How to Sync Photos to iPhone

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

The iPhone is a popular camera and over 1 billion iPhones have been sold. Taking photos with the iPhone camera isn't the only way to get photos onto your phone. If you have a photo library or someone shares photos with you, sync those photos to your iPhone. The easiest way to sync photos with iPhone and macOS, Windows 10, and iOS devices is with iCloud Photo Library, although there are other possibilities.

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.

    iCloud settings on an iPhone
  3. Tap Photos.

  4. Turn on the iCloud Photo Library toggle switch.

    iCloud settings with the Photos section highlighted

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

  1. Open a web browser and go to iCloud.com.

  2. Log in using your Apple ID.

  3. Click Photos.

    iCloud website with the Photos section highlighted
  4. Click the Upload icon.

    iCloud Photos website with the Upload button highlighted
  5. Navigate through your computer to select the photo or photos you want to upload, 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.

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, 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 that's located in the upper-left corner of iTunes.

    iTunes with the device icon highlighted
  4. In the left sidebar, click Photos.

    iTunes with the Photos heading highlighted
  5. Select the Sync Photos check box.

    iTunes' Photos section with the Sync Photos button highlighted
  6. Select the Copy photos from drop-down arrow and either choose Photos or choose a folder that contains images. You can sync all photos or specify albums or folders of images.

    Photos section of iTunes with the Copy photos from pulldown menu highlighted
  7. Click Apply to save your settings and sync the photos to your iPhone.

    iTunes with the Apply button highlighted
  8. Select Done when the sync is finished.

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 only want to copy a few photos to your iPhone from your Mac, turn on AirDrop on both devices and transfer the files directly. Both devices need to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth activated, and they need to be a 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.