For weeks I have languished with a broken digital camera on my iPhone. The camera has not been mechanically broken, but functionally broken, since each time I snapped a picture a mysterious grey box would appear in my camera roll photos instead of an image thumbnail. When I would click on the mysterious box, the iPhone would quit out of the Photo Library application and return to the home screen. I tried updating my iPhone software, restoring the software from a backup, rebuilding my iPhoto library, and asking local friends with iPhones for other troubleshooting ideas. Nothing worked. Finally, I took my iPhone to our local Apple Store (after making an appointment online for the Genius Bar) and explained the situation. The helpful Apple Genius immediately provided me with a new iPhone, which I was delighted to receive, but didn’t have any advice about what caused this problem or how it could be avoided in the future.

iPhone on display at MacWorld 2007

The new iPhone took and saved pictures fine, and I was able to restore all my music and video files, as well as other settings, to the new iPhone when I returned home and connected it to my computer and iTunes library. The first time I synced the new iPhone to iPhoto and chose to DELETE ALL my iPhone pictures after they transferred to iPhoto, however, the problem reappeared! I could no longer take any photos on my iPhone. How frustrating!

This evening I resolved to take some time to hunt for possible fixes to this glitch, and I’m pleased to report I found a workaround which did NOT require that I “jailbreak” my iPhone. Before I share the solution that worked for me, I will detail my linktribution:

  1. I Googled “iphone camera problem”
  2. I scanned the post and latter answers on Jeffrey Zeldman’s Nov 2007 post, “iPhone ‘disappearing photos’ bug” which was hit #4 on the previous Google search results.
  3. I found the Apple Support Discussion “Topic: Camera will not save pictures to phone after snapping photo.”
  4. I read a user’s comment that doh-boy’s Option #4 solution on that discussion thread had worked for him, I found that series of steps and tried it.

Whoa-la! Like magic, my iPhone now takes pictures like a champion and I can sync them to iPhoto without a problem! The only catch: As doh-boy recommended, I have to avoid deleting ALL the pictures from my iPhone after I sync them to iPhoto, and leave at least one of them on the iPhone. Here are the steps that doh-boy recommended which worked for me:

  1. Make sure you sync your phone so you have the most current back-up of your information.
  2. Click on the Restore button located in the Summary tab of iTunes.
  3. After the phone settings are restored, DO NOT restore your personal information from a back-up, instead eject the iPhone and take a photo. The photo should now appear in the camera roll, like normal.
  4. Attach the phone to the dock and import the photo into iPhoto (I did not delete the photo from the phone).
  5. NOW restore your personal information from a back-up through iTunes.

If you have this problem on your iPhone, perhaps this solution will work for you as well. The Apple support discussion page where this solution is shared still lists this issue as unresolved with the statement at the top, “This question is not answered.” I’m guessing this software glitch will be resolved in an upcoming iPhone software update from Apple. Thanks to doh-boy for this solution… I “languish” no longer! I’m again armed and ready to document life events with my iPhone camera! :-)

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  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Although this workaround did work for me for awhile, for some reason this problem has recurred and I am again unable to take photos on my iPhone. Frustrating. I hope the firmware update many are expecting Apple to release in June at WWDC08 will fix this.

  • http://haws.net Bike4Life

    Thanks for this solution. I was having the same problem and found this posting. I noticed my missing photos started after receiving messages during a sync that iPhoto could not delete a certain photo from the phone because “it could not be found”. After I deleted it from iPhoto I was able to sync. Two days later when I tried to take a photo I noticed this grey box problem. Is this problem restricted to OS X? If so I’m looking hard at the recent 10.5.3 update as a potential source for this problem.

  • Vivian

    The “workaround” worked for me. I hope it holds!

    Thank you!

  • http://skippythorson.blogspot.com/ Skippy

    This works temporarily. It worked once for me, I synced, and the fix was broken by time I went to use it again. It works however without utilizing the backup, so there must be something in the file.

    I personally have no idea what could be wrong, all I know is 2.0 can’t come fast enough now.

  • Marty

    I did the DOH-BOY restore too….
    Follow the on screen directions.
    As doh boy said…
    DO NOT RESTORE PERSONAL SETTINGS YET
    Slide to open your phone,
    select camera,
    take a picture,
    check to see the grey box is gone,
    then resume the RESTORE PERSONAL SETTINGS.
    It worked for me like a charm.

    YOU ARE THE MAN DOH-BOY
    Thank you for sharing….. Marty.

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