How to back up photos on iPhone

7 min read

What can be worse than breaking your iPhone? That's right, shattering your iPhone and not having your photos backed up anywhere. As with most things in life, the best time to think about backing up photos from your iPhone is before you need it.

Scroll down to learn your options when it comes to setting up a photo backup on iOS and pick the best solution for your needs.

Your options vary from iPhone’s built-in tools to manual third-party cloud uploads to automated syncs, so picking out the best option will require you to consider the amount of storage you have, your data caps and internet speeds, how much time you are prepared to dedicate to photo management, as well as how you prefer to manage your photos.

From a simple sweeping all-of-the-photos backup to custom selective backups at set intervals, backing up your photos can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you want it to be. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.

How to back up all photos on your iPhone

If you don’t have much junk on your phone (or, at least, have enough cloud storage for all of the images that you have) and want an iPhone photo backup that doesn’t require sifting through individual folders or photos to set it up, backing up all of your photos is the best approach. One downside is backup times, as uploading a lot of photos is data-heavy.

How to back up iPhone using iCloud

The default option to backing up your photos on the iPhone is via iCloud.

To set it up, open the Settings app on your iPhone, tap your name at the very top of the app menu, go to iCloud > Photos, and toggle on Sync this iPhone.

sync Photos with iCloud

This option is perfect if you want to use the built-in tools on your phone or already have the extra storage with iCloud+.

How to back up iPhone photos without iCloud

It’s also possible to do an iPhone photo backup without using iCloud. From a good old external drive to an external cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, your options here are plenty.

If you choose to use an external hard drive — it can be as simple as a flash drive, — all you need is connect it to your phone with a suitable cable, open Photos on your iPhone, go to Recents or the album you want to back up, tap Select, select the photos you want to back up or Select All, then tap the Share icon in the button left corner of your screen. Tap Save to Files and set your connected external drive as the destination, then tap Save.

The cable you would use for a flash drive is USB-A to Lightning (to USB-C for iPhone 15s), while an external hard drive can rock either a USB-A or a USB-C out.

backup iPhone photos to external drive

Backing up your photos to an external hard drive has the big advantage of the process being very fast as it doesn’t depend on your network connection, only the cable’s and ports’ transfer capacity.

That said, physical storage can be unreliable or inconvenient, so you can use it as a second backup or a temporary location.

One seamless solution for a cloud backup of your iPhone photos is Google Photos. As the app uses the same storage as your Google account, you are limited to the amount of storage you have in your Google account, including drive, but backing up your photos to Google Photos requires minimal effort as it integrates with your Photos. The app offers to automatically back up your photos and videos on one of its first screens, so it can be almost as hands off as an iCloud backup, if you want it to be.

Google Photos automatically backup

Google Photos also allows you to set the photo quality for the backups — original or storage saver, to save storage space and speed up the upload.

Additionally, you can choose to only back up via Wi-Fi and pick a separate setting for this when it comes to videos vs photos.

The app allows you to organize photos into albums, free up space, create collages and memories to help highlight and relive your most treasured moments.

Google Photos memories

Back up iPhone photos from your network drive using CloudMounter on a Mac

If you are the kind of person who has backups to their backups, CloudMounter is for you.

The app allows you to mount multiple cloud storages and manage files directly in Finder.

connect your cloud storages to Mac Finder

Mount your cloud storages and simply drag and drop anything you want to sync to your respective connected clouds.

 CloudMounter in Finder

For automatic backups, Get Backup Pro is our favorite tool. It enables selective backups with detailed customizations like file type exclusions, setting up automatic deletion of old backups, scheduled backups, and more. The flexibility of the backup process in the app will make it the perfect tool for many uses. And yes, you can back up app data with it too, and that includes Photos.

And the best part? You can actually choose your mounted cloud storages in CloudMounter to add as backup destinations in Get Backup Pro!

Back up photos from iPhone using your Mac

Another way to quickly back up your iPhone photos is to connect your iPhone to your Mac with a USB-C to Lightning (or USB-C to USB-C for iPhone 15s) cable and sync your photos or all data with Mac’s built in tool.

sync photos from iPhone to Mac

Once you connect your phone and Mac, confirm on each device that you trust the connected device. Next, navigate to the Photos tab and choose what photos you want to sync, then click Sync!

To save time on syncing or just to declutter your photo library before syncing it up, use CleanMy®Phone, an AI-powered cleaner app for iPhone and iPad. The app runs a quick on-device scan of your photos and finds blurry shots, screenshots, similars, which you can then easily wipe.

declutter iPhone with CleanMy®Phone

CleanMy®Phone also makes it easy to move files to dedicated folders, add to Favorites, and even enhance, so you can organize photos and get a better picture of what types of images you have.

organize photos with CleanMy®Phone

Once your photos are on your Mac, you can use ChronoSync Express to sync your old photo folders in order to add the newly uploaded items and remove the ones you’ve decluttered (put a checkmark next to Synchronize deletions).

sync photos with Chronosync Express

Back up iPhone photos using AirDrop

If you are wondering how to offload photos from an iPhone to a Mac without a cable, AirDrop is the way. AirDrop is also the preferred way of transfer if you are sending images to a Mac that belongs to someone else, as you don’t want to allow your iPhone to trust a device you don’t own.

To export an image via AirDrop, open the photo in the Photos app on your iPhone, tap the share icon in the bottom left corner, and select AirDrop. Turn on Bluetooth if it’s not on already, then select your desired recipient.

Make sure the AirDrop and Bluetooth are on on your recipient Mac as well. Once you send the file (or a few dozen), your recipient Mac will receive a notification and will need to confirm in order for the transfer to begin.

AirDrop request

Once the photos are on your Mac, you can use one of the ways to back up your files we’ve discussed earlier in the post.

Best way to back up iPhone photos

While there’s more than one or two answers to the question of how to back up photos on an iPhone, we believe most users will rely primarily on one — the one they know best. But as more and more tools emerge to make your digital life streamlined and effortless, finding the best way to save photos from your iPhone can save you hours of time, as well as enable you to actually enjoy the memories you’ve created as they are now stored in an organized and accessible way.

From backing up your photos using the built-in iCloud or AirDrop to Google’s solution Google Photos, to uploading items to cloud storages with CloudMounter, transferring via a cable connection, or creating backups using Get Backup Pro and then syncing with ChronoSync Express, having a reliable toolkit to manage your photos can allow for maximum flexibility.

To quickly declutter, CleanMy®Phone is ready to help. And worse comes to worst, you can try and dig up lost data with Disk Drill.

And the best news of all, you can use the apps we’ve mentioned — CloudMounter, Disk Drill, Get Backup Pro, ChronoSync Express, and CleanMy®Phone with your Setapp subscription!

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