Photo recovery: How to recover lost/deleted photos on Mac?

By Vivian | Posted to Mac Data Recovery on March 12th, 2019 |

Summary: This page shares solutions to recover deleted/lost photos on Mac in different scenarios and reviews top 5 Mac photo recovery software.

Yesterday I updated my MacBook Pro. After everything was installed. I opened my MacBook today I realized that almost all my photos from the Photo App on my MacBook had disappeared (years of photos). I could restore a few photos from my recently deleted album. But those are only the tens of thousands of my memories/photos that I had. How do I get the years of photos back? Is there any recommendation for Mac photo recovery software?

Photos, as the witness to people's happiness, merriness and many other precious moments, play an important role in daily life. However, many people are suffering from photo loss in different circumstances. The most common one is losing data on Mac computers, in that Mac is great for storing, viewing and editing photos. To recover lost photos from Mac, you may have searched online for the best Mac photo recovery software. But Google just shows numerous of them, how can you tell which one is the best? This page reviews 5 best Mac photo recovery software of 2019, and recommend the best Mac photo recovery solutions in many scenarios.

Let's learn how to recover deleted/lost photos from your Mac computer and check which Mac data recovery software is more competitive.

Table of contents
1. Tutorial for Mac photo recovery from different situations
2. List of top 5 Mac photo recovery software

Mac photo recovery: what you should know before recovering photos

There are some phenomena that people lost photos on Mac computers. For instance, you may mistakenly delete photos when cleaning up a disk or a volume, or regret deleting photos after emptying Trash, or find photos disappeared after an operating system update, etc. No matter what your case is, you should know three things before you get down to recovering photos from Mac computers.

1. Lost photos could be recovered by Mac photo recovery software only if your disk has no hardware problem and wasn't physically damaged, or else, no software will be helpful.

2. When you lose videos or photos on Mac, remember not to save new files to this disk or do other operations on this disk because it will overwrite your lost data and lower the possibility to recover them.

3. There is no Mac photo recovery software that guarantees a 100-percent recovery.

Part I: Tutorial for Mac photo recovery from different situations

Losing photo could happen in different situations and each of them will cause great panic especially when you think it is helpless. Nevertheless, the following 5 instructions will help you recover deleted/lost photos on Mac. You can choose the best Mac photo recovery solution in accordance with your situation.

Scenario 1:How to recover permanently deleted photos from Mac?

Whether you deleted your important photos mistakenly or intendedly, once you click on "Empty Trash" or "Command + Del" keys, you may think your pictures are gone with the wind. Feel regret? Actually, with reliable Mac photo recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery, you can restore deleted photos on Mac with ease.

Step 1: Download, install and launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery on your Mac computer. If your Mac computer won't start up, learn how to recover data from unbootable Mac.

install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 2: Select the drive where you lost photos and click "Next" to scan for all data on this drive.

Step 3: Double-click to preview the scanning result and choose files you want to get back.

Step 4: Click "Recover" to retrieve the lost photos and save them to a safe place.

Scenario 2:How to recover deleted photos from Trash?

If you clicked "Move to Trash" or have dragged photos directly to Trash, it is quite simple to get them back. You can just open Trash, right-click on your photos and choose "Put Back". By this easy operation, you will see your deleted photos in the original location where you saved them.

Scenario 3:How to recover deleted photos from iPhoto/Albums on Mac?

If photos deletion through iPhoto is the case for you, you can check the "Recently Delete" in the upper right corner of Album. If you find your photos here, you will be able to get them back in 30-day grace period after the deleting, just open the "Recently Delete" and choose photos you want to get back, then click "Recover" to restore them.

Scenario 4: How to recover lost photos from Time Machine backups on Mac?

Time Machine is an in-built backup application in Mac which is designed to maintain a regular backup of your data. It allows you to restore the entire Time Machine backups in macOS or just the personal files and folders to another storage device. If you have backed up your Mac with Time Machine, you can easily recover deleted/lost photos when the last backup was performed.

Step 1: Quit Photos and click the Time Machine icon in the menu bar.

Step 2: Choose Enter Time Machine and it will open and show your available photos of backups.

Step 3: Click the date of your last backup, navigate to the backup of your photo library, then select them and Click Restore.

However, if you didn't open Time Machine to back up files on Mac, you can still recover deleted files without Time Machine backups.

Scenario 5: How to recover deleted/lost photos from iCloud?

iCloud is the digital repository of Mac users. People often back up everything including important photos. But it doesn't mean that you can sit back and relax without worrying about data loss. You may accidentally delete important family photos from iCloud Drive but are eager to get them back. As a matter of fact, if you had ever backed up photos in iCloud, you have the chance to call them back in 30 days before they're gone for good.

Step 1: Go to and sign in with your account.

Step 2: Click on Settings and choose Restore Files under Advanced at the left bottom.

Step 3: Check your photos that are recoverable and select them.

Step 4: Click Restore Files.

