Each year, the cameras attached to our phones take better photos and higher quality videos, which in turn take up more space on your device and in the cloud, where you'll usually have to pay extra for backup storage.
Case in point: The iPhone 14 Pro is capable of taking 48-MP shots, which in the uncompressed ProRAW mode take up a chunky 75 MB of room (that’s around three times the size of a shot on the 12-MP camera on the iPhone 13 Pro). If you’re shooting a lot of images, as people tend to do, that quickly adds up.
It’s the same when it comes to video. The Samsung Galaxy S22, for example, is capable of shooting 8K video at 24 frames per second, and that’s going to eat up around 600 MB of storage space every minute you’re recording. If you want the best resolutions and the best quality, then there’s a cost in terms of storage.
Getting phones with more built-in storage is expensive—to go back to the iPhone 14 Pro again, there’s a $500 difference between the 128 GB model and the 1 TB model—and it’s a spec that a lot of people will decide they can cut costs on. As the photos and videos collect, free space becomes a problem, especially for future software updates and apps you may want to use.
To avoid running out of local storage too quickly or having to pay too much for cloud storage—or both—you can dial down the quality settings for your photos and videos. However, you need to consider just how good your pictures and clips actually need to be, whether you’re posting them on social media, sharing them with family, or just keeping them for yourself. Here’s how.
The specifics here vary a little between Android device manufacturers, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the camera settings for your device. On Google’s Pixel phones or any other Android phone that uses Google’s own Camera app, open the camera in Camera mode and tap the cog icon (top left if you’re in portrait orientation): You can then pick More settings and Camera photo resolution to make your choice.
Switch to Video from Camera, tap the cog again, and the available resolutions and frame rates appear as an overlay on top of the camera viewfinder. The options here are going to vary depending on the make and model of your phone, but the smaller the resolution and the lower the frames per second rate, the smaller the resulting file sizes will be.
If you’re using the default camera app on Samsung’s phones, with the Photo mode enabled, tap the third icon from the right at the top of the screen (in portrait orientation) to see what your available options are. Swipe over to Video mode, and tap the second icon from the right at the top to change the resolution and file size.
If you need to quickly clear out some storage space on your local device, Google Photos has a way of doing this: From inside the app, tap your profile picture (top right), then choose Free up space and confirm the action. The app will delete any photos and videos that are safely backed up to cloud storage, and tell you how much space you just freed up at the same time.
If you’re on an iPhone, you can access the camera quality settings by opening the Settings screen and tapping Camera then Formats. Choose High Efficiency rather than Most Compatible if you want to keep file sizes as low as possible—this will use Apple’s favored, optimized HEIF/HEVC formats rather than the more standard JPEG/H.264 ones, and the setting covers video as well as images.
Depending on the model of iPhone you’re using, you might see Apple ProRAW (for images) and Apple ProRes (for videos) toggle switches underneath, together with resolution options. Note that these toggle switches only control whether or not these modes are available as buttons in the Camera app—to actually enable or disable them, you need to do it from the shutter screen when you’ve launched the camera.
Back on the Camera options screen, you’ll see there are further options for the resolution and frame rate that your iPhone uses when capturing video: Tap Record Video to make changes. The list of formats will vary depending on the iPhone model that you have, but the resolution and frame rate that takes up the least amount of room will be listed first.
There’s one more option worth mentioning when it comes to saving space on your iPhone. From Settings, tap Photos and then Optimize iPhone Storage: If your images and videos are being backed up to iCloud and there’s not much room left on your device, iOS will keep lower resolution copies of your files locally to save space (with full resolution copies still available in iCloud).