Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

Summary: iPhone photos aren't automatically backed up, and if you need to restore it your could be deleted. Here are a couple of tricks for recovering precious photos on a restored iPhone.


Many people choose to launch iPhoto or Aperture when connecting the iPhones to Macs for the ritualistic "sync" operation -- but if you don't actually do it, or worse, disable the launch of a photo app you can leave your iPhone's photos in great peril.

The problem is that iPhone photos aren't automatically backed up, and if you trash your iPhone by installing one too many JB apps -- or otherwise need to restore it -- your precious photos could be deleted. On the last couple editions of the PowerPage podcast both Rob and I have lament losing iPhone photos in a hasty restore and a couple of good tricks for recovering data from restored iPhones were mentioned.

One listener (Andy Runton) suggested the free iPhone / iPod Touch Backup Extractor (at the memorable URL: which converts the proprietary backup files created by iTunes into human readable Mac OS X files.

Padraig Kennedy the developer of the free extractor software also recommends Menial's Base app to read the ".db" SQLite files that the iPhone Backup Extractor creates.

Another listener suggests Image Capture:

  1. Plug your iPhone into your Mac and let it do its sync, etc.
  2. Run ”Image Capture” (in the Applications folder)
  3. On the left, you’ll see your iPhone listed as a device and down
  4. At the bottom left under "connecting this iPhone opens:" choose ”AutoImporter”

Then each time you plug in your iPhone, Image Capture will launch and allow you to Import (or Import All) your photos to a location of your choosing. The problem is that the name is deceiving.

When you import this way a dialog comes up titled "Importing" and underneath that it says "Preparing import from iPhone" but it doesn't actually perform the import. I tried a couple of times and I had to click either the "Import" or "Import all" buttons for the action to happen. I was hoping that AutoImporter, would automatically import the photos -- silly me. Anyway, I hope that Apple fixes this and have submitted it to the iTunes feedback form.

As an alternative you can always use Image Capture to re-enable the automatic launching of iPhoto or Aperture -- but you'll still have to remember to import your photos there too. None of these is quite as seamless as something built into iTunes though and Apple needs to add automatic photo syncing to iTunes, soon.

Topics: Browser, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • I'm sure all of this is in the manual, right?

    Oh, wait, Apple products are sold as being so intuitive that no one needs to read the manual. Imagine their frustration then when they find that when iTunes is telling the user that it is backing up your iPhone, it turns out that it is not backing up the pictures you took with your iPhone. What exactly is iTunes backing up if it isn't the valuable data you have been capturing with one of the built in apps? Very, very, very unintuitive. Very, very, very dangerous.
    • Transfer iPhone/iPad/iPod data to computer

      The iPhone to computer transfer no only can help you backup Contacts, SMS messages to computer,but also supports backup other files,such as music, video, photo and more.If you use Windows computer or Mac,you can free download win/Mac version to backup your iPhone files to iTunes or Computer
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      • Get iPhone photos to computer, iPubsoft helpful!

        There are so many photos on my iPhone due to long time keeping without deleting anyone, so now i have to make the decision to get some photos to my Mac computer so that there will be plenty of places for new ones, and by the way, to make a backup. After comparing and trying a great many methods from the web, i found iPubsoft iPhone to Mac Transfer most smooth to use!
  • For the sake of the largest majority of iPhone users

    Could you please write a blog posting showing how to accomplish this goal in Windows? After all, most iPhone users use Windows, not OS X.

    Thanks in advance!
    • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

      In Windows, there is NOTHING to do.
      The iPhone appears as a regular disk drive (only the photos appear though). You just drag them to any folder as you would for any other piece of data you want to copy.
      • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone


        I use Windows Live Photo Gallery to import, save and organize my iPhone pics. I found that you run into a permissions problem when browsing the disk itself; it won't allow you to delete the files. Using WLPG, I can delete the pics after importing with a single click. Effortless. Just like any other digital camera.
    • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

      @NonZealot - You can use Picasa v3 or Windows Live Photo Gallery to connect, import and delete photos off your iPhone. You may need to set the Pictures AutoPlay in your version of Windows to the program of your choosing.
  • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

    We have some great iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch information on our digital forensic site, AppleExaminer. Our writers have many years in law enforcement and corporate digital forensics and share that experience with the community at large.
  • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

    Why disable the automatic iPhoto launch? If you've done that, how hard is it to:

    Open iPhoto.
    Click on "iPhone" listed under devices.
    Click on "import all."
  • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

    I use both Mac and PC laptops.

