How to Sync Photos to iPhone

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There's a saying that the iPhone is the world's most popular camera. And 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. But taking photos with your iPhone's camera isn't the only way to get photos onto your smartphone. If you have a photo library stored elsewhere, or someone shares photos with you, there are a number of ways to sync those photos to your iPhone.

Sync Photos to iPhone Using Photos

Maybe the easiest way to add photos to your iPhone is by syncing them using the Photos program. This is a desktop photo management program that comes with all Macs and is the default tool for syncing photos on a Mac. If you've got a PC, you can skip to the third section.

Photos stores and organizes your library of pictures. When you sync, it communicates with iTunes to determine what photos to add to your phone and which photos should be moved from your phone to Photos. To sync pictures to your iPhone using Photos, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Photos program on your Mac.

  2. Drag the pictures you want to add to your iPhone into the program. You could have downloaded these images from the web, imported them from a CD/DVD with images on them, been sent them in an email, etc. You can add single images, multiple images, or entire folders of images. They will be added to Photos and you'll see them appear in your library.

  3. Connect to your iPhone to the Mac running Photos.

  4. Launch iTunes, if it doesn't launch automatically.

  5. Click the iPhone icon in the top left corner to go to the iPhone management screen.

  6. Click Photos in the left sidebar.

  7. Click Sync Photos.

  8. In the second box on the screen, choose the options for what photos you want to sync: All photos and albums, Selected albums, Only favorites, etc.

  9. If you chose Selected albums, a list of albums appears. Check the box next to each one you want to sync.

  10. When you've selected your settings, click Apply in the bottom right corner to save your settings and sync the photos.

  11. When the sync is complete, open the Photos app on your iPhone and your new photos will be there.

Sync Photos to iPhone From The Pictures Folder

When you sync photos from your Mac, the Photos app isn't your only option. If you don't use that or prefer another photo-management program, you can sync photos that are stored in your Pictures folder. This is a folder that's set up by default as part of macOS. To use it to sync photos, follow these steps:

  1. Drag and drop all the photos you want to sync to the Pictures folder. In most cases, you can find the Pictures folder in the sidebar of a Finder window. You can add individual photos or drag entire folders of photos.

  2. Follow steps 3-7 in the list above.

  3. In the Copy photos from: drop down, select Pictures.

  4. In the second box, either select All folders or Selected folders.

  5. If you chose Selected folders, check the boxes next to the folders you want in the section below.

  6. When you're done, click Apply to sync the photos to your iPhone.

  7. Use the Photos app on the iPhone to view your new images.

Sync Photos Using Windows Photo Gallery

Apple's Photos app isn't available to Windows users, but if you use Windows you can still sync images to your iPhone by using Windows Photo Gallery. This program comes pre-installed with Windows 7 and up.

While the steps are fairly similar to those listed above, they differ slightly depending on your version. Apple has a good overview of the steps here

Add Photos to iPhone Using iCloud

But what if you don't sync your iPhone with a computer? Whether you use a Mac or a PC, 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. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap iCloud.

  3. Tap Photos.

  4. Move the iCloud Photo Library slider to on/green.

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

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

  2. Log in using your Apple ID.

  3. Click Photos.

  4. Click Upload in the top bar.

  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 will download to your iOS device and appear in the Photos app there.

Want to sync photos from your standalone digital camera to your iPhone? Check out How to Transfer Photos From Your Camera to Your iPhone.