Photos App

In my line of work, I constantly need pictures on my desktop or laptop that I’ve taken on my iPhone. I personally use iCloud Photos because the images immediately appear on my synced computers. However, there are a number of different ways to transfer pictures to your desktop or laptop, which also makes it much easier to delete them off of your iPhone, freeing up space.

We’ve got a basic how-to guide for transferring photos from your iPhone or iPad Photos app to your Mac using a few different options.

Transfer iPhone or iPad photos using Photos app

Users who are running an older version of the Mac operating system may not have the new Photos app, but the older iPhoto instead. Note that the steps are almost identical to import your iPhone or iPad photos to your Mac using iPhoto or the new Photos app.

There are two ways to transfer pictures from your iOS device using iPhoto on Mac. The first requires you to connect your Mac to your mobile device. The other relies on iCloud.

To transfer images to your computer using a USB connection

Step 1: Connect your iOS device to your Mac using the USB to Lightning cable.

Step 2: The Photos app should open automatically, but if it doesn’t open the app.

Step 3: Under the Import header in the sidebar, click on your iPhone or iPad. For example, in the screenshot below, you’d want to click on “iPhone 7 seb”. Select the pictures you wish to import, then click on “Import Selected,” or select “Import New” if you want to import all the pictures.

Tip: You may want to check the “Delete items” checkbox before importing the photos if you want to delete these photos from your iPhone or iPad after the import.

Transfer photos to your Mac using My Photo Stream

As I mentioned above, I use the Photos app connected to all of my iOS devices through an iCloud feature called My Photo Stream. When enabled, pictures taken with your iPhone or your iPad will automatically appear in the Photos app, no matter where you are, as long as your devices are connected to the internet and can sync with each other. Concretely, when this is enabled, if I snap a photo on my iPhone and then launch the Photos app on my Mac, that photo should appear almost instantly.

Step 1: On your iOS device, open the Settings app, then go to iCloud > Photos.

Step 2: Turn on My Photo Stream on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 3: On your Mac, launch the Photos app and go to Photos > Preferences > iCloud > and make sure My Photo Stream is selected.

Step 4: To view these pictures, select My Photo Stream from the sidebar to see pictures that are automatically synced from your iOS device.

Transfer photos from iphone or iPad using Image Capture

If you want a “lighter” option than Photos, you can import pictures using Image Capture instead. This method allows you to select where you want to save the pictures on your Mac.

Step 1: Connect your iPhone to your OS X computer and open Image Capture.

Step 2: Select your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch from the list of connected devices. For instance, in the screenshot below, you’d click on “iPhone 6s” in the sidebar.

Step 3: Open the drop down menu next to “Import To” and select the folder you want to transfer pictures to. If you don’t see the folder on the main list, select “Other” for more options. In our example below, pictures will be imported to the Desktop.

transfer photos to Mac wit image capture

Step 4: Select the specific pictures you wish to import and click Import, or select “Import All” if you want to import all of them at once.

Transfer iPhone or iPad photos with AirDrop

Apple’s AirDrop was updated for iOS and macOS to make it possible for you to share files from your mobile device to your desktop or laptop wirelessly. Admitedly, this method is best used when transferring a small amount of photos. You definitely wouldn’t want to move hundreds of pictures over AirDrop, but it is an very good way to move a handful of pictures from your iPad or iPhone to your computer.

First, you will need to make sure AirDrop is set up properly on your Mac.

Step 1: Open Finder and click on AirDrop in the sidebar.

transfer photos to mac with airdrop

Step 2: Make sure AirDrop is enabled by selecting either “Contacts Only” or “Everyone” from the dropdown menu.

To transfer photos from the Photos app in iOS to your Mac:

How to Photo Transfer

Step 1: Open Photos, then select the album and the photos you wish to send to your Mac.

Step 2: Select the Share icon at the bottom of the screen.

Step 3: Select your Mac computer from the list of devices that appear in the AirDrop section. The photos will automatically transfer to the downloads folder on your Mac.

That’s all there is to it. Now you can quickly share photos from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to your Mac computer.

More about photo management

  • Rizky Ardi Nugroho

    Im using iFunBox

    • Sharon Sinclair

      You are suggested to use iPhoto, Image Capture to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac. Do a Google search for “transfer photo from iphone to mac”

    • Jane Swift

      AirMore is what u can use to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac

      • Jane Swift

        u may refer to the screenshot right from here.

  • Carlos Medina

    I can never get my phone to connect to my max via airdrop for some reason.

    • Utrarunner5

      are you signed in to the same iCloud account on both?

      • Carlos Medina

        Yup. Also my hand-off stopped working out of the blue as well but my settings are the same and enabled.

      • Utrarunner5

        ok so jut making sure. you have wifi and bluetooth on with both the mac and the iPhone. and are you connected to the same wifi network with you iPhone and mac?

      • Carlos Medina

        Yes i am majority of the times.

      • Utrarunner5

        Well for handoff to work you need to be on the same wifi and have bluetooth on on both devices as well as being logged into the same iCloud account for both. For airdrop to work you need them both on as well but don’t need to be logged in the same iCloud account.

        I sometimes have a problem where my iPhone won’t see my mac when I’m trying to airdrop a photo or something. The usual fix is for me to go into finder-airdrop and then my mac shows up on my phone and vice-versa. Then I can airdrop.

      • jmrowland

        Also, AirDrop only works for 2012 MacBooks or newer.

  • jack

    All that crap because Apple won’t allow us to access our storage as a flash drive like Android does.

  • DarKShadoW

    I just got a macbook,so this helped alot.thanks.

  • hamiltoncharles

    iPhoto, Dropbox and FonePaw iOS Transfer. One of them can easily transfer photos from iOS device to Mac. Have a try and make it work.

  • Edward Colson


  • jefflakee

    Nice share!

    • nealhen

      Thanks bro! It works well for my iPhone 6s and iPad.

  • Kylie Russell

    I’m trying to transfer all my photos from my iphone to my macbook…. i dont have the “deleted items” check box and cant figure out how to transfer them, delete them, and have them stay on my macbook 🙁 help!

    • Use the Image Capture app mentioned in this post. This is the easiest option.

  • Rhymes with Finesse Studios

    Thanks so much! The photos app on my computer was only recognizing half the photos on my phone, and they were Christmas photos I was trying to upload, so I was really frustrated! But Image Capture worked like a charm. Thank you. 🙂

  • If you have Photostream enabled, then it probably synced the remaining 2300 photos using Photostream, without the need of having to manually import them. Look in your Photos library on your Mac. Chances are, these photos are in there.

  • Thanks for sharing this post, I learned so much from it.

  • Vaibhav Vishant

    The image capture option is really simple. Can i delete my entire photo stream after that. Does this also import my screenshots and other folders from my iPhone ?

  • akmk

    Not working on my iMac, System 10.6.8 which I must not go beyond if I want my scanner and camera chip and photoshop to continue to work and integrate. Worked with iphone 4. Not working with iphone 6s. Gets caught in an error loop of “trust this computer”/”your iphone is locked enter passcode”. My iphone isn’t locked. The device shows up in iphoto. Iphote opens when I connect USB. But no photos show in top menu to import. So far have been having to send photos (individually!) by e-mail to myself which is a drag because it takes a whole 24 hours to show up on my computer usually. And I have to keep files small.