I just want to snap a photo on my phone and work with it on my Mac. Currently I text it to myself (so it comes up in Messages on the desktop)-- quick but hacky. Email is 2nd option (slower). Airdrop doesn't work iPhone to Mac.

I guess the "official" method would be via iPhoto-- but Photo Stream takes time to sync and even after it does, launching iPhoto and exporting a single image to JPG is massively more complicated than it should be, so going this route is really the last resort.

Is the answer Dropbox Photo Sync, or some other 3rd-party app/service?

(P.S. to mods, AFAIK this is not a dupe question-- I searched existing questions closely before posting.)

  • Does airdrop work for you now
    – markhunte
    Jan 12, 2015 at 10:44

8 Answers 8


Photo Stream isn't actually as bad as it seems. You don't need to launch iPhoto to get the photo — it's already on your Mac and much faster than it appears in iPhoto.

Your Photo Stream is stored in:

~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub

Go to this folder and sort by date. Inside those folders are JPGs of all your photos.

You can create a smart folder to only show JPGs sorted by date modified which gives you an automatic updating folder of your pictures. Drag this smart folder to your Dock for immediate, real-time access.

  • This is a brilliant idea, but I see in the folder that a bunch of my current PhotoStream images are in subfolders in /sub. Any ideas?
    – Eric
    Apr 18, 2014 at 0:14
  • @Eric Yes — see the last paragraph: create a smart folder. Alternatively, just open the folders.
    – grg
    Apr 18, 2014 at 7:09
  • @grgarside This directory seems to be about a month behind for me even after I opened iPhoto and synced.
    – dwightk
    Apr 18, 2014 at 15:00
  • @grgarside Ah, I've looked into it further. Very strange. /sub has 1016 folders, each with one image inside, and it's fully up-to-date. That's the good news. The bad news is that whenever I make a Smart Folder to pull images from there, it only pulls 330 of the oldest images. No idea why it won't get them all, or who it wants the oldest images, but c'est la vie. I'll open the folders manually for now. Thanks for the tip!
    – Eric
    Apr 18, 2014 at 15:37
  • Doesn't exist on macOS Ventura Dec 9, 2022 at 4:33


Transfer Image or Text between your iPhone and Mac

You can do this with AirBridge. This lets you transfer images and text between your iOS device and Mac in a similar way to AirDrop, except through a Wi-Fi network.

Open the iOS app and make sure the menu bar app is running, then in the iOS app you can tap a button to send the last photo that was taken or to select a photo from your Camera Roll. This sends the photo over the network to your Mac and ends up in your Downloads folder.

  • What a great pair of apps. Dec 11, 2014 at 22:53

If you are willing to plug your iPhone into your Mac, try using Preview. Once the iPhone is connected to the Mac, bring up Preview and click on "File" and select "import from iPhone". (This option will not be listed unless your iPhone is plugged in to your Mac.) You will see a screen full of thumbnail images of all the photos on your iPhone. You can select "import all" or you can select a single image, or hold down the "command" key to make any number of individual selections. When you click on "Import" and select a destination, the photo will be on your Mac in the location you chose. (This same procedure also works for importing a file from another device, an SD card, for example, as long as it's plugged into your Mac.)


Personally, I use PhotoSync and its OS X companion app to transfer photos from my iPhone to my Mac over wifi (and to any other device that is running the app). PhotoSync also has a "auto transfer" feature that will automatically transfer new photos in the camera roll when you are at a predefined location. There are also several other apps, such as Instashare or Image Transfer that will accomplish this kind of transfer in much the same way.

Services like Dropbox, OneDrive, etc, will also do what you need (the iOS apps usually also have a automatic "camera roll backup" style feature) and most provide an OS X app to create a folder on your Mac where the files get synced. However, unlike a direct wifi transfer, you have the overhead of having to upload/download files over the internet first.

Finally, if you don't mind physically connecting your phone to your Mac, you could also use the built-in Image Capture app (in /Applications/Image Capture.app) to import your photos.

  • Agreed, the fastest way would not be via wifi or any network but to physically connect your phone to your computer.
    – traisjames
    Apr 17, 2014 at 19:15

I like to use a quick little script to grab the latest image from the command line - lastpic. This probably isn't the type of solution you're looking for, but it's useful if you work at the command line a lot.


Connect your phone to your Mac via USB. Don't launch iTunes. Instead, launch Image Capture, an app that comes with your Mac. Download from there.


If you don't mind not using a GUI and being jailbroken, I use SSH for this purpose. It's a simple rsync command (on the device, OpenSSH and rsync must be installed via Cydia):

rsync -av --progress --delete-after mobile@my_device_name:~/Media/DCIM/10?APPLE/ $HOME/documents/pictures/from-ipad

To sync the PhotoStream images, I have a Bash function (on the iOS device, GNU find and coreutils also must be installed via Cydia):

isync-photostream ()
    local i=0;
    local device="${1:-my_iphone}"

    # The actual directory is uniquely named
    # If you have only screenshots (PNGs) this will not work
    local stream_dir=$(ssh "$device" 'dirname $(find ~/Media/PhotoStreamsData -iname '*.jpg' | head -n 1)' 2>/dev/null);

    if ! echo "$stream_dir" | fgrep -q 'PhotoStreamsData'; then
        echo 'Could not get directory'
        return 1

    rsync --progress --force --delete-after -rltvd "$device":"${stream_dir}/" "$HOME/documents/pictures/photo-stream"

You may want to customise the rsync commands to not delete (by removing --delete-after). I prefer 1:1 backups most of the time when I use rsync.

  • By the way, syncing PhotoStream is kind of iffy nowadays. The real way is to figure out the database schema Apple is using. I did do that research but never really finished satisfactorily. At this point it would be easier to enable iCloud Photos and make some client of script that scrapes icloud.com with their APIs.
    – Tatsh
    May 7, 2016 at 22:05

You can also select the photo on your iPhone, press the share button and use AirDrop (if your mac is on the same network). It'll automatically download it to your mac and put it in the Downloads folder.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .