How to select and delete photo bursts on an iPhone 5s

Rapid-fire shots that take up space quickly

You've probably heard how the iPhone 5s camera is capable of filming video in slow motion but maybe not about its photo equivalent. Although iOS 7 enables a similar feature on older devices, the iPhone 5s is capable of shooting up to ten photos per second with a single touch.


Not really evident on the marketing materials, owners of a new iPhone 5s will realise how the old "tap and hold" until you're ready to shoot will trigger a photo machine gun at incredible speed. The rapid click, click, click sound and a number badge growing at a high speed will leave you confused until you realise what's really happening. The iPhone has entered the burst mode where it will attempt to get as many snaps as possible to reduce those unwanted closed eyes, hair covering the face and people not looking at the camera.

So now you have figured out what's really going the cruel part is finding the raw material. While the feature is being sold as an intelligent feature where the software will analyse and automatically select the best shot, I find it rather manual and cumbersome. Since photos end up taking a lot of space on the iPhone, the idea of keeping 20 unwanted versions of the same picture freaked me out. So how do you get rid of the photo bursts?

Selecting favourites manually

If you have an older device iOS 7 will display these rapid-fire shots as normal pictures with all your other shots. The quickest way to remove them is go have a quick look, go to the grid view, tap Select, choose the ones you don't like and delete on the lower right corner. A bit tedious but you might be familiar with this process if you have set up HDR photos to keep an unprocessed original and end up with a lot of duplicates.

On the iPhone 5s, the Camera Roll view will group the photo bursts in one tile. This looks like a stack of three photos — skeuomorphic twist — on top of each other. Tapping to reveal a full screen view shows a label indicating you are looking at a Burst with X photos. The bottom bar invites you to select 'Favorites…', which opens a slideshow type of view, a little zoomed out.

The automatic selection feature is more like you'll take what I suggest because you cannot prove me wrong. The automatic best-shot detection is marked with a grey dot at the very bottom, right under a minuscule representation of all the photos in this burst. This can be overlooked so easily that is very un-Apple, specially introducing a new feature not obvious at all.

Trying to switch to landscape mode while holding your iPhone in portrait is not supported when you select your favourites. If you want to pinch to zoom and see if the faces of your friends are focused well enough, guess what? You can pinch and zoom, but the moment you release, the photo will zoom out again, unlike the rest of the Camera Roll. But enough with the complaining: the nice part is that the photo burst 'folder' always open on the best shot.

Deleting photos in bulk

To select and delete photo bursts taking up space on your phone, this is the quickest method I've found. Look for the stack of photos, tap on it and go on the 'Select Favorites' mode I just described. Because you cannot be bothered and trust the automatic selection, just tap on the shot presented to you to select — this should be the one with the grey dot at the bottom. With your favourite selected, accept tapping the 'Done' button to return to the full screen view of the burst and tap on the trashcan to delete.

The sweet part of this cumbersome process and the one that is well automated is this one. The iPhone will ask you if you really want to delete all the photos in the burst and keep the favourite. Now tap on 'Delete 78 Photos' and you are ready to go. If you don't like to pay for games on the App Store, this is going to keep you entertained for a while.