MacBook Air with AirDrop with iPod touch 7Source: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore

These days, it may seem like most of your photos are on your iPhone in the Photos app, because you probably used it to take the picture. But what about all of the images on your Mac? Whether they're high-quality photos that you've taken with a DSLR, a point-and-shoot camera, or just images that you've saved from the internet, you may want to get them on your iPhone or iPad.

While the easiest way is probably with iCloud Photos, there are a few other ways to go about it too. We'll show you how to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone!

What content can I view on my iPhone or iPad?

The Photos app on iPhone and iPad is capable of displaying several different types of file formats without issue. These will all appear fine in the Photos app, but you won't be able to tell what format they are on the surface — it will all appear rather seamless.

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  • JPEG
  • PNG
  • TIFF
  • RAW
  • HEIF (these are HEIC images and is what your iPhone saves natively if High Efficiency is turned on)
  • Live Photos
  • GIF (these only animate in the Photos app on iOS 11 or later or macOS High Sierra or later)
  • MP4 video
  • HEVC video (similar to HEIC, it is the High Efficiency video format)
  • Slo-mo video
  • Time-lapse video

As long as your photo or video is in one of these formats, it will show up fine in the iOS Photos app once you transfer photos from your Mac to your iPhone. Otherwise, you'll want to consider using the iOS Files app.

How to use iCloud Photo Library

iCloud Photo Library is probably the easiest way to keep your photos on Mac and iPhone in sync, but you do need a newer Mac that can get the Photos app on it (macOS Yosemite and later). Here's how to enable the iCloud Photo Library.

  1. Launch the Photos app on your Mac.
  2. Click Photos in the top left of the menu bar and select Preferences (or just click cmd and , on the keyboard).
  3. Click the iCloud tab.
  4. Make sure that the iCloud Photos option is checked.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by uploading photos and video with iCloud Photo Library by showing steps: Launch Photos, go into Preferences, then check off box for iCloud Photo LibrarySource: iMore

If this is the first time you are launching Photos on Mac in macOS Catalina, you may need to make sure that the System Photo Library is on before you can enable the iCloud Photos option.

  1. In the Preferences for Photos app, click General.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by enabling iCloud Photo Library on Photos for Mac by showing steps: In Preferences, click GeneralSource: iMore

  2. Click Use as System Photo Library. It may take a little bit of time to complete.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by enabling iCloud Photo Library on macOS Catalina by showing steps: Click Use as System Photo Library if you are unable to turn on iCloud PhotosSource: iMore

When you have the iCloud Photos option enabled on your Mac, you will want to make sure that it's also enabled on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Launch Settings on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Photos.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Enabling iCloud Photo Library on your iPhone or iPad by showing steps: Launch Settings, tap PhotosSource: iMore

  3. Tap the toggle for iCloud Photos to ON (green).
  4. You can also turn the toggle for Shared Albums to ON (green) if you want to share your iCloud Photos albums with others.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Enabling iCloud Photo Sharing on your iPhone or iPad by showing steps: Toggle iCloud Photo Library to ON, as well as Shared Albums to ONSource: iMore

Once iCloud Photos is enabled, it may take up to 24 hours before all of your content is synced up between devices. iCloud Photos also won't sync unless you're on WiFi, so make sure that's good to go before wondering where all of your content is.

Upload photos from iCloud.com

If you don't want to deal with iCloud Photos (it does come with some headaches), you can actually use the good old fashioned method of uploading to the web. That's right — iCloud Photos can be accessed from the web, and it's another way to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone, or any platform, really.

  1. Make sure that you have iCloud Photos enabled on your iOS devices.
  2. Visit icloud.com and sign in to your Apple ID.
  3. Click the Photos icon.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Uploading your photos via web on iCloud.com by showing stepss: Go to icloud.com and log in to your account, then select PhotosSource: iMore

  4. After everything loads up, click the Upload button (it looks like an up arrow to a cloud icon).

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Uploading your photos via web on iCloud.com by showing steps: Click on the Upload button at the topSource: iMore

  5. Choose the images from your hard drive that you want to upload.
  6. Click Choose.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Uploading your photos via web on iCloud.com by showing steps: Select the images that you want to upload, then click OKSource: iMore

Your images will then get uploaded to iCloud Photos manually. A progress bar at the bottom of the screen lets you know how the uploads are going, and you can click Stop Upload at any time if you change your mind.

