How to save your iPhone photos directly to an external hard drive on Mac

Photos app on iPad with MacBook in the background
Photos app on iPad with MacBook in the background (Image credit: iMore)

If you take a lot of photos with your iPhone, you know how just how much space they can take up on your phone and in your iCloud account. Saving your photos to an external hard drive not only will allow you to free up space on your iPhone, it can also give you a safe place to store your photos in case you happen to lose them. Backing up your data is also a good thing!

Instead of transferring your photos from your iPhone to your Mac and then transferring those photos from your Mac to your external hard drive, you can automate the process using Image Capture on your Mac.

How to save your iPhone photos directly to an external hard drive on Mac

  1. Plug in your external hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Plug in your iPhone to your Mac. Make sure you select to Trust the computer if you haven't done so already.
  3. Launch Image Capture from Launchpad.
  4. Click on your iPhone in the sidebar.

  1. Use the keyboard shortcut Command - A to select all the photos. Alternatively, you can select photos individually.
  2. Click on the destination drop down menu.

  1. Click Other from the list of options.
  2. Click on your external hard drive.

  1. Click Choose.
  2. Click Import.

Now, your the photos from your iPhone will transfer over to your external hard drive. This will likely take a few minutes and if you have a lot of photos, it could take up to several minutes.

Any Questions?

Let us know in the comments down below.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

  • When I do this I get the feedback that the picture was taken, but they never show up in the photos app. Any idea where they went?
  • How about 1. Letting iCloud sync all iPhone's photos
    2. Open "Photos" on the Mac
    3. Then click on "Photos" (on the left column)
    4. Click on "Photos" on the top menu (I know this sounds stupid but it's not my fault if Apple named everything with that name!!).
    5. Once you see all photos, do a Command-A
    6. Files, Export, Export Unmodified Original for xxxx items
    7. Click the "Export" button
    8. Finaly, select your destination (here your external drive) and click "Export originals" Cheers
  • So how about an article on how to get your photos that your removed from you iPhone back to your iPhone without using iCloud or syncing via iTunes.
  • Any way to make it go faster? For some reason it's wanting to "convert" some stuff and whatnot. I have 6,000+ files, over 400 of them being videos. HELP this is driving me insane. Not to mention the "storage full" message on my phone that never goes away. GRRR
  • Scratch my previous comment... it seemed like something was wrong(only 1102 files in the folder it was supposed to be transferring to and that number was not moving), so I stopped the transfer, ejected both external HD and iphone, reconnected both and pulled up image transfer and clicked on my iphone and it says nothing is there. I pull up photos and click on iphone and it also says there is nothing there for importing. but on my phone i'm still showing 1102 less than when I started (5,566 photos, and 487 videos). Yes, I elected to delete after importing via image capture. But, now NOTHING shows. And most of my photos are still on my phone. MY LANTA SOMEONE PRAY FOR ME
  • Thank you very much. It was a great help.