How to Transfer Photos Directly from Camera to iPhone

While the iPhone might be the most-used camera in the world, it's far from the only camera. Many photographers—amateurs and professionals alike—tote other cameras with them when shooting.

When taking photos with the iPhone's camera, images are saved right to the device. But when using another camera, you need to transfer the photos to your iPhone's Photos app. Normally that involves syncing the images from your camera or SD card to your computer and then syncing your iPhone to transfer the photos to it.

But that isn't your only option. This article introduces you to 5 ways that you can transfer photos directly from your camera to your iPhone without having to use iTunes.

1
Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter

Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter
image credit: Apple Inc.

Maybe the simplest way to transfer photos from camera to iPhone, this US$29 adapter lets you plug your a USB cable (not included) into your camera, connect that to this adapter, and then plug this adapter into the Lightning port on your iPhone. 

When you do that, the built-in Photos app on your iPhone launches and offers an Import button to transfer the photos. Tap that button and then tap either Import All or select the individual photos you want and tap Import, and you'll be off and running.

It's worth noting that the process doesn't go the other direction: you can't use this adapter to upload photos from your phone to your camera.

Buy at Amazon

2
Apple Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

Apple Lightning SD Card Reader
image credit: Apple Inc.

This $29 adapter is similar to its sibling above, but rather than connecting the camera to the iPhone, pop the SD card out of the camera, insert it here and then plug this adapter into your iPhone's Lightning port.

When you do this, you'll get the same experience as with the other Apple adapter: the Photos app launches and prompts you to import some or all of the photos on the SD card.

While this option isn't quite as direct as the first one, it doesn't require you to keep a spare USB cable on hand, either.

Buy at Amazon

3
Wireless Adapter

Nikon Wireless Mobile Adapter
image credit: Nikon

Adapter are nice and all, but this is the 21st century and we like to do things wirelessly. You can, too, if you purchase a wireless camera adapter.

One good example is the Nikon Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter pictured here. Plug this into your camera and it turns into a Wi-Fi hotspot that your iPhone can connect to. Instead of getting Internet access, though, it's a hotspot dedicated to transferring photos from the camera to your phone.

It requires that you install Nikon's Wireless Mobile Utility app (Download at iTunes) to transfer the images. Once they're in the app, you can move them to other photo apps on your phone or share them via email or social media.

Expect to spend $25-$50 on this adapter.

Canon offers a similar device, in the form of its SD card-style W-E1 Wi-Fi Adapter for around $40.

Buy Nikon WU-1a at Amazon

4
Third Party SD Card Reader

Leef iAccess SD Card Reader
image credit: Leef

If you prefer to go the entirely third-party route, there are a number of adapters that will connect the SD card from your camera to your iPhone. One of these is the Leef iAccess reader shown here (expect to spend $40-$60).

With these, you remove the SD card from your camera, connect the adapter to your iPhone, insert the SD card, and import your photos. Depending on the accessory, you may need to install an app. The Leef device requires its MobileMemory app, for instance (Download at iTunes).

The Leef iAccess isn't the only option, of course. A search for "sd card reader lightning connector" at Amazon will return all sorts of multi-port, multi-connector, Frankenstein's Monster-looking adapters.

Buy at Amazon

5
Cloud Services

Dropbox Photos
image credit: Dropbox

If you prefer to avoid the hardware route entirely, check out a cloud service. Apple's iCloud Photo Library is the thing that may spring to mind, but unless you've got a way to get photos from your camera to it without a computer or an iPhone (and I don't think there's a way to do that), it won't work.

What will work, however, are services like Dropbox or Google Photos. You'll need some way to get the photos from your camera or SD card onto the services, of course. Once you do that, though, install the app for the cloud service you use and transfer the photos to the iOS Photos app. 

It's not quite as simple or elegant as using an adapter, but if you like the security of having your photos backed up in multiple locations—on SD card, in the cloud, and on your iPhone—it's a good option.

What To Do If the Import Button Doesn't Appear Using the Apple Adapters

If you're using either of the Apple adapters listed at the beginning of the article, and the Import button doesn't show up when you plug them in, try these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Confirm that your camera is on and in image-export mode
  2. Unplug the adapter, wait about 30 seconds, and plug it in again
  3. Unplug the camera or SD card, wait about 30 seconds, and try again
  4. Restart your iPhone.