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Apple Intelligence - Nonthreatening to Photographers, for Now - TDS Photo Podcast


Nikon Zf, iPhone 15 Pro Max, Kingston Card Reader with USB-C adapter.

For years I have tried to bend smartphone software to my will. They do some things OK, like geotagging pictures. But they're painful at best when it comes to getting real work done. And by real work, I mean copying images from my camera to an image editor on the phone where I can edit and share them.

I've tested software created by Nikon, Fujifilm, OM System, Pentax, and others. Most of the time, I can get them to work, but in the end, I feel like it's easier to lug around my laptop and use a card reader. But I shouldn't have to.

The processing power in today's iPhone is ample for managing and editing pictures from mirrorless cameras. The screens are absolutely beautiful and large enough for basic tasks. They are cloud-connected devices, so our work is immediately backed up and shared to all of our computers. But where they really shine compared to full-sized laptops, is that they fit in our pockets.

So, with a mirrorless camera around my neck and an iPhone in my jacket, I should be conquering the world. Instead, I find myself wasting time trying to get the two devices to talk to each other with fiddly WiFi software.

Making a Better Connection

One thing that the European Union had right and Apple had wrong was using USB-C for all smartphones. As of iPhone 15, the Lightning connector was replaced by a standard USB-C port. Not only did this ensure that we always have a charging cable available, but many of the accessories that we use with laptops now work with our smartphones... including portable SD card readers.


Kingston USB-C card reader connected to an iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Combine this reliable hardware connection with universal software that's included in iOS, and you can say goodbye to frustrating WiFi transfers between cameras and mobile devices. Within iOS we have the Files app, which is rock solid. Additionally, Lightroom Mobile is very adept at managing and editing mirrorless camera pictures, as is Photos for iOS.

On the hardware side, a card reader is faster and more stable than fighting with wireless transfer. Plus, it's small. I stash mine in the little coin pocket in my Levi's jeans. Ditching wireless transfer and using a USB-C card reader allows me to leave the laptop behind and travel lightly with just my camera and the iPhone. And when I do get home, all of my pictures are waiting for me on the computer thanks to cloud connectivity.

Step-by-Step Guide to Transferring Pictures from a Mirrorless Camera to an iPhone

For my latest shoot, I used a Nikon Zf camera, iPhone 15 Pro Max smartphone, a Kingston 1 TB SD card, and a Kingston portable card reader.

I like to shoot RAW+Jpeg because I enjoy experimenting with film simulations that I've loaded into the Nikon. With this workflow, I can decide if I want to copy the Jpegs, RAWs, or both to my iPhone. Let's start with the most basic approach using the Files app.

The Files app is included in iOS. Unlike software designed by camera manufacturers who seem to have a limited understanding of the iPhone, Files is perfectly integrated into the device. Look for the icon with the blue file folder. Now, let's move some pictures.

  • Remove the SD card from the camera, put it in the card reader, and connect the reader to the iPhone.
  • Open the Files app on the iPhone and look for your SD card under Locations. In my case, it will read NIKON Z F.
  • Files-Nikon.jpg

    The SD card in the Apple Files app.

  • Tap on the SD card name to take you to the next screen. You will see one or more file folders there. Tap on the one that reads DCIM. Depending on how your camera sets up the file system, an additional folder may exist inside DCIM. Tap on it and your photos will be revealed.
  • Files-Pictures.jpg

    Both RAWs and Jpegs are displayed here. The Jpegs show the image thumbnails.

  • If you shoot RAW+Jpeg, you will see both versions of your pictures there. To choose the ones you want to copy to the iPhone, tap on the 3 dots in the upper right corner of the screen. Then tap on Select.
  • Now, tap on the thumbnails of the pictures you want to copy to the device. They will be marked with a blue check.
  • Tap on the Share button in the lower-left corner of the screen. Choose Save Images.
  • The pictures are now copied to your camera roll on your iPhone and are accessible via Photos and other apps.
  • Swipe up to close the Files app, disconnect the reader from your phone, and return the SD card to your camera.

This process is fast. And the best part is, it works every time.


You'll notice that I have a large 1 TB card for the Nikon Zf. I like to keep all the pictures from an adventure on the card as an additional backup.

With WiFi transfer, this becomes untenable because it takes so long to read all of the files on the card. But with USB-C connectivity, it's nearly instantaneous. In terms of speed, there is no comparison between WiFi and USB-C.

Adding Lightroom Mobile to the Mix

Lightroom on the iPhone and iPad provides a powerful set of editing tools, and it plays nice with the other software. For example, from the Files app, as described above, you can send selected images directly to Lightroom on your mobile device via the Share button.


Direct import using Lightroom Mobile.

Or you can copy directly into Lightroom, bypassing the Files app altogether, by connecting the SD card and tapping on the blue import icon in the lower right corner of the Lightroom interface.

Lightroom will ask you if you want to add photos from the Device (iPhone), Files (app), or Connected camera/card. Choose Connected camera/card, select the pictures you want, then tap the blue Import button at the bottom of the screen. Bingo!

Once the pictures are in Lightroom, you have a powerful set of imaging tools to adjust them. If you haven't used the mobile version of Lightroom for a while, I think you'll be surprised at how elegantly it has evolved.

After editing, you can share the finished files with other apps on your mobile device, save them to the camera roll, or publish them on social media. They'll also be available when you get home on your computer via the Cloud Tab in the upper lefthand corner of the Lightroom interface. You can pick up right where you left off.

