How To Download Photos to Your iPad

Use iTunes, iCloud, or Airdrop to transfer photos to your iPad

Along with being an excellent device for using the web, reading e-books, streaming video, and playing games, the iPad is also a terrific tool for enjoying photos. The iPad's big, beautiful screen is perfect for viewing photos or for serving as your mobile photography studio.

Information in this article applies to iPads running iOS 12, iOS 11, or iOS 10 and to computers with iTunes 12.

How to Download Photos to iPad Using iTunes

One way to get photos onto an iPad is to sync them using iTunes on a computer. The photos you want to add to the iPad must be stored on your computer.

  1. Connect the iPad to your computer.

  2. In iTunes, click the iPad icon in the top left corner, beneath the playback controls.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the Device Icon highlighted
  3. When you're on the iPad Summary screen, click Photos in the left column.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the Photos heading highlighted
  4. Check the Sync Photos box at the top to enable photo syncing.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the Sync Photos option highlighted
  5. Next, choose the program that contains the photos you want to sync. Click the Copy photos from drop-down menu to see the options available on your computer. These vary depending on whether you have a Mac or PC and the software you have installed. Typical programs include iPhoto, Aperture, Windows Photo Gallery, and Photos. Select the program that contains the photos you want to download.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the "Copy photos from" drop-down highlighted
  6. Choose whether you want to sync some photos and photo albums or all of them by clicking the corresponding buttons. If you choose to sync only Selected albums, a new set of boxes appear, where you select photo albums. Check the box next to each one you want to sync. Other syncing options include syncing only the photos you've favorited, including or excluding videos, and automatically including videos from specific time periods. Select the ones you want.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the syncing options highlighted
  7. Click Apply at the bottom right corner of iTunes to save your settings and download the photos to your iPad.

    A screenshot of iTunes with the Apply button highlighted

When the sync finishes, tap the Photos app on your iPad to view the photos you transferred.

How to Download Photos to iPad Using iCloud

The iCloud Photo Library is designed to store the photos from all your devices in the cloud and make them available to all the devices you have. This way, any photos you take on your iPhone or add to your computer's photo library are automatically available to your iPad. Enable iCloud Photo Library by following these steps:

  1. Make sure iCloud Photo Library is enabled on your computer if you use one.

    • On a PC, download iCloud for Windows, install and open it, and then check the iCloud Photo Library box.
    • On a Mac, click the Apple menu, select System Preferences, and then select iCloud. In the iCloud control panel, check the box next to Photos.
    A screenshot of iCloud settings in macOS with the Photos option highlighted
  2. On your iPad, tap Settings. If your iPad runs on iOS 12, 11, or 10, tap your name at the top of the screen and then tap iCloud in the Apple ID screen. In earlier versions of iOS, don't tap your name; just select iCloud in the left panel.

    A screenshot of iPad settings with the Apple ID and iCloud heading highlighted
  3. Tap Photos.

    A screenshot of the iPad's iCloud settings with Photos highlighted
  4. Move the iCloud Photos slider to the On/green position.

    A screenshot of iPad Photos sync settings with the iCloud Photos switch highlighted

Whenever a new photo is added to your computer, iPhone, or iPad, it uploads to your iCloud account and is available to all your connected devices that are signed in to the same iCloud account.

When you don't have much free space on your iPad, full-resolution photos are replaced with smaller versions suitable for viewing. However, you can download the full-resolution versions from iCloud whenever you need them, space permitting.

Other Ways to Download Photos to iPad

While iTunes and iCloud are the primary ways to transfer photos onto your iPad, they're not your only options. Other ways to download photos to the iPad include:

  • AirDrop: This feature of the iOS transfers files wirelessly between iOS devices and Macs. It's a good option for transferring a handful of photos, but it isn't the best choice when large numbers of photos are involved. Learn more about using AirDrop.
  • Apple Camera Adapters: Apple sells several cables that import photos directly to your iPad, including the Lightning-to-SD Card Camera Reader and the Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter. These connect to the Lightning port on the iPad or the Dock Connector on older iPod models and then connect to your digital camera or SD card. Photographers, in particular, appreciate these options.
  • Non-Native Apps: Some apps assist you in downloading photos to your iPad.