Previously, on Windows, an iPhone was recognized as a camera and I could browse the image folder with Explorer without a need to import/download/transfer photo files to the computer.

Is there a way to do the same on macOS? All approaches I have ever read about are somehow connected to import procedure (iPhoto, Preview, iTunes, etc.) or to hacking the iPhone and installing some apps that will allow to mount the phone as storage drive work.

What is the easiest and most straightforward way to view that files without transferring them to a computer?


9 Answers 9


The Image Capture app allows you to browse the iPhone's photos, albeit not at full size or resolution, without first downloading the image files to your computer. Image Capture also gives you the tools to download all or selected subranges of the photos on your iPhone, as well as deletion.

  • Preview of the photos I can see also in Preview, iPhoto and etc. If Image Capture do the same, then it is not the option I am looking for.
    – glaz666
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 15:56
  • 1
    Image Capture allows me to delete straight off the device. Love it. Thanks
    – motto
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 16:44
  • My answer indicates that the photos are not dowloaded onto your Macintosh in the course of viewing them, which is what you're asking.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 0:14

use ibrowse its free and quite straight forward


navigate to the Media\DCIM\10*APPLE folders to find the camera roll photos

  • Welcome to Ask Different! Could you add some detail on how exactly this will solve the problem?
    – grg
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 7:39
  • That is a really nice free iPhone browser! Just go into the DCIM folder (not the Photos one ;) ) and you can go through all your photos. REALLY fast too.
    – Nick
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 12:01
  • Awesome app - works great! - it's not available anymore on ibrowseapp.com that I could see, but still available from cnet: download.cnet.com/iBrowse/3000-2248_4-75999576.html
    – Matt
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 17:48

iPhoto will show you a preview of the photos on your phone, and you can view the photos without importing/downloading/transferring/etc.


I found a solution here: Basically, with Photostream activated, you can set up a search criteria in Finder to quickly access photos you've take on your iPhone without having to do much work (ie, importing with a separate app, hooking up your device to your computer via usb, etc.)

enter image description here

Locate the Photo Stream in the Finder

Since the user’s Library folder is now hidden by default, I can’t just give you the file path. In the Finder, option-click on the Go menu and hit “Library.” Then navigate to Application Support > iLifeAssetManagement > assets > sub. In the search filed, type “png”; then select “Portable Network Graphics image” from the popup.

Save the Search

Click the Save button under the search field. Give the saved search a name like “Screenshots.” Leave “Add to Sidebar” checked.

This ought to be the end, but it’s not. For some reason, this particular saved search acts up when accessed from the Finder sidebar (at least on my version of OS X). Sometimes it works, sometimes it returns zero results. The fix for this is to add it to the Dock instead. Hit up the contextual menu and do that.

  • 4
    It should be noted that this still transfers the files to the user's Mac; they just don't need to be manually transferred. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 20:19
  • 1
    Indeed, this is not looking at photos on the iPhone, this is looking at photos from the iPhone, transferred automatically. As Photo Stream only contains the last 1,000 images, whereas an iPhone may contain many more photos than that (including more recent images not yet magically synced), this is therefore substantially different to browsing the DCIM folder of an attached iPhone like it's a drive. Commented Mar 1, 2014 at 22:32

Open the "Preview"-App, select "File-Import from (your iphone)" and you can manage your photos as you want. To me the most straightforward way.

  • 3
    The OP wants to browse the photos without importing them to the computer.
    – tubedogg
    Commented Sep 18, 2016 at 1:56
  • Although not an answer for OP's question, this is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!
    – Micer
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 19:57

This isn't as direct as just plugging your iPhone into a computer, but it's possible to browse your iPhone photos via dropbox instead.

Just install Dropbox (via ** www.dropbox.com/) , and use the "Enable Dropbox Camera Import" preference setting.

** Updated : just search for "dropbox" on the app store, it's free. **

Now, every time that your iPhone (or any iDevice setup this way) is connected to the USB charging cable that is connected to your computer, all of your new photos and videos are automatically imported into your Dropbox folder.

ALSO worth noting : Just by using this feature, you can earn more FREE Dropbox space.

  • 1
    Dropbox's Camera Upload feature works without a cable. More importantly, glaz666 is looking for a solution that won't transfer the photos to his computer, which this would (unless he looked at the photos online). Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 16:44

The only way that I know of to view full-size content on an iPhone…

  • On a device other than said iPhone, and
  • Without transferring the content onto said other device

…is to use AirPlay. You can use an Apple TV to view your photos on your television, or use a third-party app such as Reflector App (no affiliation) to turn your Mac into an AirPlay receiver.

While I can't test this method myself, it should allow you to wirelessly view (but not edit or transfer) photos on your iPhone using your Mac. I would imagine that you could preview photos with AirPlay while simultaneously using Image Capture to select photos for transferring.


All answers here are about viewing previews or recommending legacy solutions.

I recommend using the shareware application Imazing to view full size photos and HDR+ videos from iPhone without being imported for versions up to iOS 15.5 and above.


You can open the Photos app on your Mac, then on the left side bar you'll see your iPhone icon. If you click on it you can see all your pictures, just like when you open it on Windows Explorer!


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