How-To

How to transfer photos from your iPhone, to your Mac


Thanks to the advancement in smartphone cameras, we’re all taking more photos and videos than ever before, but many of us are also guilty of leaving that media languishing on our iPhones, never to be looked at again.

If you never seem to get around to sorting through your iPhone photos and videos, then in this article I’ll be sharing three quick and easy ways to get this media from your iPhone, and onto your Mac.


Copy them to Photos, over USB

Despite the introduction of wireless transfer methods such as AirPlay and Bluetooth, one of the quickest ways to transfer a large number of files from your smartphone, to your computer, is still via USB cable.

If you have a USB cable to hand, then attach one end to your smartphone and the other end to your Mac, and you’re ready to start importing your photos and videos, using macOS’ built-in Photos app.

By default, this app should open automatically whenever it detects a connected iPhone. If Photos doesn’t launch automatically, then you can launch it manually (‘Applications > Photos.’)

In the left-hand menu, select your iPhone. All of your media should now appear in the Photos app. To import all of the new files (i.e the files created since your last Photos import), select ‘Import All New Photos.’ Alternatively, you can go through each photo and video in turn, and select each item that you want to import. When you’re happy with your selection, give the ‘Import (number) Selected’ button a click.

If your iPhone’s photos and videos don’t appear in the photos app, then unlock your iPhone and check whether it’s asking you to confirm that your Mac is a trusted device.

Image Capture

Although Image Capture was designed to help you import photos from scanners rather than smartphones, today it mostly provides users with a way to get photos onto their Mac, without involving the Photos application.

When you import photos via Image Capture, you have more freedom to organise those photos into folders that exist outside of the main Photos library. This extra flexibility is handy if you prefer to use a different photo-viewing app, or if you simply want more control over how your photos are organised.

To import content via Image Capture:

  • Attach your iPhone to your Mac, via a USB cable.
  • Launch the Image Capture application.

  • In the left-hand menu, select your iPhone.
  • By default, Image Capture will import all of your photos into macOS’ ‘Pictures’ folder. If you want to use a different folder, then open the ‘Import To’ dropdown, and choose a folder from the list.
  • To import all of the photos on your iPhone, select ‘Import All.’ Alternatively, select the individual photos that you want to import, and then give the ‘Import’ button a click.

iCloud Photo Library

If importing photos and videos manually sounds like way too much effort, then you can use iCloud Photo Library to sync all of your media, across all your Apple devices, whenever there’s a Wi-Fi network available. Assuming your iPhone regularly has access to Wi-Fi, all of your latest snaps will be synced to your Mac automatically.

The downside is that iCloud users only get 5GB of free space, which can disappear at an alarming rate once you start syncing photos. If you’re going to take full advantage of iCloud’s syncing feature, then at some point you may need to upgrade your iCloud storage plan.

To setup iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone:

  • Open your iPhone’s ‘Settings.’
  • Tap on your name and sign in using the same Apple ID you use on your Mac.
  • Navigate back to the main ‘Settings’ screen.
  • Tap ‘iCloud > Photos.’
  • Drag the ‘iCloud Photo’ slider to the ‘On’ position.

To setup iCloud Photo Library on your Mac:

  • Launch your Mac’s Photos application.
  • Select ‘Photos > Preferences…’
  • Select the ‘iCloud’ tab.
  • At this point, you’ll be able to choose between downloading the original, high-def photos and videos (‘Download Originals to This Mac’) or you can ‘Optimize Mac Storage,’ which is where macOS tries try to save space by downloading lower-resolution versions of your photos and videos. If you opt to ‘Optimize Mac Storage,’ then the high-resolution originals will still be available in your iCloud account, so you’ll be able to download them at any time.

About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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