How to airdrop photos between your Apple devices

8 min read

AirDrop is the magic tool that helps shuttle items between Apple devices without a cable and in top quality. In true Apple fashion, this feature is uniting several devices in a seamless way that makes your life so much easier.

With AirDrop, you can easily send images and files directly to Apple devices near you — without any third party, like an email or a message, and in excellent quality, contrasted by highly compressed images sent via various messengers.

Another upside of AirDrop is security. It’s a direct transfer just between two devices, no middle man, and the process is protected by the TLS protocol. The one known for its use in HTTPS pages.

In this article, we explain how to set up the tool, use it, and provide tips and ideas to smoothen your file management even more, so read on.

How to set AirDrop up

Now, let’s set up your devices for transfer photos with AirDrop.

First, make sure the two devices you are using are an Apple product that supports AirDrop. iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac.

Next, check that Bluetooth and WiFi are on on both devices — the sending device and the receiving device.

If you are wondering whether you need WiFi internet connection to transfer the files, the answer is no. The AirDrop technology only uses your device’s WiFi capabilities to make the connection and transfer between the two devices, but doesn’t need your device to be connected to a WiFi network.

Before you start airdropping photos or other items, you also need to turn off Personal Hotspot (the internet sharing).

Finally, go to Settings > General > AirDrop and select Contacts Only or Everyone. If the checkmark is on Receiving Off, you won’t be able to use AirDrop.

AirDrop settings

Lastly, make sure the two devices you are airdropping between are within Bluetooth range of each other. That is around 30 feet (10 meters). Within this range the devices can recognize and identify each other.

How to AirDrop photos

Here’s how to airdrop photos from iPhone to Macbook, or another iPhone, or AirDrop-friendly Apple device.

  1. Go to the Photos app and select the photo you want to share. You can also select multiple photos in one go.
  2. Tap the share icon in the button left corner of your phone’s screen:
    share icon on iPhone
  3. You will see a preview of the photos you plan to send. Now you can add or remove some by tapping the circle in the bottom right corner of each image:
    Move selected photo to Airdrop
  4. Once you are ready with your selection, tap AirDrop to view available devices to send to. Make sure you know the name of the device you need to airdrop to and select it.
  5. As soon as your recipient confirms the file transfer on their end, the airdrop will begin.

This is what an AirDrop prompt looks like on a Macbook:

Depending on the number of items you are sending, the process can take from a few seconds to ten or more minutes.

AirDrop access

  1. If you are wondering how to airdrop all photos in an album, just select them with the Select All button and then tap the share icon.
  2. To airdrop items from your Mac, check that AirDrop is on, then drag and drop your files to the AirDrop folder in Finder:
    AirDrop on Mac
  3. Alternatively, airdrop from Mac to iPhone, Mac, or other Apple device, through the double-finger click menu.
  4. Select the item(s) you need to airdrop and two-finger click to prompt Mac drop down menu. Click on Share… and then select AirDrop in the menu.

How to airdrop between own devices

If you are sending items between your own Apple devices and they are signed into the same Apple ID, you won’t need to confirm the airdrop on the receiving device. Your image(s) will automatically transfer as soon as you send them.

So if you airdrop photos from your iPhone to iPad that are on the same Apple ID, all you have to do is select your desired images to share and then your own iPad as the destination. Your files will be delivered asap.

This is perfect for when you shoot content on your phone all day but then want to edit it on your iPad or Mac!

Other items you can airdrop

Now that the how-to on airdropping photos from iPhone to Macbook and back is out of the way, let’s see what else can be airdropped.

That’s right, you can airdrop much more than just photos.

Here are some of the most used items you can airdrop in addition to media like photos or videos:

  • Files
  • Contacts
  • Notes
  • Map locations
  • Links to apps in App Store

Here we airdropped a link directly to an app in App Store:


And step two:

AirDrop devices

And voila — the app page in the App Store instantly opened on our iPhone!

How to find AirDrop photos

If you are looking to locate your AirDrop items, this is the section for you.

On your Mac, you can actually choose where to save airdropped photos — in Downloads or Photos app.

