How I Transferred 12,000 Photos From Mac -> iPad Without The Photos App

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I want iCloud Photo Library to work across all my devices right now. I love the premise behind the service: all of my photos and videos in sync across all of my devices, with full backups in the cloud. iCloud Photo Library is the reason I went for Apple’s $4/month for 200 GB iCloud plan.

Unfortunately, enabling iCloud Photo Library disables any form of sync with iTunes, and neither Aperture nor iPhoto work with the service either. There is a new beta of Photos that works in the browser, but it only supports downloads — no uploads. I also tried looking into AirDrop as a way of getting full-resolution photos and videos onto my 64 GB Air 2, but I’ve found it to be quite slow and unreliable right now. Airdropping photos in batches of 50 can take 10+ minutes on my home network, and I have nearly 12,000 photos on my MacBook Pro.

Thankfully, I did find a solution, even though it was still a little painful to implement. Using the awesome Photo Transfer App, I managed to transfer all 12k photos to my iPad 2 over the course of three evenings.

The app would crash on my iPad Air 2 if I tried to upload batches of 400 photos at a time, but it seemed stable enough in groups of 300. This process involved exporting the original files from my Aperture library, loading Photo Transfer up on my Mac and iPad, and then uploading 300 items at a time to the iPad over local Wi-Fi. I tested this on a number of pictures and it does seem like the full resolution versions are sent to the iPad, which is what I wanted in order to ensure a high-quality backup to iCloud Photo Library.

The only mystery at this point is whether the Optimize iPad Storage setting will kick in properly over time. Storing all my photos is taking up 22.4 GB of space on my iPad now, and I know that many of those files are still being stored in full resolution on the device itself. The ideal would be to have files that are sized specifically for the iPad’s retina screen, and be able to download the full-res versions on an ad-hoc basis. However, as is the norm with Apple’s cloud-based services, there is no specific set of instructions I’ve found that really outlines what iCloud Photo Library does to optimize my photos for storage on the device, or when a photo transitions from being a full-res version to an optimized version. It was only this article from iLounge that mentions that it takes two weeks for this change to happen invisibly in the background, and not enough time has passed for me to test this out yet.

However, the real point of this post was to highlight a really useful tool for transferring photos to the iPad in a relatively fast, if rather painstaking manner. I’m grateful to Photo Transfer App for helping me transfer my photos right now, instead of waiting for the mystery release date of Apple’s Photos app for the Mac.


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