How to Transfer Photos Directly From Your Camera to Your iPhone

While the iPhone might be the most-used camera in the world, it's far from the only one. Many photographers — amateurs and, certainly, professionals — tote other cameras along with them when shooting.

When taking photos with the iPhone's camera, images are saved right to the device. When using another camera, however, you'll need to transfer the photos to your iPhone's Photos app manually if you'd like to save them there. Normally, this involves syncing the images from your camera or SD card to your computer and then syncing your iPhone to transfer the photos to it.

That isn't your only option, though. Here are five ways that you can transfer photos directly from your camera to your iPhone without having to use iTunes.

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Use an Apple Lightning-to-USB Camera Adapter

Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
image credit: Apple Inc.

The simplest way to transfer photos from camera to iPhone is to use this adapter. Just plug your USB cable (not included) into your camera and connect that to this adapter. Then, plug this adapter into the Lightning port on your iPhone. 

The built-in Photos app on your iPhone launches and offers an Import button to transfer the photos. Tap that button, and then tap either Import All or select the individual photos you want and tap Import.

It's worth noting that the process doesn't go in the other direction: You can't use this adapter to upload photos from your phone to your camera.

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Use an Apple Lightning-to-SD-Card Camera Reader

Apple Lightning SD Card Reader
image credit: Apple Inc.

This adapter is similar to its sibling above, but rather than connecting the camera to the iPhone, you'll pop the SD card out of the camera, insert it into the adapter, and then plug the adapter into your iPhone's Lightning port.

As with the other Apple adapter, ​​the Photos app launches and prompts you to import some or all of the photos on the SD card. It's not quite as direct as the first, but it doesn't require you to keep a spare USB cable on hand, either.

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Use a Wireless Adapter

Nikon Wireless Mobile Adapter
image credit: Nikon

Adapters are nice and all, but this is the 21st century, and we like to do things wirelessly. You can, too, if you purchase a wireless camera adapter.

One good example is the Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter pictured here. Plug this into your camera to turns into a Wi-Fi hotspot that your iPhone can connect to. Instead of enabling internet access, though, it's a hotspot dedicated to transferring photos from the camera to your phone.

You'll have to install Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app (Download at iTunes) to transfer the images. Once they're in the app, you can move them to other photo apps on your phone, or share them via email or social media.

Canon offers a similar device: its SD-card-style W-E1 Wi-Fi Adapter.

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Use a Third-Party SD Card Reader

Leef iAccess SD Card Reader
image credit: Leef

If you prefer to go the entirely third-party route, a number of adapters can connect the SD card from your camera to your iPhone. One of these is the Leef iAccess reader shown here.

With these, you remove the SD card from your camera, connect the adapter to your iPhone, insert the SD card, and import your photos. Depending on the accessory, you may need to install an app. The Leef device requires its MobileMemory app, for instance.

Your options aren't limited to the Leef, of course. A search for "sd card reader lightning connector" at Amazon returns many other brands of similar multiport, multiconnector adapters.

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Use the Cloud

Dropbox Photos
image credit: Dropbox

If you prefer to avoid the hardware route entirely, check out a cloud service. Apple's iCloud Photo Library is probably the first thing that springs to mind, but unless you've got a way to get photos from your camera to it without a computer or an iPhone, it won't work.

What does work, however, are services such as Dropbox and Google Photos. You'll need some way to get the photos from your camera or SD card onto the services, of course. Once you do that, though, install the app for the cloud service you use and transfer the photos to the iOS Photos app. 

It's not quite as simple or elegant as using an adapter, but if you like the security of having your photos backed up in multiple locations — on SD card, in the cloud, and on your iPhone — it's a good option.

What to Do If the Import Button Doesn't Appear Using an Apple Adapter

If you're using either of the Apple adapters listed at the beginning of the article, and the Import button doesn't show up when you plug it in, try these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Confirm that your camera is on and in image-export mode
  2. Unplug the adapter, wait about 30 seconds, and plug it in again
  3. Unplug the camera or SD card, wait about 30 seconds, and try again
  4. Restart your iPhone.