And here’s how to see airdrop photos on your iPhone.

Go to Photos > Recents and view your airdropped items at the very bottom.

How to fix AirDrop not working

Whether you are just discovering AirDrop or have been using it for a while, you might encounter some issues. Most of them are easily fixed.

Let’s look at the top reasons your AirDrop might be experiencing trouble:

  • Devices are too far apart
  • Total file size is too large
  • Personal Hotspot is on
  • One or both devices have Receiving Off
  • One or both devices is set to Contacts Only but your devices aren’t in each other’s contacts
  • Firewall blocks receiving on your Mac

Some quick fixes to these problems would be keeping your airdrop loads small, staying within Bluetooth range when transferring between devices (30 feet/10 meters, as mentioned above), and making sure your devices don’t have Receiving Off ticked in settings.

Additionally, check if your Personal Hotspot is off and your devices are in each others’ contacts if you choose the Contacts Only setting in AirDrop.

Next, just try turning the AirDrop on and off to iron out any simple bugs in the system.

If you are wondering how to get airdrop photos on Mac when they just won’t send, try temporarily turning off Mac firewall.

To do that on macOS Ventura, go to System Settings… > Network > Firewall and toggle it to off. Remember to toggle it back on after you are done transferring files.

In earlier macOS versions, the menu should be located in System Preferences… > Security & Privacy > Firewall > Firewall Options. Uncheck Block all incoming connections. Remember to go back after you are done and check the setting back on.

To be completely sure you don’t forget to turn your security settings on, you can actually stop relying just on your memory, hoping you aren’t too tired or distracted to keep track of what you’ve turned on and off.

Pareto Security is just the app to alert you about any security settings on your Mac that are not set to their best setting. This way, you won’t forget any security doors you left open on your Mac:

Pareto Security.

And while we are on the topic of tools to go with your AirDrop flow, here’s one to help you easily locate files to airdrop.

HoudahSpot is an advanced file finder that lets you search by a number of very specific criteria:

HoudahSpot file finder

From file name to size to file extension to date last opened, and more, HoudahSpot lets you really dig in when it comes to locating photos or other files to airdrop. Now more lost files — find the files you need to airdrop or even files you’ve received via AirDrop and accidentally lost!

Alternative sharing options

If you want to add more tools to your photo and file sharing portfolio, we recommend cloud services.

You can use Apple’s iCloud — the tool that’s built into your Apple ID, — or you can go with other popular options like Google Drive that comes with every Gmail, Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox, or many others.

And if you already have several and are looking to simplify your flow, you can do that with Dropshare.

Dropshare is a file sharing app that lets you drag and drop files to instantly upload to your cloud storage of choice. The app also provides you with a sharing link. You can password protect the link or set it to automatically expire after a while.

Dropshare Cloud

You can also use Dropshare’s own cloud.

And for more extensive photo sharing options between your iPhone and Mac, check out our detailed article on the subject.

How to airdrop photos to Mac, iPhone, iPad

AirDrop was created to make transferring files, photos, and other useful items between your Apple devices easy. It doesn’t rely on an internet connection, is secure, and allows to maintain photo quality through the transfer.

You can set up AirDrop in moments by turning on your Bluetooth, WiFi, and checking Contacts Only or Everyone in AirDrop permissions. In the steps outlined above, we’ve explained how to airdrop photos from phone to phone, from Mac to iPhone, as well as iPhone and iPad.

We’ve also covered where your airdropped photos are located and how to fix simple bugs with the process.

The apps we’ve mentioned throughout the article — file spotter HoudahSpot, security settings checker Pareto Security, file sharing helper Dropshare, and a faster way to airdrop files Dropzone — can be downloaded from Setapp.

Setapp is a subscription-based app service that provides you with an app toolkit for Mac and iPhone. More than 240+ apps on Setapp cover most needs for everyday tasks: from personal finance and budgeting, to calendars, mail clients, and idea mapping tools, to apps for design, working with multimedia, coding, syncing and backing up files, restoring lost data, and much, much more.

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