How To Import Photos from SD Card to Mac Photos

Time required for learning: < 5 minutes

If you have a digital camera that uses a SD card (whether it be standard SD, SDHC, or SDXC) it is very handy to know how to import photos directly from the SD card to your computer without having to fuzz about finding the right cable.


  • A SD memory card – first image above. These come in many different shapes and sizes, but the general layout and size are all the same.
  • A card reader – either of the latter images above. Can be built into your computer or be an external card reader.

Import photos from SD card to the Photos app

  1. Photos app in Mac OS X Dock

    Photos app in Mac OS X Dock

    Insert the SD card into the card reader slot on your computer. If you have an external card reader, connect it to a USB port on your computer first.

  2. If Photos doesn’t launch automatically, find it in your Dock or in Applications (how to open the Applications folder).
  3. When Photos has opened, make sure the Import tab is selected at the very top of the window. On this screen you can…
    • Import All New Photos (A), meaning it will only import photos that have not been imported to Photos previously.
    • Import Selected (B), an option to import only those pictures that you specifically select by clicking on them in the grid of images below.
    • Delete items after import (C), check this option if you want to have your photos exist only in the Photos app on your Mac after each import.
    • Decide if you want to open Photos automatically for this card in the future (recommended!) (D).
  4. To import, simply click Import All New Photos (A).
  5. Done! After the import is done, your pictures will show up in the album “Last Import” and will be automatically sorted by date for future viewing in the “Photos” tab (leftmost tab at the very top of the Photos app).
  6. Important! After you’re done importing, always Eject your SD card, otherwise you may damage it and lose data: How to Eject a SD Card, USB Key or USB Drive.

Did this teach you how to import photos from a SD card?

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How to import from SD card into Photos app on Mac OS X

An overview of the Import window in Photos

How to open the Applications folder

Finder app in the Mac OS X Dock

Finder app in the Mac OS X Dock

  1. Go to Finder in your dock (bottom of your screen, furthest to the left).
  2. In the sidebar of the window that opens, find Applications.
  3. If you need to, you can open Photos from here and continue from step 3 above.

Pro-tip: press the “P” key on your keyboard to quickly navigate to apps starting with the letter “P” in your Applications list.

How to Eject a SD Card, USB Key or USB Drive

  1. Go to Finder in your dock (bottom of your screen, furthest to the left).
  2. In the window that opens, scroll until you see the Devices section.
  3. Your SD Card/USB Key, or USB Drive is the one with the little “Eject” button next to it. In the example below the drive is called “NO NAME”.
    • Finder on Mac: external drive example
  4. Click the Eject button and wait for the drive to disappear.
  5. Only when the drive no longer shows under Devices is it safe to physically remove it!

3 Responses

  1. Rita Chesterton says:

    Hi …appreciate these very clear instructions, but my SD Card does not appear in Finder, under Devices. I’ve gone into Finder Preferences and there’s already a checkmark on HD, and External Drive, and the one for CDs, DVDs, Ipod, etc. No memory card icon appears on my Desktop or Tool Bar, either. I don’t want to pull out my SD Card and cause damage, so what to do? Help!

    • howtoadmin says:

      If you can’t see your SD card anywhere on your computer, there may be a problem with the SD card reader slot on your Mac. Before you do anything else, make sure the card is inserted facing up and that it’s pushed in all the way. Then, follow these steps to see if the card is seen by the computer at all:

      1. Open Finder (furthest icon to the left in your Dock).
      2. In the sidebar, find the Applications folder.
      3. Scroll down the list of applications and select the Utilities folder, then open the application Disk Utility.
      4. Disk Utility opens. This application allows you to see all drives currently connected to your computer, even if they can’t be shown in Finder.
      5. In the Disk Utility sidebar, look for your SD card. If there’s a card there without a formatted drive, it may be that you have to format the SD card.

      Formatting any drive (including an SD card) will permanently erase all data on it, so only do this if you’re absolutely sure you have backed up all your data somewhere else. I won’t write instructions for how to do this here, but you can find them with an easy Google search.

      • Rita Chesterton says:

        Thanks for that info, howtoadmin. For some reason (weeks ago), I was able to resolve the situation by Shutting Down my Mac and then restarting. After that, the SD Card icon appeared in Finder under Devices, and I was able to dismount the SD Card so to speak. As for the many times I DID pull out the SD Card without the proper procedure, my card and all photos are still intact. But, I prefer using the proper procedure. I will ‘copy’ and use your instructions for future problems, though!!

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