[Fixed] Cannot Import Photos from iPhone to Mac Unrecognized Files Format

Can’t import photos from iPhone to Mac and get the message unrecognized files format? Read this passage to fix the problem and find the feasible ways to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac.


By Dylan / Updated on May 31, 2024

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Photos "Cannot Import Item" unrecognizable file format or invalid data

Importing photos into Photos Library but half of the images are not importing with message that it may be an unrecognizable file format or the file may not contain valid data.



Unrecognizable file format in Photos for Mac

When attempting to import photo's from iPhone to my MacBook Pro get a message saying that the file is in an unrecognized format. Is the an easy way to resolve this?



Can't import images: unrecognizable file format

I made a new album, imported 2 images just fine, and after that, all I get is the infamous "unrecognizable file format" error. What to do?

- Question from Apple Community

Sometimes users want to transfer pictures from iPhone to Mac for backup, editing or viewing, and iPhoto/Photos app may be the best choice. However, when trying to add photos to Apple Photo library on Mac, you may get the message “This items cannot be added to your Photo library because it may be an unrecognizable file format or the file may not contain valid data”.

cannot import item.

Generally speaking, the reason why"can't import item photos mac“ could be because the photo format in iPhone is not compatible with your Mac, a system glitch/error, or you activate iCloud Photo Library and enable the "Optimize iPhone Storage" option on your iPhone.

If you can’t import photos from iPhone to Mac unrecognized files format, this post will show you how to fix this issue that photos won't import from iPhone to Mac. Continue reading.

4 solutions to fix “cannot import photos from iPhone to Mac unrecognized files format”

When you find that importing photos from iPhone to Mac not working, below are some possible fixes for you:

>>1. Restart your iPhone and Mac

Restarting is often the most efficient way to deal with small glitches on the device. So you can restart your iPhone and Mac first, then plug iPhone back in to try importing images from iPhone to Mac again.

>>2. Change the photo format

By default, the format of pictures in the camera is set to "High Efficiency", in order to make the pictures compatible, it needs to be changed to the “Most Compatible”.

Go to Settings on your iPhone > tap Camera > click Formats > select Most Compatible. This setting is only available on devices that can capture media in HEIF or HEVC format, and only when using iOS 11 or later. All new photos and videos will now be in JPEG or H.264 format.

camera compatible format

>>3. Reset iPhone Location & Privacy

If your iPhone can’t be recognized and photos can’t be added to your Mac computer, the problem may be caused by the location and privacy settings.

On your iPhone, go to Setting > General > Reset > Reset Location & Privacy. Once set up, reconnect your iPhone to your MacBook and tap "Trust iPhone" when prompted and try to import the photos again.

reset location privacy

>>4. Turn off iCloud Photo Library

When you activate iCloud Photo Library and enable the "Optimize iPhone Storage" option on your iPhone, your iPhone images will be stored in iCloud instead of your iPhone, so you can't import photos from iPhone to Mac. Therefore, you need to turn off it.

On iPhone setting, go to Apple ID > iCloud > Photos > turn off the iCloud Photos Library. Restart iPhone and Mac to import iPhone images.

icloud photo library

How to import photos from iPhone to Mac in 3 ways

In addition to using the iPhoto/Photos application to import photos to your Mac, you can also use some other tools to move your iPhone pictures to your Mac computer. Here, we introduce three common ways for getting iPhone photos on Mac.

Way 1. Transfer iPhone photos to Mac wirelessly

AirDrop is a built-in option to transfer photos from iPhone to Mac, making it easy to send files between two Apple devices.

Here is how to transfer iPhone photos to Mac with AirDrop:

1. Turn on AirDrop from the Settings app > General > AirDrop (Or swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen to open Control Center). Select Contacts Only or Everyone, depending on who you want to send the photo to.

2. Similarly, on Mac, go to Finder > AirDrop > set up your Mac’s visibility.

3. Ensure both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

4. Open Photos and select the photos you want to AirDrop to Mac > Tap the share icon at the bottom left of your Photos app screen.

5. Select your Mac device name from the AirDrop section, confirm that you want to accept the files on your Mac.

airdrop mac

Way 2. Sync photos from iPhone to Mac via iCloud

iCloud Photos is Apple's online photo storage service. When you activate iCloud Photos, all your iPhone photos are stored in iCloud so you can view and download them from your Mac.

Note: You must be signed in with the same Apple ID on your iPhone and Mac.

1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Photos > turn on iCloud Photos.

icloud photos

2. On your Mac, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the screen > go to System Preferences > select iCloud > Options next to Photos > toggle on the iCloud Photo Library.

icloud photo library mac

Way 3. Upload photos from iPhone to Mac with Image Capture

Did you know your Mac has a native image importer app? Called Image Capture, it’s Apple's built-in OS X application that enables iOS users to move and delete photos between iOS devices. Here, we'll show you the steps to sync photos from iPhone using Image Capture on Mac.

1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac with a USB cable > launch Image Capture on your Mac.

2. Select the device you want to sync > set the output folder for these synced photos > click on Import or Import All to import photos from iPhone to Mac.

sync photos using image capture

Bonus tip: Easy way to transfer photos from iPhone to Windows PC

For Windows users, transferring iPhone photos to a Windows PC is also a common method for backing up, viewing or editing images on the computer. To avoid the problem-can’t transfer photos from iPhone to computer, we recommend a professional and powerful iOS data transfer tool- FoneTool.

It is an iPhone to Windows PC transfer software that allows you to easily transfer photos, messages, music, videos and contacts to your PC and Windows system in one simple pane. FoneTool allows you to quickly transfer a large number of photos stored in your camera roll or any other photo album at once.

Besides, its Full Backup, Selective Backup, Photo Backup features enables you to back up your important data in case of loss. Therefore, if you use Windows PC, FoneTool can be your good helper.

You can click the download button below to see how to transfer iPhone pictures to computer.

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 1. Open FoneTool > connect the iPhone to the Windows PC > tap Trust on your iPhone > select Transfer to Computer on the home interface.

transfer to computer

Step 2. Click the plus icon to add photos from iPhone > preview and select the photos you want to import > tap OK.

choose photos

Step 3. Click the Start Transfer button to import photos from iPhone.



If you can’t import photos from iPhone to Mac unrecognized files format, here are the solutions provided above that you can try to fix the problem. To successfully transfer iPhone photos to Mac, you can use AirDrop, iCloud or Image Capture to do it. If you are a Windows user, FoneTool can help you transfer or backup iPhone photos to computer easily.

In addition, after importing photos, you may get some duplicate photos on your computer, FoneTool can also help you find and delete the duplicate photos on iPhone or computer.

Dylan · Editor
Dylan is an editor of mobile backup software. He likes to share the latest news about iPhone and iOS, write useful tips, and give solutions to help people solve all kinds of issues.