Transfer photos from mac to iphone by Uploading your photos via web from iCloud.com by showing steps: Your photos will appear in your iCloud Photo Library after upload is completeSource: iMore

Sync via iTunes or Finder

For those who don't want to use iCloud Photos, then you can do the good ol' syncing method with the computer itself. You know, with a — * le gasp* — cable.

If you are using macOS Mojave or earlier, then you will do this with iTunes. But if you are on macOS Catalina and later, you do this through the Finder, since Apple split iTunes up into separate Music, TV, and Podcasts apps.

The reason you may want to sync with your Mac with a cable is that because you may be running an older version of iPhoto or Aperture, you may have certain albums in Photos, or you have specific folders or albums of images in your Pictures folder. It's important that before you manually sync through iTunes or Finder, you have all of your images that you want to transfer from Mac to iPhone organized appropriately.

  1. Ensure your photos are organized the way you want them to be organized.
  2. Plug in your iPhone or iPad to your Mac.
  3. Launch Finder (iTunes in macOS Mojave and earlier) if it doesn't open automatically.
  4. Click on your iOS device icon in the device list.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by syncing photos and videos via iTunes and Finder by showing steps: Click on your deviceSource: iMore

  5. Click the Photos tab.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by syncing photos and videos via iTunes and Finder by showing steps: Click Photos under your deviceSource: iMore

  6. Click the checkbox next to Sync Photos.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by syncing photos and videos via iTunes and Finder by showing steps: Click Sync Photos checkbox to make sure that your photos syncSource: iMore

  7. Click the source of the photos that you want to sync from in the drop-down menu.
  8. Click the checkbox next to the option you want: Sync All Folders or Sync Selected Folders.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by syncing photos and videos via iTunes and Finder by showing steps: Select whether you want to sync all photos in folders or only select foldersSource: iMore

  9. Choose the Folders that you want to sync from your chosen source.
  10. Click the checkbox next to Include videos if you want.
  11. Click Sync in the bottom right corner to begin syncing.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by syncing photos and videos via iTunes and Finder by showing steps: After you set your preferences, click SyncSource: iMore

Use AirDrop to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone

One of the easiest ways to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone is with AirDrop. Apple introduced AirDrop back in OS X Lion (10.7), so your Mac should work with AirDrop, even if it's a little older (Lion works on Macs from 2008).

AirDrop uses Bluetooth Low Energy to broadcast, discover, and negotiate connections, allowing point-to-point Wi-Fi for transferring data. Between Macs and iPhones and iPads, this is a quick and easy way to transfer files, such as photos and videos.

  1. Launch Finder on your Mac.
  2. Open a new Finder window or tab so that you can view two Finder locations at once.
  3. Locate and select the photos and video that you want to transfer to your iPhone or iPad.
  4. In the other Finder window or tab, click AirDrop from the side menu.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by showing how to use AirDrop to transfer photos from your Mac to iPhone or iPad by showing steps: Open Finder on your Mac, then click AirDrop in the sidebar. Your iPhone or iPad should show up there.Source: iMore

  5. On your iPhone or iPad, make sure that it is unlocked and awake.
  6. Make sure that your iPhone or iPad has AirDrop receiving enabled and set to Everyone.
  7. Drag your selected photos and video to the iPhone or iPad option in the AirDrop Finder window.

    Transfer photos from mac to iphone by showing how to use AirDrop to transfer photos from your Mac to iPhone or iPad by showing steps: Select and drag the files you want to move from your Mac and drop them onto your iPhone or iPad icon in AirDropSource: iMore

  8. If your iPhone or iPad prompts you, tap Accept.

While AirDrop is excellent, it works best for smaller batches of photos and video, rather than your entire photo library. If you want to transfer your entire library, it's best to use iCloud Photos or sync via Finder or iTunes.

Utilize a third-party syncing service

Transfer photos from mac to iphone by showing how to use third-party image syncing services with your iPhone or iPad by showing: Dropbox web view of Camera Uploads folderSource: iMore

Another great option to consider when you need to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone is to use a third-party syncing service, like Dropbox. You could upload your pictures to your Dropbox account directly on the web, or just add photos to your Dropbox folder once you install Dropbox on your Mac. Dropbox has an excellent walkthrough to help you get started if you're a newbie to the service. Then on your iPhone or iPad, just download the Dropbox app and access your photos and videos directly.

Dropbox

Access all of your Dropbox files, including photo and video, right from your iPhone or iPad.

While I prefer to use Dropbox for my photos, there are also other options that you can use as well, such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon Drive, and more. It just comes down to personal preference here.

Questions?

These are just a few of the best ways on how to transfer photos from Mac to iPhone. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below, and we'll do our best to help you out.

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