I have a MacBook, an iPhone, and an iPad all using the same iCloud account to sync photos, among other things. There are photos on the iPhone in its Camera Roll, Photo Stream, the iPhoto app, and Camera+. On the iPad, there are a bunch of photos in iPhoto that I've processed and modified.

As a result, the two devices have already eaten the 5 GB of free space provided for iCloud backups. What is a safe and methodical workflow to get the photos off of the devices and into the Mac's iPhoto library without losing edits made on the iPad, and without duplicating a lot of photos?

  • I assume you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated than "copy every library to iPhoto@Mac and weed out duplicates"? But it may very well be the only way.
    – nohillside
    Feb 28, 2013 at 18:25
  • 4 ways, 1 photostream, 2 iPhoto , 3 image capture app on your mac, aldready there for that purpose! and 4th, little harder... and app called iExplorer!
    – Macmaniman
    Mar 3, 2013 at 14:14

4 Answers 4


As an alternative to PhotoStream, I use PhotoSync to reliably move photos to my Mac without losses. This is via wifi from PhotoSync on the iPad to the PhotoSync Companion on the Mac. You will then need to import those photos into iPhoto on the Mac.

Without duplicates is bit harder. PhotoSync will synchronise your photos without considering what you may have transferred using other methods (e.g. PhotoStream and iCloud). So you will need to find duplicates yourself - either don't transfer those you already have in Mac iPhoto, or transfer the lot and sort out later on your Mac.

Regarding a precise workflow, I suggest you play around with PhotoSync and then you will quickly develop a workflow which suits you.


The Image Capture utility, available as part of Mac OS X in Applications or Launchpad, can detect images that you have already imported and display a green checkmark next to the thumbnail. Unfortunately, it can only tell that you've already imported the photo if it resides in the same directory you're importing to. It also supports importing into the iPhoto library, but it can't show duplicates there.

I also will second that PhotoSync is a great app – it allows syncing on WiFi without connecting the USB cable, which is great for someone like me who uses all available USB ports on a regular basis.


I would use Photostream to get all of the photo's off of your devices and onto your Mac as it will take care of the duplicate issues you are having.

The iPhone is already taken care of, as all of the camera roll photo's should be in your Photostream already. As for the iPad and your iPhoto modifications, you can use the iPhoto "Edited" album that the app has. This album contains every photo that you have modified in iPhoto. Open the iPad's iPhoto "Edited" album, turn on the thumbnail grid, select and hold a photo to enable multi-photo-select and then select all of the modified photos. Once you have selected all of the modified photo's, use the Share button to send them to your iPad's camera roll. Photostream will then sync those photo's to your Mac's Photostream. No duplicate photo's.

Also, in the future, if you take pictures with your iPhone and they arrive in your iPad's Photostream, you can save them to your iPad Camera Roll and they do not get re-synced as a duplicate to Photostream. This lets you save local copies to each device's Camera Roll if you want and you don't have to worry about syncing duplicate's from Photostream to your Mac.

Hope this helps!

  • I manage all of my photos with Photostream (PS). My devices send their Camera Roll photos (not including duplicates) to my PS. I then open Aperture/iPhoto on my Mac, import all of the photos in PS. Once the import is completed, I move all of the PS photos to a new PS called "My Saved Photos". Once the photos are fully uploaded to the "My Saved Photos" PS, I delete everything from "My Photostream". This does two things, 1 it ensures that I avoid any duplicates ever getting imported into Aperture or iPhoto, & 2 it also provides me with all of my PS photo's on my devices, with very little effort. Mar 2, 2013 at 18:49

To transfer photos from your iPad to computer, you need to have iTunes installed on your PC.
Connect your iPad to the computer with the data cable. Launch iTunes, and click on the iPad icon from under Devices. Click on the Photos tab, and check the box "Sync photos from." Click "Choose folder" from the drop-down menu, and select your picture folder.
Now that the folder is on iTunes, you can select the photos you want to transfer to your iPad, or transfer them all.
Finally, click the Sync/Apply button at the bottom right of the page. The pictures will transfer to your computer. Another option is to buy a photo transfer app for the iPad, which enables Wi-Fi photo transfers.

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