The iPad is a great tool for showing off and enjoying your favourite photos, but it's less popular for taking them - your iPhone is far more convenient and a DSLR camera more capable. So how do you get the snaps off those devices and on to your tablet?

In this article we look at the best ways to transfer photos directly from an iPhone or other device to an iPad, as well as tips on sharing photos through iCloud. For related advice, read How to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac and How to share your Mac's photos via iCloud.

Wired transfer

The 2018 iPad Pro models have USB-C (rather than Lightning) connectors, which makes things a lot easier when transferring images from a camera.

Find an appropriate cable (the precise cable you need will depend on your camera's ports - read recommendations of USB-C adapters) and plug the camera directly into the iPad. Open Photos, and you'll see a new tab labelled Import. From here you can easily access the photos on the camera's storage, and copy across the ones you fancy.

The same process can be used to plug in an SD card (Apple sells a USB-C to SD Card Reader for £39/$39) and get photos off that.

How to transfer photos to iPad: USB-C connector

Those with Lightning-based iPads can use a camera Lightning adapter, although the transfer won't be quite as speedy.


Assuming you don't want to get involved with cables, the simplest way of transferring a small number of photos is to use AirDrop. Here's how to AirDrop from an iPhone or iPad:

  1. Make sure your iPad is set to receive over AirDrop. Open Settings > General > AirDrop and select either 'Contacts Only' (if the sender is in your contacts book) or 'Everyone'. You'll also need both devices to have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on (and be within range) and turn off any hotspots.
  2. Open Photos on the sending device. If you're just sending one photo, locate and tap it, then tap the sharing icon - a square with an arrow pointing up, at the bottom left on iPhone or top right on iPad. If you want to send more than one, hit Select, tick multiple photos, then hit the sharing icon.
  3. You'll now see the photo(s) to send at the top of the screen, and various sharing options below. Tap the icon for the receiving device in the AirDrop section and, hey presto, the photo(s) will be sent.

How to transfer photos from iPhone to iPad: AirDrop

Since the launch of Yosemite back in 2014, macOS has been able to AirDrop to and from iOS. Here's how the process works when you're transferring from a Mac:

  1. As above, check that both devices have Bluetooth and AirDrop switched on and are close together, and make sure the iPad is set to receive from either contacts or everyone.
  2. Right-click a photo on the macOS desktop (or within a folder), then select Share > AirDrop. An icon for your target iPad will appear. Click this, and the photo will be sent.
  3. Alternatively, open a Finder window and click AirDrop in the lefthand bar. Now you can drag-and-drop a file on to the icon for the target iPad, and it will be sent. You can select multiple photos and send them in this way.

How to transfer photos from Mac to iPad: AirDrop

If you're having difficulties, read our guide showing How to fix AirDrop problems.

Photo Stream

Photo Stream is part of Apple's iCloud service and is a simple way of sharing photos across all your Apple devices.

  1. On Mac, click on System Preferences > iCloud. Ensure there's a tick next to Photos, then click Options and make sure there's another tick next to 'My Photo Stream'. Click Done.
  2. On iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Photos and turn on 'Upload to My Photo Stream' (or just 'My Photo Stream').
  3. Now open Photos on the iPad, and tap on Albums, then My Photo Stream. All the images you have recently captured on the linked iPhone, or added to the Photos library on your Mac, should appear in here.

iTunes sync

A good way to transfer a large number of photos from your Mac (or a camera, which you should connect to the Mac) is by syncing them using iTunes and Photos. Follow these steps:

  1. If your photos are on a camera or iPhone, plug that device into your Mac. If you're transferring direct from the Mac itself, jump to step 4.
  2. Open Photos on your Mac, and click the name of the device (under the section called, er, Devices) in the lefthand bar. We'd recommend clicking the 'Import To' dropdown menu and selecting New Album, so your new images are grouped together. Then either click Import All New Items (top right), or tick the photos you want and click Import Selected.
  3. Unplug the device that had the photos on.
  4. Plug in the iPad using the Lightning or USB-C cable, and open iTunes. Click on the iPad icon in the top bar to see the device's summary page.
  5. In the lefthand bar, select Photos, and put a tick next to Sync Photos. Next to 'Copy photos from', select Photos, then choose either all the photos on the Mac or select an album.
  6. Click Done, then Apply.

How to transfer photos from Mac to iPad: iTunes