Confused about how to sync your Mac or Windows PC photos to your iPhone or iPad? We’ve got you covered.
Photos app for OS X and iCloud Photo Library are great options for those who want to rely on Apple to store their images. But you’re not limited to iCloud: You can instead use iTunes or another third-party cloud service to sync images between your computer and your iPhone or iPad.
So if you want to showcase your computer’s images on your iOS devices, never fear: iMore has you covered. Here’s a quick tutorial on all the ways you can currently sync your Mac or Windows PC images to your iPhone or iPad.
How to move and view your photos if you have iCloud Photo Library enabled
While I still have some issues with Apple’s iCloud Photo Library, it remains one of the best ways to keep your photos in sync between your Mac, PC, and any other iOS devices you may own. There are a few different ways to transfer photos from your Mac, which I’ll outline below.
Option one: Use Photos for Mac
If you’ve upgraded to Photos for Mac and you’re running OS X Yosemite or later, you should have no problem syncing your Mac’s images to your iPhone or iPad.
Launch the Photos app.Go to the Photos menu and select Preferences.Make sure the iCloud Photo Library option is checked.
You’ll likely have to wait a little bit for your Mac’s images and videos to sync with your iOS devices, but afterward — assuming you have the storage space — you should have all your Mac’s images accessible to you on your iPhone or iPad.
For more about iCloud Photo Library, be sure to check out our iCloud Photo Library Ultimate Guide.
Option two: Use iCloud Photo Sharing
If you’re just not that into Photos for Mac yet, you can still send some of your Mac’s photos to your iPhone or iPad using iCloud’s older image-sharing features. It also happens to be my favorite hack for getting images from the now-discontinued iPhoto or Aperture onto your iOS devices.
Go to Settings > Photos & Camera on your iPhone or iPad.Make sure iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Sharing is enabled.On your Mac, open iPhoto or Aperture.Select the pictures you want to upload.With your pictures selected, create a new Shared Photo Stream for them by clicking Add To > iCloud or Share > iCloud.
Name your stream something like “iPhoto Images” and share it with your own Apple ID; within minutes, it should start to populate on your iOS devices under the Shared tab in the Photos app.
From there, you can view the images if you have an Internet connection, and you can download them locally to your device (which will then put them in the queue to be uploaded to your iCloud Photo Library) by selecting one, tapping the Share button, and hitting Save Image. (You can also select multiple pictures by tapping the Select button within a Photo Stream.)
Option three: Upload your photos via iCloud.com
You can also get your Mac or PC’s images onto your iPhone or iPad by using the upload button on the Photos section of iCloud on the Web. To access it, you’ll first have to visit icloud.com.
Also note that the iCloud uploader only supports the uploading of JPG files at this time; you can’t upload PNGs or MOVs through the web.
Make sure you have iCloud Photo Library enabled on your iOS devices.Visit icloud.com and log in.
Click the Photos icon.
Once everything loads, click the Upload button in the upper right corner, next to Select Photos.Choose JPG images from your hard drive or Media section that you’d like to upload.A processing bar appears at the bottom to upload however many items you’ve chosen. If you wish to stop the upload, you can tap Stop Upload in the bottom right corner.
And that’s all there is to it! Apple’s upload script is still very rudimentary — a simple file picker — and as such, you might find it tricky for uploading large amounts of pictures. I managed to get a 940-photo session to upload without problem, but that said, you might want to begin with smaller image amounts, just to be safe.
How to use iTunes (if you don’t have iCloud Photo Library enabled)
If you don’t yet have iCloud Photo Library enabled on your iPhone or iPad, you can use iTunes to sync your Mac or PC’s images to your iPhone. (If you do, skip to the next section.) Here’s how.
How to move photos from your Mac to iOS via iTunes
Prefer iTunes syncing to iCloud? No problem. It’s a piece of cake to get your images from Photos — or old versions of iPhoto or Aperture — to your iPhone or iPad, and you’ve got plenty of options for what you’d like to sync: albums, events (dates), and faces (people based on facial recognition), or individually choose a combination of albums, events, and faces that you want to sync.
Organize your photos accordingly in iPhoto, Photos, or Aperture.Plug in your iPad or iPhone to your Mac.Open iTunes, if it doesn’t open automatically.Click on the iOS device icon in the top bar, then click the Photos tab.Check the “Sync Photos” box.Choose iPhoto, Photos, or Aperture from the “Copy photos from” drop-down menu.Select the options you prefer.Click Sync in the bottom right corner.
Your iOS device will copy over all the images you’ve selected, and you’ll be set to go.
Move photos from your PC to iOS via iTunes
If you’re using external folders on a Mac to store pictures (or a Windows PC), you can instead sync your iPhone or iPad from that specific folder.
Organize your images into folders and subfolders.Plug in your iPad or iPhone to your Mac or PC.Open iTunes, if it doesn’t open automatically.Click on the iOS device icon in the top bar, then click the Photos tab.Check the “Sync Photos” box.Select “Choose folder” from the drop-down menu.Browse to your desired folder.Choose to sync “All folders” or “Selected folders”, and whether to include video.Click Sync in the bottom right corner.
How to use AirDrop to transfer photos from your Mac to your iPhone or iPad
If you have a newer Mac that supports AirDrop, you can wirelessly transfer batches of photos and videos from your Mac to your iPhone or iPad.
From the Finder, select the photos you’d like to transfer.In a new Finder window, select AirDrop from the side menu.Make sure your iPhone or iPad is unlocked and awake.Drag your selected files to the iPhone or iPad option in AirDrop.Depending on your Apple ID, you may need to press Accept on receiving iPhone or iPad.
From there, all selected photos and video will transfer. This works better for small batches of images, rather than your entire photo library; if you want to transfer all your Mac’s photos, you may be better off using iTunes.
How to use Dropbox to transfer photos from your Mac to your iPhone or iPad
If you’re not interested in using iPhoto, iTunes, or iCloud Photo Library, you can still view and share pictures from your Mac or PC: Just use Dropbox.
Dropbox actually has a pretty good walkthrough and upload tool for adding iPhoto images to your online storage space; alternatively, you can even drop your iPhoto library into Dropbox whole-hog and have those images show up in the Dropbox app — though I’d recommend doing that to a copy of your iPhoto Library, not the original, so as to prevent any potential sync errors.
How to use other services to transfer your Mac or PC’s images to your iPhone and iPad
If you prefer using Google Photos, Amazon’s service, or any other third-party provider, you can do so pretty easily. It usually involves syncing the images you’d like to sync via your Mac or PC, then downloading the iOS app in question on your iPhone or iPad. Here’s a roundup of our favorite image backup and sync services if you’re looking for an iCloud Photo Library alternative.
Any other questions?
Have a weird Mac to iPhone or iPad photos question we can answer? Something not working for you above? Visit our Q&A forums or sound off in the comments below.