Additional Apps and Hacks

If you're not a Lightroom fan, an excellent alternative is RAW Power from Gentleman Coders. No subscription is required, it's a very affordable one-time purchase, has a powerful set of editing tools, and the developer does a great job of keeping it up to date with the latest camera releases.

Photomator for iOS is also very popular, and for good reason. Easy to use combined with powerful editing tools make this Lightroom alternative a winner.

And here's a fun little hack... Lightroom has a handy export function that enables you to copy files from your mobile device to a USB-C flash drive.

Tap on the Share button at the top of the Lightroom interface, tap Export As... from the popup menu, choose Save to Files, then navigate to the connected flash drive icon in Files, and tap on Save. Yes, you can use USB-C to copy pictures to a flash drive as well.

Wrapping Up

I've waited far too long for camera software that provides a reliable workflow for my iPhone. Now, I don't need it. With my pocket-sized card reader, I can work as fast with mobile devices as I do with a computer. And that means more time to focus on my pictures.

This is The Digital Story Podcast #951, June 11, 2024. Today's theme is "Apple Intelligence - Nonthreatening to Photographers, for Now." I'm Derrick Story.

Opening Monologue

Unlike our friends at Adobe, Apple isn't targeting the photo shoot with their AI integration into the upcoming versions of its OS and photo apps. There are lots of new goodies in the toy box, and many of them will be useful for photo enthusiasts. In today's show, I'll provide an overview from a photographer's perspective and also discuss Adobe's latest controversy. I hope you enjoy the show.

Digital Photography Podcast 951

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Apple Intelligence - Nonthreatening to Photographers, for Now


Apple Intelligence is Apple's branding of Artificial intelligence into its operating system and apps. They are aiming to apply this technology in ways that make your life easier and more creative while at the same time keeping your privacy intact. They're calling it AI for the rest of us.

To some degree, based on the keynote presentation at WWDC, I think the marketing is lining up with real-world application. Apple Intelligence powers new writing tools to put your written communications in the best light, you can create new Pixar-like images with Genmoji, you can generate illustrations from scratch with Image Playground, and you can create professional-looking movies easily that are based on the pictures you have captured and stored in your Photos library.

Most of the generated images in the keynote were illustrative rather than photographic. I didn't see anything that resembled the output from my digital camera. But, according to the documentation, Image Playground does have the ability to transform sketches into polished photographs. And I can't see this happening on-device, so the user would have to venture out into the Cloud for this capability.

But generally speaking, if you want to create a custom emoji for a text message or an illustration for a school paper, Apple Intelligence will do a nice job.

When applied to the Photos app, this technology will further improve search capabilities, provide better organizing options, and even give us a nifty Clean Up tool for removing unwanted items from a composition.

To tap this tech you will need an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max, a Mac with Apple Silicon, or a M-powered iPad. The hardware requirements are steep because Apple's approach is to do as much AI processing on the device as possible, with options for venturing out into the Cloud as needed. Users will have control over where the processing occurs, which is a good option for most of us.

The unknown is, however, what will developers want to do with this technology, and what will Apple allow them to put on its platform? Apple is providing an SDK with App Intents, APIs, and frameworks to make it easy for developers to integrate system-level features like Writing Tools and Image Playground into their apps.

Of particular interest to our community is the SDK for Image Playground. Here's what Apple is saying to developers:

"Image Playground delivers an easy-to-use experience to create fun, playful images in apps like Messages, Notes, Keynote, Pages and more. Using the Image Playground API, you can add the same experience to your app and enable your users to quickly create delightful images using context from within your app. And because images are created entirely on device, you don't have to develop or host your own models for your users to enjoy creating new images in your app."

Again, sounds fun and lighthearted. And it very well may stay that way. And it's going to be very interesting to see what savvy software companies like Pixelmator do with all of this new capability.

macOS Sequoia and iOS 18 will be released this Fall. Betas will be available to the general Mac community soon. I'm really looking forward to see how this all plays out.

Adobe Revising Terms of Use to Clarify Content Licensing, AI, and Privacy

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Finally, the Nikon Z6 III is coming soon!

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NextGen Styles - Adjust the White Balance automatically and apply AI color gradings in Capture One.

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Note: The code THEDIGITALSTORY gives 10 percent OFF all products, and for products on sale it will give an additional 10 percent OFF on top of the existing discount.

Virtual Camera Club News

The Nimble Photographer Newsletter is now publishing every Thursday. Readers will enjoy a variety of content spanning from short photo essays, to commentary on weekly events, to reviews of the latest and coolest photo gear.

Inner Circle Members: A big thanks to those who support our podcast and our efforts! We are having a blast at our new Inner Circle hangout, the private group I've set up at DerrickStoryOnline. We'd love it if you join us. You can become an Inner Circle Member by signing up at our Patreon site. You will automatically be added to the new hangout.

Great Photography Articles on Live View - If you check out our publication and appreciate what you see, be sure to follow us and clap for those authors. You can find us at

If you're interested in writing for Live View, drop me a line at

The New Donation Kit for Carefree Shipping of Found Film Cameras - If you've discovered a film camera that's no longer being used, our new Donation Kit makes it easy to pack and ship. Just visit the Contact Form on, click the box next to Donating a Film Camera, and let me know what you have. In your note, be sure to include your shipping address.

Affiliate Links - The links to some products in this podcast contain an affiliate code that credits The Digital Story for any purchases made from B&H Photo and Amazon via that click-through. Depending on the purchase, we may receive some financial compensation.

Red River Paper - And finally, be sure to visit our friends at Red River Paper for all of your inkjet supply needs.

See you next week!

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.