How to Transfer Photos From Your Camera to Your iPhone

A mix of wired and wireless solutions bring your photos into your iPhone

What to Know

  • Simplest way: Use an Apple Lightning-to-USB adapter.
  • Once camera is connected via Lightning adapter, go to Photos app > Import > Import All or Import.
  • Alternatively, use Apple's iCloud Photo Library.

This article explains five ways to transfer photos from your camera to your iPhone. Instructions apply to most iPhones and modern digital cameras.

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Use the Cloud or Wi-Fi

Dropbox Photos


The most effective solution relies on wireless networking technology.

Most modern professional or prosumer cameras now feature Wi-Fi or Bluetooth radios. If you have one that does, consider services like Dropbox and Google Photos (Apple's iCloud Photo Library is cloud-based, too, but it requires an iPhone or Mac).

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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 Apple's Lightning-to-USB adapter. Just plug a USB cable into your camera and connect it to this special device. Then, plug this adapter into the Lightning port on your iPhone. 

The Photos app on your iPhone then launches. Tap the Import button to transfer the photos. Tap either Import All or select the individual photos you want and tap Import.

This 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 doesn't connect the camera to the iPhone. Instead, pop the SD card out of your 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 prompts you to import some or all of the photos on the SD card. It's not quite as direct as the first option, 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

The Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter plugs into your camera to turn it 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 to transfer the images. Once they're in the app, you can move them to other photo apps on your phone, or share them through email or social media.

Canon offers a similar device: the SD-card-style W-E1 Wi-Fi Adapter. Other wireless adapters and SD cards are also available.

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Use an SD Card Reader

Leef iAccess SD Card Reader
image credit: Leef

Pick from quite a few different, non-Apple adapters that bridge the SD card from your camera to your iPhone. One popular choice is the Leef iAccess reader.

With these devices, 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.

What to Do If the Import Button Doesn't Appear When You Use 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, confirm that your camera is on and in image-export mode.

If it is, then unplug the adapter, wait about 30 seconds, and plug it in again. Unplug the camera or SD card, wait about 30 seconds, and try again.

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