Part II: List of top 5 Mac photo recovery software

Top 1: iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac photo recovery

iBoysoft Mac Data recovery is easy-to-use and powerful Mac photo recovery software. With an intuitive interface, it can recover your lost and deleted data with simple three steps: scan, preview and recover. Mac photo recovery is allowed whether your important pictures were saved on internal hard drive, external hard drive, USB flash cards, memory cards, CF cards or other storage devices. You can recover photos on macOS 10.14/10.13/10.12 and Mac OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7. You could recover JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF, and other image file formats with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery but cost you a small potato.

Features of iBoysoft Mac Data recovery

• Various file types recovery (photos, documents, videos, audio files, emails, etc.)
• Support encrypted APFS, APFS, HFS+, exFAT, FAT32 file systems
• Advanced deep scan and quick scan mode
• Mac photo recovery from unmountable/unreadable/crashed/formatted drive
• Photo recovery from lost/deleted partition
• Data recovery from emptied Trash
• Photo recovery from unbootable Mac computer
• Preview-support before recovering files
• Free/inexpensive Mac photo recovery software

Cons: 1 GB for free photo recovery

Top 2: Stellar Photo Recovery for Mac

Stellar photo recovery for Mac

Another great Mac photo recovery software is Stellar Photo Recovery which works like a charm in every photo loss disaster. This tool is able to recover photos, videos and audio files, etc. on Mac computers. If you are regretting deleting invaluable pictures on Mac, this DIY Mac photo recovery will be a good helper. You could recover photos from macOS Mojave, High Sierra, and some older versions. With this tool, you will be able to recover photos from the disk that has lost bad sectors by disk imagine.

Features of Stellar Photo Recovery for Mac

• Photo recovery from various storage devices
• Recover photos from disks that have bad sectors
• Recover photos from Disk image

Cons: Free version is only used to scan and preview the recoverable photos

Top 3: Photorec for Mac photo recovery

PhotoRec photo recovery for Mac

Photorec is a companion program to TestDisk, which is an open source and definitely one of the best data recovery software out there. This software is widely acknowledged for its powerful file recovery ability ranging from digital cameras to hard disks. It was designed to recover lost files including videos, documents, archives and lost pictures (thus the Photo Recovery name) from many storage devices. Even though you can perform Mac photo recovery without spending a penny because it's a freeware, you may not choose this software if you are not so familiar with the command line.

Features of Photorec

• Support various file system
• Totally free Mac photo recovery software

• Command line interface
• No customer support if you encounter operation errors

Top 4: MiniTool Mac Photo Recovery

Minitool photo recpvery for Mac

MiniTool Mac Photo Recovery is a reliable and comprehensive tool to recover various kinds of photos, audios and videos from digital cameras, memory cards, USB drives, hard drives, etc. for home users. It is read-only software that enables you to get pictures, videos or audios back without bringing any damage to the original data. You can recover images from various data loss situations such as deletion, formatting, virus attack, Mac system crash, disk failure, improper operation or other unknown causes.

Features of MiniTool Mac Photo Recovery

• Good deleted/formatted photo recovery
• Photo recovery from many file system and storage devices

• Incompatible with macOS 10.14 Mojave
• Below-average performance recovering video and music files

Top 5: PhotoRescue

Lazesoft Mac photo recpvery

PhotoRescue is budget-friendly Windows and Mac photo recovery software, designed specifically for small storage devices like flash drives, SD cards, micro SD cards, and XD cards. It is powerful in photo recovery on Mac and focuses on digital photography file formats like JPEG, TIFF, NEF, Compressed NEF, and CRW file. It works with Smart Media, CompactFlash, Memory Sticks, SD, MMC, XD Cards and Microdrives but also generally most other external storage devices on Mac. Moreover, it works well for certain data loss situations, you can try it because its price is relatively affordable.

Features of PhotoRescue

• Work with all types of media

• Demo version is only used to shows what may possibly be recovered

As you can see, almost all the top 5 Mac photo recovery software have some shortcomings and some cons even exert a great impact on Mac users, such as Mac operating system incompatibility and expensive price. Therefore, you will see why iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is acclaimed as an outstanding Mac photo recovery in this list.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery, with an intuitive interface and high success rate of data recovery, will change your conventional view of data recovery software. Except for Mac photo recovery from deletion and reformatting, you could also recover lost photos/videos after High Sierra update, recover data after macOS update, and recover Time Machine backups from APFS disk, etc.

Further information: why your photos get lost on Mac computer?

Photos get lost or disappeared for various reasons. In some situations, your photos could be recovered while some times they will not be recoverable. It depends on your disk that stored them on. It is possible to get your photos or other files back if your disk is corrupted or unmountable due to virus attacks, power failure, file system corruption, etc.

However, if you had ever dropped this disk or had done other physical damages to it, even the best Mac photo recovery software will be unable to recover your lost photos and your last hope would be a local data recovery lab.


Vivian likes to share technical tips and solutions with people, especially in macOS and Windows data recovery tricks. Being a part of @iBoysoft, she has solved many computing and technological problems for readers with ease.

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