    On my Vaio (F series) running Vista, the iPhone appears as a removable drive when going to [My Computer] and checking which drives I have available. Clicking on that drive icon gives me access to all of my pics on the iPhone. I only have to copy them to the drive and folder of my choice.
    On my Acer One netbook running Windows 7, it is the same procedure.

    On my MacBookPro 15, well...... I have used iPhoto until now. But I did not have to worry too much about backing up on the mac since I had done it already on the Win machines.
    That is the irony though: It is easier to back up iPhone pics to a Win machine than to a Mac!

    I use both and for different tasks. Thus I will not enter into a war between fans of both religions....
    Life (of a computer) is too short!
  • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

    > The problem is that iPhone photos arent automatically backed up, <br><br>Sure? Apple says otherwise:<br><br>----------<br>iTunes will back up the following information<br>[...]<br><br>Camera Roll (Photos, screenshots, images saved, and videos taken. Videos greater than 2 GB are backed up with iOS 4.0 and later.)<br>[...]<br><br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a>
    Giesbert Damaschke
  • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone

    I find it funny that an article needs to be posted on this. Why would importing photos from iPhone to OSX be an issue at all? I don't use OSX, but I would figure Apple would make it effortless from one of their OS's to another. <br><br>I use Windows Live Photo Gallery on Win7. It's effortless. Connect, import, delete after import with one click, and done.
    • Wow, you're intelligent. Congrats.


      Hey, wow. Congrats. You've managed to do something the ZDNet blogger is too lazy to do.

      Like you, except on a Mac, it's just so simple. I plug in my iPhone. iPhoto opens instantly, and I click that magical little button "Import All". When it's done, iPhoto lets you know and displays a dialogue - "Would you like to delete these photos off (name)'s iPhone?" Click "Delete" and I'm done. It's really not that difficult, on any platform of your choosing. If anyone's as lazy as this author, then they really should invest the time in AppleScript or Windows PowerShell for that matter, and automate the damn process if he's really that upset about it.
      • RE: Tricks for importing photos from your iPhone


        Yep, and in addition, if you then sync your phone, it'll automatically copy those photos back to your iPhone, assuming you've set up the sync function to do that with your photos. If you don't want them synced back, just set the sync to not sync photos.

        Easy, simple, and just works, like everything else Apple.
  • iPhone Backup Extractor for Windows and how to recover photos from backup

    There is the iPhone Backup Extractor Windows version too at And for those of you wanting to recover photos from older iTunes backups or from corrupt or encrypted ones you could give it a go.

    One Click Backup/Transfer iPhone Data to Computer or iTunes

    To transfer iPhone files to computer or copy data from computer to iPhone, you need to use the 3rd iPhone Transfer software like Mobilego for iPhone, this iPhone manager allows you transfer contacts, SMS messages, movies, music, photos and more between iPhone to Computer, or transfer iPhone 5s contents to iTunes. Next, let’s learn to transfer files between iPhone and your Computer without USB drive. However, before you update or download your iPhone, you can use this iPhone manager software to backup all iPhone files to computer, in order to avoiding data loss.
  • backup iPhone photos to computer

    Saving photos in iPhone is never a smart idea. Many iPhone users get the photos lost when syncing iPhone with iTunes or upgrading the iOS. Therefore, backing up iPhone photos seems to be an important work to iPhone users. You can take advantage of iTunes and iCloud to backup iPhone photos. The backups you make include all important data in your iPhone, such as notes, calendar, reminders and so on. You are also able to use third party software to backup iPhone photos, the software may enables you to back up the photos separately.