How to Sync Photos to iPhone

Copy photos to your iPhone with iCloud Photo Library, iTunes, or AirDrop

People using smartphones in a coffee shop

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There's a saying that the iPhone is the world's most popular camera. It's true: over 1 billion iPhones have been sold, most of them have cameras, and the camera is among the most commonly used features. Taking photos with your iPhone's camera isn't the only way to get photos onto your smartphone. If you have a photo library or someone shares photos with you, you can sync those photos to your iPhone.

Hands down, the easiest way to sync photos with iPhone and your other macOS, Windows 10, and iOS devices is with iCloud Photo Library, although there are other possibilities as well.

Instructions in the article apply to iPhones running iOS 8.1 or later, Macs running OS X Yosemite (version 10.10) or later, and computers running Windows 10.

Add Photos to iPhone Using iCloud

When you use a Mac, the web-based iCloud Photo Library can be used to store and add photos to your iPhone. 

Start by making sure iCloud Photo Library is enabled on your iPhone by following these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and tap your name at the top of the screen.

  2. Select iCloud.

    Settings screens for opening iCloud settings
  3. Tap Photos.

  4. Move the iCloud Photo Library slider to the On/green position.

    iCloud Photos settings on iPhone

Then, add the photos you want to sync to iCloud by following these steps:

  1. Go to iCloud.com in your computer's web browser.

  2. Log in using your Apple ID.

  3. Click Photos.

    iCloud screen in computer browser
  4. Click the Upload icon in the top bar.

    Upload photos icon in iCloud
  5. Navigate through your computer to select the photo or photos you want to upload and then click Choose.

  6. The photos upload to your iCloud account. In another minute or two, they download to your iOS device and appear in the Photos app there.

Sync Photos Using iCloud With Windows 10

Setting up an iCloud for Windows account puts access to your photos, along with videos, mail, calendar, files and other information on your Windows PC and your iPhone. Apple has a good overview of iCloud for Windows. 

Sync Photos to iPhone Using iTunes

If you don't use iCloud Photo Library, you can use iTunes on your Mac to sync photos with the iPhone from either the Photos app on the Mac or a folder. The Photos app on your Mac stores and organizes your library of pictures. When you sync, it communicates with iTunes to determine which photos to add to your phone and which photos should be moved from your phone to Photos. To sync pictures to your iPhone using iTunes, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac or assemble the images you want to sync to your phone in a folder on your Mac. You may have downloaded images from the web, imported them from a CD or DVD, received them in an email, or acquired them in some other method. You can add single images, multiple images, or entire folders of images.

  2. Launch iTunes. Connect your iPhone to the Mac either by cable or wirelessly, depending on your settings.

  3. Click the iPhone icon in the top left corner of iTunes.

    Opening iTunes screen showing iPhone icon
  4. Click Photos in the left sidebar.

    Selection of Photos in the iTunes sidebar
  5. Click the check box next to Sync Photos.

  6. Select Photos or choose a folder that contains images in the drop-down menu next to Copy photos from and select the options you prefer. You can sync all photos or specify albums or folders of images.

  7. Click Apply in the bottom right corner to save your settings and sync the photos to your iPhone. Select Done when the sync is finished.

    Photos syncing options in iTunes

When the sync is complete, open the Photos app on your iPhone. The newly synced photos are there.

Add Photos to iPhone Using AirDrop

If you are only interested in copying a few photos to your iPhone from your Mac, turn on AirDrop on both devices and transfer them directly. You need both devices to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth activated, and they need to be relatively close distance to each other. After both devices turn on AirDrop, select the images you want to send on your Mac and tap the iPhone icon in the AirDrop section of the action menu. Learn how to share files on AirDrop for Mac and iOS for quick transfers.

Want to sync photos from your standalone digital camera to your iPhone? Check out how to transfer photos from your camera to your iPhone.