How To Get Photos Off Your iPhone And On To Your Mac

So you’ve bought a new iPhone and taken lots of stunning pictures, but how do you get them onto your Mac so that you can edit, browse and send them to friends? You’re probably already familiar with iTunes as a method to sync photos and albums between your computer and the iPhone, but the method of copying them off the iPhone itself might not be immediately obvious.

Thankfully, the process is very straightforward and there are several easy ways to view them on your Mac. Of course, you could simply email your snaps from the iPhone as attachments, but that’s somewhat cumbersome and laborious.

This article describes the most common ways to transfer photos (without needing a third party application) using Image Capture, iPhoto, Photo Stream and Preview.

Note that the steps below also apply to other iOS devices such as the iPad.

Image Capture IconImage Capture

The Mac comes with a rather handy application called Image Capture, which can be used to copy photos from various sources. Follow the steps below to transfer your snaps.

Step 1. Connect your iPhone to the Mac with the USB cable

Step 2. Open Image Capture (type the name into Spotlight or open it from the Applications folder)

Step 3. Once the application opens, your iPhone should be visible in the DEVICES section on the left. Click on it to display the photos in the main window

Step 4. Choose the desired import location at the bottom of the Image Capture window. Use the drop-down arrows to choose an alternative destination from the list or select Other to choose any other folder

Step 5. Highlight the photos you want followed by Import or just Import All to import the whole lot at once

Image Capture Screenshot
Import your iPhone photos in seconds with Image Capture

iPhoto IconiPhoto

Many people use iPhoto to organise and manipulate their photos, and it’s certainly a great way to keep everything tagged and categorised. iPhoto can also easily import all your mobile photos in seconds as follows:

Step 1. Connect the iPhone to your Mac and open iPhoto (if it’s not already set to open automatically when you connect your iPhone)

Step 2. In the left hand panel under DEVICES click on your iPhone

iPhoto Step 1 - iPhone in Device List
Your iPhone should appear in the Devices list

Step 3. Next you can choose whether you want to split events for each day or not, and also enter an event name (such as ‘day trip’)

Step 4. In the main window, choose the photos you want to import and then Import Selected, or Import <N> Photos (e.g. if you have 20 photos on the iPhone it will display Import 20 Photos

iPhoto Step 2 - Choose Photos and Event Name
Choose the photos to import and enter an event name

Step 5. When prompted, choose either Delete Photos or Keep Photos on your iPhone

iPhoto Step 3 - Keep or Delete Photos
Decide whether you want to keep the imported photos on your iPhone

Your photos should now appear inside the event you named, as well as in the Last Import album.

iPhoto Step 4 - Imported
Your photos should show up in the event you named, and the Last Import album

iPhoto Photo Stream

Thanks to iCloud, your photos can be automatically uploaded to the cloud (when you connect over WiFi) and synchronised with other devices easily. Photo Stream stores a month’s worth of photos, and it’s perhaps the easiest way to sync photos with other devices without having to lift a finger.

Step 1. Make sure Photo Stream is enabled in iPhoto: open iPhoto and then Preferences from the iPhoto menu (or just CMD + ,)

iPhoto Preferences
Make sure Photo Stream is enabled in iPhoto

Step 2. In the Photo Stream section, make sure the checkbox Enable Photo Stream is ticked

Step 3. On your iPhone, make sure Photo Stream is on. Look in Settings -> iCloud and set Photo Stream to On

Step 4. Connect your iPhone via WiFi to make sure your recent photos are uploaded to the cloud. It might take a few minutes depending on the speed of your connection

Step 5. In iPhoto, go to the Photo Stream album within the Albums section. From here, you can move your photos into other albums and manipulate them as desired, including export them to other formats and sizes

iPhoto Photo Stream Album
Photo Stream photos show up in iPhoto automatically

iPhoto also creates an event for each month of your photo stream – for example Mar 2012 Photo Stream, and Apr 2012 Photo Stream.

iPhoto Photo Stream Monthly Albums
iPhoto organises your photo stream albums into monthly events

Preview IconPreview

Not many people realise that the Preview application can actually import photos from your iPhone and iPad. Just open it up and choose the relevant options from the menus – it’s extremely easy!

Step 1. Connect the iPhone to your Mac with the supplied cable

Step 2. Open Preview and from the File menu choose Import from <Your iPhone Name> iPhone…

Preview Step 1 - Import
Choose your iPhone from Preview's File menu

Step 3. Either choose Import All, or just highlight individual photos (hold down CMD to select multiple photos) and select Import

Preview Step 2 - Choose Photos
Choose which photos you want to import

Step 4. Select the destination folder and then Choose Destination to save them

Preview Step 3 - Choose Save Destination
Select the destination folder to save your pictures

All the pictures that you’ve chosen to import should now appear on your Mac – simple! Preview also helpfully indicates which photos were successfully imported with a white tick mark inside a green circle as shown below:

Preview Step 4 - Finished
Any pictures successfully imported are highlighted with a small tick mark

Before you go

After spending over 20 years working with Macs, both old and new, theres a tool I think would be useful to every Mac owner who is experiencing performance issues.

CleanMyMac is highest rated all-round cleaning app for the Mac, it can quickly diagnose and solve a whole plethora of common (but sometimes tedious to fix) issues at the click of a button. It also just happens to resolve many of the issues covered in the speed up section of this site, so Download CleanMyMac to get your Mac back up to speed today.


About the author

Roland Banks

I've been passionate about Apple ever since I bought my first iPod followed by a white polycarbonate MacBook in 2007. I currently own a MacBook Pro Retina, an iPad Mini Retina, and an iPhone 6.


Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I want to personally thank you for this article! You made this so simple for me. I have searched a bunch of blogs, posts and various articles on how to do this exact thing. I wish I would have found yours first and not wasted a bunch of time on all the other useless things that came up! :]


  • Thank you for this. I’ve spent hours reading up on things that in the end just made me go in circles but you solved my problem in 3 minutes!

  • I thank you for article very much. Being new to Mac (i’m a long-time use of PCs) I didn’t know about Image Capture. I’ve only heard of iPhoto which isn’t a bad program, but once it had my photo I couldn’t do anything with the photo it except through iPhoto. I don’t like using programs that hold simple files, like jpegs, hostage.

  • So very helpful thank you! After smashing my iphone hiking and having a faulty iphoto library I was hoping there was an alternative to get my photos. Thanks again!

  • My sincere Thanks for chriswrite.com for this article. A simple and straightforward information that helped me save energy and time. Easy to follow, easy to understand and it works exactly as what I am looking for. Kudos to chriswrites.com.

  • well my iPad says it has 4,773 photos and there are that many, but on importing, only 107 photos import from the camera role. is there any way to put all 4,773 pics on my laptop?