Maybe you're trying to save space on an iPhone and need to back up photos and video to your Mac before deleting them. Maybe you want to stored your photos somewhere other than your iPhone, edit them using Mac software, or copy them on to someone else's Mac. Whatever your reason, this tutorial will show you a number of ways in which you can transfer photos and video from an iPhone (or iPad) to a Mac.
There are actually lots of ways to sync your iPhone photos with a Mac, and you can do so using a variety of apps and services. Read on to find out which method is best for you.
How the following tutorial works will be determined by whether you have turned on iCloud Photos, more on that below.
Copy photos & video using Photos
If you've got your cable handy, one of the quickest and easiest ways of transferring photos on to a Mac is to plug your iPhone into the USB port on your Mac.
By default, the Photos app on your Mac (read more about how to use Photos) is set to open automatically as soon as you plug your iPhone into your Mac. If it doesn't open, just click on the Photos icon in the Dock.
You may need to unlock your iPhone when you plug it into your Mac and confirm that you trust the device. If it doesn't automatically show the photos on your iPhone you should see the phone in the list on the left of the window; select your iPhone and the images should appear in the window.
The Photos app will display all the photos that are stored on your iPhone's camera roll. If it doesn't show the photos on your iPhone, click on iPhone in the side-bar.
You can simply click 'Import All New Photos' to import everything into Photos. Alternatively, you can click on individual photos to select the best shots that you want to import and keep: a better option if you've got limited storage available on your Mac. You can also tell Photos to automatically delete the photos on your iPhone once they've been copied on to your Mac, which you might want to do if you are running out of space on your iPhone.
Of course, sometimes you might just connect your iPhone to your Mac in order to charge the battery. If you don't want Photos to always open automatically then you can turn that option off by un-clicking the button in the top-left of Photos marked 'Open Photos For This Device'.
(Wondering where iPhotos is on your Mac and what it has to do with importing photos? Long ago the Mac photo app was iPhoto, and that was used for the same purpose as Photos is now. So if you are wondering how to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac without iPhoto, you needn't worry! You can just use Photos!)
Transfer photos from iPhone to Mac with Image Capture
There's another app that you can use to import photos on to your Mac. The Image Capture app was originally designed for importing photos from scanners and other devices in the days before we all had iPhones. The app's pretty redundant now that we have the Photos app on our Macs.
However, Image Capture can come in handy for more experienced photographers who may prefer to use other photography apps, or who want to organise their photos in folders that are kept separate from the main Photos library.
We use Image Capture to move screenshots and photos we don't intend to keep on to our Macs (mostly to illustrate features like this!). If you just need to send an image to your Mac but don't intend to keep it, or display it in an album, this may be the solution for you.
Plug in your iPhone and launch Image Capture. You'll see a list of your photos along with quite a bit of technical information, such as file sizes and aperture settings, that will be useful for more knowledgeable photographers. You can use the Import All command, or just select individual photos that you want to import.
There's also an option to delete photos from within Image Capture if you want. By default, Image Capture will import your photos into the Pictures folder on your Mac (which is separate from the Photos app), but it also allows you to specify other folders as well. That's a handy option if you like to keep several different photo projects stored in their own individual folders.
Copy photos from iPhone to Mac with iCloud Photos
If you can't be bothered with USB cables and importing photos by hand, then you can just sit back and let Apple's iCloud do all the work.
If you sign up for iCloud Photo Library all your photos will be synced across all your Apple devices, so you'll be able to see the photos you took on your iPhone on your Mac without doing anything (although you will need to have access to a Wi-Fi network before your photos sync this way).
You will also need to subscribe to an iCloud storage plan to use iCloud Photo Library - you'll get 5GB free, but chances are you have more than 5GB of photos, so you'll be looking at 79p a month for 50GB or £2.49 a month for 200GB, there's also 2TB for £6.99 a month.
iCloud Photo Library stores all your photos in the cloud, and you can see all your photos on all of your Apple devices. If you are short of space on your iPhone and Mac you can choose a setting that means that while the full-res photos are stored in the cloud, smaller versions appear on your device. You can download the high-res versions at any time.
Just to give you an idea of how much space you can save, we have about 228GB of photos in iCloud. On our iPhone they take up 7.5GB, and on our Mac, 24GB.
To set up iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone first of all you need to be signed into iCloud. Go to Settings on your iPhone's Home Screen, tap on your name at the top of the page and sign in using your Apple ID if you haven't already done so.
From here you can tap on iCloud and then Photos and turn on iCloud Photos. Here you can also choose to Optimise iPhone Storage (which, as we just explained, will stop your iPhone getting full up of all the photos you take - crucial if you are trying to make more space on your iPhone!) You can also access this page from Settings > Photos & Camera.
This tutorial shows how to use iCloud Photos.
To set up iCloud Photos on your Mac go to the main iCloud panel within System Preferences, or open the Preferences window within the Photos app itself (Photos > Preferences). It's best to use the second option, as Photos offers one important extra option that we need to look at.
When you activate iCloud Photos from within Photos, you'll see two new choices that appear. If you've got plenty of hard disk space available on your Mac then you can select Download Originals To This Mac, and this will download the original high-def photos and videos that are stored in iCloud. If you select Optimise Mac Storage then your Mac will try to save space by downloading lower-resolution copies of your photos and videos (although the high-res originals will still be stored in iCloud).
There's a Windows version of the iCloud software available for PCs too, so you can transfer photos from an iPhone to a PC if you need to (you can download the Windows version of iCloud here). The other thing to be aware of is that uploading your entire collection of photos and videos to iCloud via Wi-Fi can take a Really. Long. Time.
Note: if you are thinking this would be a good way to back up your photos beware! While your photos are stored in the cloud, they aren't backed up in the traditional way. And if you were to delete a photo from your Mac or iPhone, thinking you could free up space, you'd actually be deleting it from iCloud! So don't!
Download photos from iPhone to Mac with Photo Stream
If you're not keen on the idea of paying money to use iCloud Photos then you can use My Photo Stream to automatically upload photos and send them to all your devices that are signed into your iCloud account whenever you connect to Wi-Fi.
The main difference between My Photo Stream and iCloud Photos is the limitations of My Photo Stream - with My Photo Stream the photos will only appear on your other devices for 30 days, and the limit is 1,000 photos.
However, as long as you remember to go into Photos on your Mac, you can easily download them to that app so that they don't vanish later in the month. We'll show you how to do that below.
To set up My Photo Stream on your iPhone go to Settings > Photos and use the slide to turn on Upload to My Photo Stream.
To set up My Photo Stream on your Mac, open Photos and click on Photos > Preferences > iCloud. Then select My Photo Stream and turn it on.
Now if you open Photos on your Mac you will see your last 30-days worth of photos. If you want to save any onto your Mac, right click (or control click) on the photo and choose Save.
Unlike with iCloud Photos, once you have copied the photo onto your Mac you could delete the photo from your iPhone - you now have a copy on your Mac.
This tutorial shows how to use iCloud Photo Stream.
Transfer photos from iPhone to MacBook with email or Messages
if you're feeling really low-fi and you're just importing one photo, you can email or Message the photo to yourself (or your friend), then open your email (or Messages) on the Mac and copy the attachment wherever you want it. This might just be the best option if you wanted to send a baby photo, say, to the grandparents at the same time as importing it into your Mac.
Go to Photos on your iPhone or iPad and find the photo you want. Click on the share icon (an arrow coming out a box at the bottom left) then tap the icon for Message or Mail. This will pop the photo into an email or Message for you.
There used to be a limit that meant you could only send up to five images or videos this way if you were using Messages, but now Apple will bundle up the images into an iCloud link which your recipient can download them from. They will be available to download for a month.
You can then open the email or Message on your Mac and copy them over (you may need to activate Messages on your Mac so you can receive and send text messages there).
How to AirDrop photos from iPhone to Mac
You can also use AirDrop to transfer your photo to your Mac. The process is similar to the one described on the previous slide.
You'll need AirDrop to be turned on on your iPhone. It's usually on by default, but to check, open up Control Panel (a swipe from the top right on a X-series phone, or swipe up from the bottom on an older phone). Hard press on the block of icons that shows the WiFi, Mobile data, and Bluetooth status and you'll see AirDrop - tap that and you can choose Contacts Only or Everyone.
For AirDrop to work on your Mac you need to have Bluetooth turned on. You also need to make sure your Mac isn't sharing an Ethernet connection over WiFi (which is quite a common occurrence in offices where the WiFi isn't up to the number of devices attempting to share it - read about how to share the internet connection of your Mac to your iPhone via WiFi.) If that's the case go to System Preferences > Sharing and deselect Internet Sharing. Your Mac will then need to connect to the same WiFi network as your iPhone.
Now find the image you want to share, click the Share icon and on the next screen you will see Tap to share with AirDrop as an option, just above Message.
An icon representing your Mac should appear here. If it doesn't check you have Bluetooth and WiFi on, and open a Finder Window on your Mac, which might encourage it to receive the images. Here's more advice about getting AirDrop to work.
To share your photo from your iPhone to your Mac, click on the image that represents your Mac on your iPhone and this should start the process of sharing the image to your Mac.
The image will land in your Downloads folder, which you can access from the Dock.
Just remember to turn AirDrop off afterwards if you have it set to Everyone.
Here's how to use AirDrop to transfer files from iPhone to Mac (and vice versa). Also, here is how to use iMovie on the iPhone. We also have a guide to making a video slideshow on your iPhone using Photos Memories.