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In order to save myself from having to convert files from HEIC format, I decided to send the photos from my phone to my computer using Messages.

I clicked this icon next to the photos in the MacOS Messages app:

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And it turned into a little Victory sign to tell me the photos had been saved:

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So I went into my Downloads folder to find them... Alas, the photos were not there. I went into Documents. The photos were not there. I went into the Pictures folder... to no avail.

I went into Messages Settings, foolishly hoping that a download location could be defined by the user. It can't. I double-clicked the image and it opened in Quick Look, then I clicked "Open in Preview" in Quick Look and the image opened in Preview.

But clicking on the image name atop the Preview window did not reveal the mysterious saving location. I do not want the 4 images to open in Preview, I want them to open in Illustrator.

I went back to the Messages app to download them again and an error message warned me that "The photos have already been saved to the Photos Library". The error message did not offer a "View photos in folder" shortcut - which would have been useful.

I opened Spotlight and naively typed "Photo Library" which returned no results. I typed the name of the image as it appeared at the top of the Preview window - "IMG_8709" - but there are no files with this name in my computer.

When I download locally photos from a text message in MacOS Messages, where are the files?

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  • Launch the Photos app and look in the Imports album. If you want to export the photos as files, select them and then select Export from the File menu.
    – Linc D.
    Oct 14, 2023 at 1:34
  • This is a bit of an XY Problem. I've skirted your actual question as to where they go, because frankly, though you can dig photos out of the Photos Library, it's more effort than it's worth. Instead, I've provided three [& a half] ways to not have this problem in the first place.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 14, 2023 at 14:09

1 Answer 1

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There are three ways I can think of to get around this, & a 'get out of jail free' card for existing images.

  1. If you've already sent it as a Message - right click the image & select 'Show in Finder'.

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Messages attachments are buried inside a horribly long path you wouldn't think to look in… e.g.
/private/var/folders/nc/c83zpk8x7kd9qrxrd3nnbfym0000gn/T/com.apple.iChat/Messages/Transfers/_DSD8739-.JPEG

Alternatively…
First set your phone to send compatible images, JPG rather than HEIC - Settings > Photos > Transfer to Mac or PC > Automatic.

  1. Send the pictures via Airdrop rather than Messages.
    These will arrive in your regular downloads folder - which will even be helpfully opened for you at the right place.

  2. Use Image Capture.
    This app is actually the 'brains' behind the Photos.app import structure - launch, plug your phone into your Mac & unlock it. Then select in the left sidebar and set your download location. Note here you can also tell the Mac which app to launch when any phone, camera or SD card containing photos is connected. It remembers each device's setting individually.
    I set mine to 'No application' because often I just want to charge my phone, I don't always want Photos or Image Capture to spring up.
    Below this, you can tell it to delete photos after import or not & also "Keep originals" or not [This can be set independently of the setting on your phone.] As you toggle this, you'll see the file list immediately changes from HEIC to JPG.

enter image description here

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Select, using shift or command, the images you want to copy over & click Import.

And finally - your 'get out of jail free' card

To quickly convert any HEIC files already on your Mac, make a new Automator Quick Action [Service].
Set Workflow receives - 'image files' in Finder.
Add 'Change Type of Images' - to type JPEG.

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Save with a memorable name.
Then in System Preferences [Settings] > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services, give it a key command [I use Cmd ⌘ Shift ⇧ Opt ⌥ J ] then all you need to do to convert is select HEIC [or anything else] photos in Finder, hit the key command.
Hey Presto! Jpegs.

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  • Thank you for your thorough comment. I do feel that changing the settings to JPG and reverting them to HEIC each times makes it very cumbersome (HEIC is better, no? Like RAW?) I really just wanted to send a HEIC and drag/drop (is that still a thing?) a JPG on the other end. I usually use Send Anywhere and convert using photoshop which makes me bang my head against the wall at how complicated it still is (my treshold for complication is very low). A simple "send to the nearest computer ? -As JPG / -As HEIC / -As both" option would take Apple employees 2 minutes to code. Oct 17, 2023 at 23:22
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    I can't fix how Apple decided to do things;) All I can offer are the three separate methods to get what you actually wanted - a jpg on your Mac. If you want both, you can set Automator to duplicate the file first, then covert the copy, or import twice from Image Capture, once with each setting.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 18, 2023 at 9:37
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    I know, thank you for your help 🙂 sorry for the rant Oct 18, 2023 at 19:28

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