Transfer Photos from Android to Mac OS X

Feb 8, 2013 - 17 Comments

The easiest way to copy pictures from an Android device and to a Mac is using one of the image transfer apps that is bundled with OS X. That’s because all Android devices, including the popular Nexus and Galaxy S series, should be picked up by the standard camera apps in OS X as if they were a digital camera, all you’ll need to do is launch an appropriate app and connect the Android device to the Mac with a USB cable. We say ‘should’ because it doesn’t always work that way, so another great option is to use the Android File Transfer app, and when Image Capture or otherwise fails it’s almost guaranteed to work. We’ll walk through transferring photos from Android to your Mac with both of those solutions.

Transfer photos from Android to Mac

Longtime Mac users familiar with digital cameras or the iOS world will find that with the exception of the AFT app, these are the same methods used when copying pictures from an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to a computer as well.

Copying Pictures from Android with Image Capture

Image Capture is the preferred choice for transferring pictures from just about any digital device to the Mac. It’s fast, efficient, provides a thumbnail preview, and lets you delete the pictures from the device afterwards if you want. It’s no frills but gets the job done quick:

  • Connect the Android device to the Mac with a USB cable
  • Launch “Image Capture”, which is found in the /Applications/ folder
  • Select the Android phone under the ‘Devices’ list on the left side of Image Capture
  • Optionally but recommended, select a destination folder for the photos
  • Click the “Import All” button to transfer all pictures on the device to the Mac

Image Capture also lets you selectively pull pictures off the device by selecting them from the window, then choosing “Import” rather than the Import All button.

Transfer photos from Android to Mac with Image Capture

When finished, locate the destination folder you specified in the OS X Finder and all of your pictures will be there.

Some Android devices seem to have issues with Image Capture though, and if you encounter any such problems you should download Google’s Android File Transfer utility and use that instead.

Copying Photos to the Mac with Android File Transfer

Android File Transfer is a file management app that lets you copy files to and from a Mac to an Android device, and naturally that means you’ll also have access to photos and movies too. If for some reason there is an issue with Image Capture not recognizing the Android device, then Android File Transfer is the next best thing and will almost certainly recognize the device so long as it’s running Android 3.0 or later (most devices are):

  • If you haven’t done so yet, download FileTransfer from Android.com and install it on your Mac by placing it into the /Applications/ folder
  • Connect the Android device to the Mac with a USB cable
  • Launch Android File Transfer and wait for it to recognize the device
  • Photos are stored in one of two locations, the “DCIM” folder and/or the “Pictures” folder, look in both
  • Use drag & drop to pull the photos from Android to the Mac

Android File Transfer will show a progress bar with the estimated time remaining, how many pictures are copying over, and an option to cancel the file copy.

Copy photos from Android to Mac

In terms of the two folders, “DCIM” tends to be where pictures taken with the digital camera apps appear, whereas “Pictures” is usually where photos saved from apps appear. That is not always the case though, which is why we recommend looking in both locations to be sure you find the items you’re looking for.

Android File Transfer is one of those apps that all Mac users who also own an Android tablet or phone should have handy. You’ll find that if you explore the device a bit with AFT, there is access to much of the Android devices file system. Though it’s neat to have raw direct access to a lot of these files some of the data shouldn’t be bothered with manually, and for things like email, calendars, and notes, you can sync those between Mac OS X and Android with fairly little effort.

Using iPhoto

iPhoto should recognize the Android device as a camera immediately upon launch. There isn’t much to using iPhoto for this purpose, just launch the app after connecting the device to the Mac and it should gather all photos and provide an option to import them all. iPhoto really functions more as an image manager mores than a transfer app though, so we won’t spend too much time on it for this purpose.

Using Preview App

Preview is the standard image viewing application for OS X that can also serve as a means of copying photos from cameras, phones, and tablets.

  • Launch Preview after connecting the Android device to the Mac
  • Pull down the “File” menu and near the bottom of the menu options choose “Import from (device name)”
  • Select the images to transfer, then choose “Import”

Preview’s interface for copying pictures is a lot like Image Capture, but with less options, and there is also no option to automatically launch and import the photos upon connection.

Thanks to Jaydeep for the tip idea

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

17 Comments

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  1. Robbertvdd says:

    When will OSXDaily finally stop telling its readers to search for an application in the Applications folder? We don’t live in the ’90s anymore, it’s 2013. We don’t start an application from the Finder anymore, we’ve been using Launchpad for a long time now and even before Launchpad we had the Applications stack in our Dock.

    • Mark says:

      Forget all that, use Spotlight to launch applications instead. Covers all versions of OS X and it’s the fastest.

