How to Transfer Photos from iPhone to MacBook Air

There are several different ways to move media between devices

What to Know

  • iCloud synching is the most direct solution. Enable iCloud Photos on iPhone, then sync your MacBook's Photos app.
  • AirDrop is the next best. Just tap Share in your phone's Photos app and select your MacBook for the transfer.
  • You can also transfer photos directly via a Lightning Cable and the Photos app on your MacBook.

This article explains how to transfer photos from your iPhone to your MacBook Air.

What Is the Easiest Way to Transfer Photos From iPhone to MacBook Air?

The simplest way to transfer photos from your iPhone to your MackBook is to make it automatic. You can do this by setting up synching with iCloud, which will allow you to access your phone’s entire photo library from your laptop. And once it’s set up, the shared library will update itself with every new photo.

iCloud synching has its limitations. You have a maximum of 5GB of cloud storage to start, and will have to pay for a larger plan if you want to manage a larger amount of data. In order for syncing to work, you need to connect your iPhone to your MacBook.

  1. Open your iPhone’s Settings menu, then scroll down and tap on General.

  2. From General, tap on iPhone Storage.

    The iPhone Storage item in the iPhone Settings app.
  3. Find the iCloud Photos menu option and tap Enable, then tap Enable iCloud Photos to confirm.

  4. Or you can go into Settings > Photos, then toggle iCloud Photos on.

    Two ways, highlighted, to enable iCloud Photos on an iPhone.
  5. On your MackBook, open the Photos app. If you haven’t used it before it will ask you if you want to enable iCloud, and all you have to to is allow it.

  6. If your Photos app doesn’t give you the option on startup, or otherwise has it disabled, click Photos in the menu bar at the top of the screen and then click Preferences.

    The Photos app Preferences menu item highlighted on a Mac.
  7. Click the iCloud tab, then click the check box next to iCloud Photos to enable synching.

    The iCloud Photos setting in the Photos app on a Mac.
  8. Depending on the size of your photo library it may take some time for everything to fully sync up between your devices, but you’re done! Now any photos you take with your iPhone will appear in your Photos app library on your MacBook automatically.

How Do I Import Photos to My MacBook Air?

The second easiest way to transfer photos between your iPhone and MacBook is via AirDrop. This allows you to select specific pictures or videos and transfer them over individually or in batches, giving you more control over what goes where.

For AirDrop to work, you’ll need to make sure both your MacBook and iPhone have Wi-Fi enabled, otherwise they won’t be able to find each other.

  1. Open your iPhone’s Photos app, then open the photo album you want to transfer photos over from.

  2. You can tap a single photo and begin the transfer from there, or if you want to transfer multiple images tap Select at the top of the screen and then tap all the photos you want to copy. Alternatively, if you want to select several images adjacent to one another, you can also tap and drag your finger over them all.

    Selecting photos and sharing them in the Photos app on an iPhone.
  3. Tap the Share icon in the lower-left corner of the screen (it looks like a box with an arrow pointing upwards out of it).

  4. From the Share menu tap AirDrop, then select the device you want to transfer the photos to. Depending on your AirDrop settings you might have to click Accept on your MacBook in order for the transfer to go through.

    AirDrop in action sending photos from the Photos app on an iPhone.
  5. Once the process is finished, the transferred photos should appear in your MacBook’s Downloads folder.

How Else Can I Import Photos to My MacBook Air?

Another direct (if slightly slower than AirDrop) option for transferring photos between your devices is to physically connect your iPhone to your MacBook using your phone’s charging cable.

Depending on the model of your iPhone and MacBook, your Lightning Cable may not be able to connect, in which case you’ll need an adaptor.

  1. Plug the Lightning cable into your iPhone as though you were going to charge it, but remove the power adapter from the other end and plug the other part of the cable into your MacBook. You may need to unlock your iPhone for a full-access connection.

    Connect iPhone to MacBook
  2. Open the Photos app on your MacBook and click iPhone under the Devices section of the sidebar.

    Where to find your connected iPhone in the Photos app on a Mac.
  3. Click the photos you want to select for copying, or click and drag to select multiple photos at once, then click Import Selected to begin the transfer. Or if you want to transfer everything, click Import All New Items.

    Selecting and importing photos interface highlighted in the Photos app on a Mac.
  4. The imported photos will now appear under both the Imports category and your Library.

    Photos Library

Why Can’t I Transfer Photos From iPhone to MacBook?

There are a few reasons you may have trouble with photo transfers.

  1. If you’re using AirDrop, make sure settings for both your iPhone and MacBook are set to either Contacts Only or Everyone. If Contacts Only isn’t working, Everyone should. If it still refuses to work try toggling between both options once or twice or restarting both devices.

    AirDrop settings on a Mac. Items to try are highlighted.
  2. If you’ve connected your iPhone to your MacBook with a Lightning Cable and they aren’t recognizing each other, try disconnected and then reconnecting the cable. If that doesn’t work, try restarting one or both devices.

  3. If iCloud synching isn’t working, you might have the option turned off for one or both devices. Go back into their respective menus to double-check. If iCloud is enabled but still not working, go into your Apple ID settings on either device and make sure they’re connected.

  • How do I transfer photos from iPhone to iPhone?

    To move all of your photos to a new iPhone, back up your original device, and then set up the new one from that backup, which will include all photos, text messages, contacts, and apps. To move just a few at a time, try AirDrop, email, or a cloud-based storage service like Google Photos or Dropbox.

  • How do I transfer photos from Android to iPhone?

    The Move to iOS app will help you migrate all of your photos and other data from your Android device to a new iPhone. Otherwise, you can send images using online options or a data cable.

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