Get Your Photos Off Your Phone Now!

Cool middle aged woman sitting in sidewalk cafe and using a phone

Do you have thousands of photos just sitting on your iPhone? I find that some parents have never even downloaded or deleted any of the photos from their phone… so here are two simple strategies to help you get this under control, depending on your software and setup.

Option 1: Use Photo Stream and either Aperture or iPhoto (Mac users only)

1a) First of all, if you haven’t already, turn on Photo Stream by going to Settings/iCloud on your phone and making sure Photo Stream is on.

When you are in Photos and you tap on Photo Stream you should see “My Photo Stream” (it may take a little while after you first turn it on).

The last 1,000 photos on your phone are now backed up to iCloud.

1b) Import all your photos into iPhoto or Aperture.

Do this by plugging your phone into your computer and clicking on “import”.

1c) Turn Photo Stream on in iPhoto or Aperture and select the option to have photos from Photo Stream automatically download.

I prefer not to have photos from iPhoto or Aperture upload automatically as it would just be too much to have all my photos intermingled.

1d) Now you are all set! Your iPhone photos will magically appear within iPhoto or Aperture!

One note though – make sure you plug your phone in at least once a month and download videos and any stray photos that Photo Stream may have missed (check the “do not import duplicates” option).

At that time you can also delete old photos – I like to delete photos from the previous month but one (eg at the beginning of October I will delete the photos from August).

Option 2: Use Photo Stream and Dropbox (if your photo editing software does not automatically import from Photo Stream or if you are not using photo editing software)

2a) Same as 1a above – turn on Photo Stream on your phone

2b) Similar to 1b above – import all your photos into your photo editing software or onto your desktop

2c) Sign up for a free Dropbox account if you don’t already have one.

Install Dropbox on your computer desktop and download the app to your iPhone.

2d) Turn on Camera Uploads in Dropbox on your iphone.

When you first open Dropbox, you may be prompted to turn Camera Uploads on, or if you are a current user, you can tap on the settings icon in the bottom right hand corner and turn Camera Upload on there.

I have “Use Cellular Data” turned off so photos only upload via WiFi but I have “Background Uploading” on.

2e) Your iPhone photos will now automatically upload to a folder called “Camera Uploads” within your Dropbox account and in the Dropbox folder on your desktop.

Import these photos into your photo editing software on a regular basis (I recommend weekly). You can also share this folder with others.

Note: once again, I would still plug your phone in at least once a month to download any stray videos or photos that may have been missed.


As I said above, at that time you can also delete old photos – I like to delete photos from the previous month but one (eg at the beginning of October I will delete the photos from August).

For more help with photo organization, check out a series of posts on the Photosanity blog from earlier this year that cover this topic in more detail.