    • DG says:

      Don’t be so shortsighted. There is no telling what OS people are using, only that it’s OSX.
      I know plenty of systems still on 10.4 and even more on 10.5, and these are not going to have Launchpad.

      OSXDaily have posted a solution for everybody.

      • Paul says:

        We try to always point out the full path when possible, because sometimes we talk about apps that are in less obvious places, whether it’s the /Applications/Utilities/ folder or ones that are buried within the System folders. Spotlight and Launchpad are definitely two fast and easy ways to launch apps though!

  2. CRB says:

    Or the easiest way: get a Dropbox account and use the photo upload feature of Dropbox for Android (or iOS, for that matter) to sync all your photos with your Dropbox account.

    • Buzzr says:

      What @CRB describes ends up being a lot like Photo Stream for Mac and iOS, all of your pictures will sync themselves between Dropbox on Android and Dropbox on the Mac or PC. Windows users have it the easiest though, they can access the Android camera like it’s a folder in My Computer with Plug and Play.

      By the way for anyone in the market, the Nexus 4 and Galaxy S3 are two really good phones that work very well with the Mac without a fuss.

  3. Crunch says:

    Hah…I was literally browsing out of boredom only to find EXACTLY the answer to a question that I needed an answer to for my GF’s Galaxy S III. Well, almost. I’m actually not only trying to get her photos off her Android device, but move them to the 16GB microSD card that I just installed for her the other day. Being unfamiliar with Android as an OS, I did make her SD card the destination for all future pics/videos that she likes to shoot, but she’s still running out of main memory.

  4. George says:

    No! This will not work with a Samsung S3 with Jelly Bean OS or even the older OS. Just download Samsung Kies and forget about it. I wish it did work because I always like generic solutions over proprietary. It’s Samsung’s fault not Apple’s. Still love my Samnsung S3!

  5. Rajesh says:

    Thank you for posting this article. I stumbled upon your page when trying to find a way to transfer images from a Google Nexus 5 running Android KitKat 4.4 to my Macbook. I thought that simply connecting the phone to the USB port would show the phone as a USB drive. But that wasn’t the case! While your instructions may be correct for Android 4.3 and prior releases, I want to share about the enhancements made to KitKat which make it easier to use Image Capture for transferring images to a Macbook.

    After connecting my Nexus 5 to the computer, I started Image Capture but the device wasn’t recognized. On the phone, there was a notification that a USB connection has been detected. Touching the notification brought up the “USB Computer Connection” screen which has two options with checkboxes as listed below.

    1) Connect AS:
    Media Device (MTP)
    Lets you transfer media files on Windows, or using Android File Transfer on Mac (see http://www.android.com/filetransfer)

    2) Camera (PTP)
    Let’s you transfer photos using camera software, and transfer any files on computers that don’t support MTP

    The default is option 1 due to which phone will NOT be recognized by any photo software. I selected option 2 and now was able to see my photos in Image Capture.
    Hope this helps!

  6. Mac User says:

    Thanks!!!

  7. christina says:

    can someone please help me… i have a note and it wont let me copy anything, says the files are not valid

  8. Anna says:

    Using an HTC one and MacBook pro with OSX. Can’t get image capture to recognize or browse device to link with phone. I searched for apps or software to correct this, does anyone know of an easier solution? Using file transfer, you may not send the photos directly to iPhoto but only to desktop or downloads which is rather inconvenient having to move them all. I’m creating a photo album and the extra work after transferring hundreds of photos is awful. Suggestions?! Please and thank you! :)

    • Ph says:

      In my experience the easiest way to transfer Android photos directly into iPhoto on a Mac is by importing them as usual as described here, then dragging & dropping that entire folder into the iPhoto icon on the dock. This will start the import process in bulk. You can also import them directly from iPhoto from the Android by connecting it as a USB drive, but it seems slower.

  9. Maybellene says:

    Wow I did it, with the help of the instructions on this page! I have a new Mac Mini and a Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone and I wanted to get the photos off of the phone. Image Capture didn’t work, so I googled around for help and found this page. By using the DCIM option in Android File Transfer I found my photos and moved them onto my desktop into their own folder. 700 megs worth of pix took under a minute to transfer. I am thrilled as I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this.

    Maybellene in Ontario Canada

  10. Janet says:

    I want to copy my photos from my Galaxy Nexus to my iMac. While I want a copy of all the photos on my iMac, I do want to retain some on my phone. I’m unclear if I will simultaneously be deleting them from the phone or not by following the above instructions. Can someone answer this, please?

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