6 Ways to Transfer Photos From iPhone to Mac


iPhones come with gigabytes of storage space now. It can also deftly handle many image editing tasks you throw it. But there will come a time when you might want to transfer photos from the iPhone to the Mac and edit them on more robust software. Or, clear space on your iPhone by transferring photos in bulk and archiving them on your Mac instead.

This article shows you how to transfer photos from iPhone to a Mac.

Note: The screenshots below are from iOS 16 and macOS Monterey.

1. Use Airdrop

The secret to productivity on Apple devices is the tight integration between an iPhone (or an iPad) and a Mac. AirDrop is Apple’s proprietary technology to quickly transfer files between Apple devices when both are within range (about 30 feet). Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on both the iPhone and the Mac before you follow the steps below.

  1. Open the Photos app on your iPhone.
  2. Select the photos you want to transfer to the computer. Then, tap the Share icon at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Select AirDrop, which is the first icon on the Share menu.
  4. Choose your computer’s name.
  5. The iPhone confirms a successful transfer with a Sent message below your computer’s name and Mac’s toolbar.

Note: To automatically save the photos, you should have both the iPhone and the Mac computer logged into the same iCloud account. If not, you will need to click Save when the file arrives on your computer.

2. Use Photos

The Photos app on your iPhone and Mac is the central location for all photos and videos. That’s why the app is the most organized way to transfer photos from your iPhone to your Mac.

  1. Connect the iPhone to your Mac with a USB or USB-C cable and open the Photos app.
  2. The Photos app on the Mac displays an Import screen with all the photos and videos that are on the Photos app of your iPhone. Select the iPhone name in the Photos sidebar if the Import screen doesn’t appear.
    Photos app on macOS displaying the import of photos from an iPhone

  3. Unlock your iPhone.The iPhone can display a Trust This Computer notification. Tap Trust to continue.
  4. Click Import Selected to transfer specific photos, or click Import All New Photos to transfer your entire Camera Roll.

3. Use the Files App

Think of the Files app as a file manager on your phone. You can connect cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive and use them to transfer files between devices. This utility allows you to organize your photo transfers, compress them if needed, and send them to the Mac using any cloud service as a bridge. Of course, you must connect and enable them first.

  1. Open the Files app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the Browse tab if you are on another screen.
  3. Tap the ellipsis icon in the upper right corner.
  4. Tap Edit.
  5. Under Locations, toggle and enable the third-party service or app from the list.
  6. Tap Done.

To get photos off the iPhone to the Mac, use these Locations on the Files app.

Send Photos via the Files App

  1. Select the photo or photos you want to transfer from your iPhone.
  2. Tap on the Share icon to display the share sheet.
  3. Select Save to Files.
  4. Choose the cloud service and the folder within it to save the photos. Create a new folder if you want to. You can rename a single photo before you export it.
  5. Tap on Save.
  6. Go to your Mac and view your photo or video in iCloud Drive.

As you can see, you don’t only have to use iCloud with the Files app. It can also be quicker to send photos to a shared folder between friends and family on the cloud and even back up your iPhone photos.

4. Use iCloud Photos

With iCloud Photos, you can sync and see all your photos across every Apple device you own. The only problem is the free but limited 5 GB storage shared by all files on iCloud. As iCloud is a backup and syncing service, it’s easy to transfer photos from the iPhone to the Mac. But before you do that, check that all your devices have iCloud Photos enabled.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Photos.
  3. Toggle the switch for iCloud Photos to green if it’s disabled.
  4. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  5. Open Photos on your Mac.
  6. Go to Photos > Preferences from the menu.
  7. Click on the iCloud
  8. Select the checkbox on iCloud Photos to enable it.

You can view all your photos on iCloud itself, but you should use the cloud space as a bridge to transfer photos from the iPhone. Note that you can also use iCloud to download photos to a Windows PC as well.

5. Use iCloud Photo Stream

Are you confused between iCloud Photos and iCloud Photo Stream? You aren’t alone. iCloud Photos allows you to store all your photos and videos on the cloud. iCloud Photo Stream uploads only new photos (not videos and Live Photos) on devices where iCloud Photo Stream is turned on. It stores only the recent 30 days’ worth of photos and up to 1000 photos. This isn’t counted against your iCloud storage limits.

If you want to see only your most recent photos and transfer them to the Mac, use iCloud Photo Stream and turn it on. Otherwise, use iCloud Photos to back up all your photos and videos, as explained in the previous section. There are other differences, as mentioned in the Apple Support article.

  1. Open the Settings app on the iPhone and tap our name on top.
  2. Go to iCloud > Photos.
  3. Enable My Photo Stream with the toggle switch.
  4. Go to your Mac and open Photos
  5. Choose Photos > Preferences > iCloud
  6. Select the checkbox for My Photo Stream to enable it.

Photo Stream on macOS Photos Preferences

Photos will automatically sync to the photo stream from your iPhone. If you don’t see the option, deselect iCloud Photos by going to Photos > Preferences > iCloud first.

6. Use Image Capture on Your Mac

The Image Capture app on macOS is intended to import pictures from digital cameras and scanners. But it can also be used to upload photos and videos from any device, like an iPhone connected to a Mac.

  1. Connect the iPhone to the Mac with the cable and unlock the iPhone when prompted.
  2. Select the device in the Devices or Shared list in the Image Capture app on your Mac.
  3. Select the images you want to transfer to the Mac.
  4. Open the Import To pop-up menu at the bottom of the window, then choose where to save the images. You can also create a PDF or a webpage with these images.
  5. To transfer images to Photos, choose Other, then Photos.

Image Capture from iPhone on macOS

Which Is the Faster Way to Transfer Photos?

A wired connection might appear to be the fastest way to transfer photos from an iPhone to a Mac. But Lightning cables have the same data transfer speed as USB 2.0. Uploading photos in bulk to iCloud or iCloud Drive might be limited by your internet bandwidth. Again, iCloud free space is limited to a shared 5GB. Of course, if you already have your photos on iCloud, then syncing them to your Mac is easy and the fastest way.

So, the general rule of thumb is to use AirDrop for a lesser batch of photos and the other methods as your needs demand.

Seamlessly Transfer Your Photos From iPhone to Mac

Keeping your precious photos on the Mac saves space on your iPhone. You may not have to buy more iCloud storage space if you don’t want to. As you can see, multiple options exist to import your photos into the Mac. Once you have done that, get down to managing your Photos Library on the Mac before it becomes a mess.


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