Some users report an issue in which Photos (or iPhoto on older OS) no longer recognizes the iPhone as a camera. Consequently, you are unable to import images from the device to your Windows or Mac computer.
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We see this problem most often after an iOS, macOS or OS X software update, or following a firmware update. And of course, sometimes it’s just totally random.
Here’s what you can do if the Photos app or iPhoto won’t recognize your iPhone.
Fixes for Photos or iPhoto Won’t Recognize iPhone
You can try several fixes if iPhoto or Photos won’t recognize your iPhone, and we’ll run through some of the best options below.
Make Sure Your Computer Is Trusted
When you connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod to a computer for the first time or after a reinstall, you might see an alert that asks whether you trust the computer.
Confirm on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod that it trusts your Mac. You will need to enter your device’s code if you’ve enabled two-factor authentication (2FA).
Close Final Cut Pro or iMovie
In some cases, Final Cut Pro or iMovie interferes with Photos’ ability to recognize the iPhone.
Try quitting both of these applications on your Mac, and then disconnect and reconnect your iPhone. Your device will likely also run more quickly when you quit these programs and focus on your iPhone.
Manually Select Your Device
If Photos does not automatically recognizes and open your device, try instead to select your device from the View menu or sidebar manually. Below is an image of where you’ll find the View menu.
Meanwhile, here’s what the sidebar will look like…
Either go to the top menu or the left sidebar in Photos, and choose Devices. Then, choose your device. Wait for your photos to populate.
Don’t See the Photos App Sidebar?
For macOS versions, try viewing the Photos app in Full-Screen Mode by selecting View > Enter Full Screen or using the keyboard shortcut of Command + Control+ F.
Also, make sure that Always Show Toolbar and Sidebar in Full Screen is enabled for your View settings.
For older OS X, to display the sidebar in Photos, choose View > Show Sidebar, or press Command-Option-S.
On MacBooks, try hovering your mouse over the left edge of the Photos app window until you see a crosshair. Then, drag that crosshair to the right to reveal the Photo app sidebar.
Change Photo Settings
If using iOS 11 and above, which will be a large number of people reading this guide, it’s possible that your Mac doesn’t recognize the HEIC format for images. This is also why you may encounter problems when trying to open or import HEIC files on your computer, especially when compared to JPEG images.
So, turning off the new HEIC image file format often does the trick.
On your iPhone, go to Settings > Camera > Formats and select Most Compatible.
Check Your Cables!
Make sure that you use the original cable that came with your iPhone. If that’s not available, check that your cable is Apple Certified Made For iPhone (MFI.)
Many cables purchased via third-parties no longer work with Apple Products.
A few readers tell us that simply switching the lightning plug ends around worked. So, remove the cable from both the Mac and the iPhone, then swap sides.
What we mean by this is plug the end that was going into the Mac into the iPhone and vice-versa.
Reset Location and Privacy Info
On your iPhone:
- Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Reset.
- From the dropdown menu, choose Reset Location & Privacy. Performing this action resets all connections between your iPhone and your Mac.
Sometimes, fixing this problem is as simple as restarting your iPhone and/or Mac. This action refreshes the connection between the devices and forces iTunes to scan for all connected devices.
If a restart didn’t do the trick, try a forced reboot on the iPhone while it’s connected to iTunes.
Perform a Forced Restart
- On an iPhone 6S or below plus iPads with Home buttons & iPod Touches, press Home and Power at the same time until you see the Apple logo.
- For iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus: Press and hold both the Side and Volume Down buttons for at least 10 seconds, until you see the Apple logo.
- On an iPhone X Series, iPads without a Home button, or iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus: Press and quickly release the Volume Up button. Then, press and promptly release the Volume Down button. Finally, press and hold the Side button until you see the Apple logo.
It appears that the presence of some imported images (or strangely enough screenshots) taken on the iPhone can cause this problem.
Try deleting all pictures on your iPhone except for those that were made with the device’s camera, then disconnect and reconnect your iPhone.
It’s worth backing up your images before doing this on an external hard drive. This tip can be time-consuming, so we recommend looking at other options before trying it.
Turn Your iPhone Off and Back On When Still Connected
Failing the above, try opening Photos app/iPhoto and connecting your iPhone, before then turning the iPhone off. Wait a few seconds and turn it back on.
Contact Apple Support
If none of these tips work, you might want to contact Apple directly.
Consider reporting your problem to Apple via this link. You can also use the Apple Support app.
Other Stuff That Might Work
If the Photos app doesn’t recognize your iPhone, you might wish to consider a host of other possible things to try and consider…
- Plug in your device to your Mac and then do a soft reset (forced restart.) See if your device now shows up in Photos.
- On Import options, uncheck Enable camera uploads for and under Sync options, deselect Photos from iPhoto (untick the checkbox).
- Check that there are no other users logged into your Mac. If so, log out of those user accounts and then try again. You may need to restart your Mac with just that single user account active.
- It might sound stupid, but make sure your Mac has enough free space to import any photos!
- Check your iCloud settings on the phone and Mac computer. If you have iCloud Photo syncing enabled, try toggling it off (even if temporarily). Do this by going to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Photos. Here, toggle the Sync this iPhone option off.
Try These Tips if Your Mac Photos App Doesn’t Recognize Your iPhone
Many of us love taking photos, whether they’re for casual use or we’re into the more professional side of things. Regardless of your reasons, you’ll likely end up importing a lot of these onto your iPhone — if you don’t take them from there in the first place. So, customizing everything in Photos (and making sure that items sync across all your Apple devices) will likely be near the top of your list.
If you’re struggling with the Photos app not recognizing your iPhone, the tips we’ve outlined in this guide should hopefully have helped you out. You can always contact Apple’s support team if you need further guidance.
Danny is a freelance writer who has been using Apple products for over a decade. He’s written for some of the largest technology publications on the web and previously worked as an in-house writer before carving his own route. Danny grew up in the UK, but now writes about tech from his Scandinavian base.