duplicate feature in my main library (and my theory is still that it was yanked away from me when I made my iCloud Library “shared”.
  2. But on a separate library that I opened (my Dad’s), which is not on iCloud at all, the duplicate feature is there, and the previously-mentioned Merge behavior is gone, and the things are now working as expected. In fact, it’s a little smarter than I previously knew.

It found 1571 duplicates. But it distinguished “exact copies” from ones that APPEAR to be duplicates, but which have differences that it’s capable of selecting the best of and merging:

The “Exact Copies” option is helpful if you don’t trust Apple’s determination of what is a copy. Or perhaps, you have a reason for keeping multiple copies with different resolutions, or something like that. So that’s clever and handy.

But if you proceed to merge everything, you get a secondary dialog:

Note “one version of each duplicate set”. I don’t remember that wording before, and that’s not how I remember it working. So Apple fixed it. Maybe they read my complaint :smiley: Or maybe there were people who, like is reasonable to do, selected everything in the list, clicked “Merge”, and ended up with a single photo, and the rest in the trash; and then maybe they called Apple in a panic, and so Apple fixed the bad design stat. We’ll never know.

You can be sure I tested this on smaller batches before I tried this biggie, and it worked as expected. All the photos dropped off of the Duplicates album, one of each was preserved, and the others ended up in the trash. So I ran it on this big set, and, after a few seconds, the deed was done.

Bravo, this side issue is now behind us :slight_smile:

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Looks like my observation was correct, because iOS 16.4 explicitly adds the Duplicates Album feature back in for those using the iCloud Shared Photo Library.

What I’m feeling right now is what I call “Apple Joy”: that dysfunctional feeling of happiness that comes when Apple gives you something that they first took away from you.

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