Capturing Photos For Your Mac With Your iPhone Using Continuity Camera

A powerful new feature of macOS Mojave and iOS 12 is the ability to use your iPhone or iPad as a camera and capture images directly to your Mac. You can grab images right in apps like Preview, Pages, Mail and others. You can also scan multipage documents. Images skip being stored on your iPhone and go directly into the app on your Mac. However, using this feature requires the latest operating systems, recent hardware, and the right settings including two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Capturing Photos For Your Mac With Your iPhone Using Continuity Camera.

Let's take a look at Continuity Camera. This is a new feature of macOS Mojave and iOS 12. It allows you to use your iPhone as a camera to take pictures or scan documents directly into apps on your Mac. So to have this working you have to have a lot of things setup. You have to have both an iPhone or an iPad with a Mac and everything updated to Mojave and iOS 12. You have to have everything you normally turn on for all the Continuity features.

So you need to have Bluetooth turned on for both devices. You need to have Wi-Fi turned on for both devices and you need to be using the same Apple ID for both devices. Also you need to be using two-factor authentication for your Apple ID account. It doesn't work if you're still not upgraded to the latest security stuff.

Once you have that in place you're going to see this ability appear in different apps. For instance, here I am in Preview. I've got the Preview app open and it's looking for a document for me to open. But instead of doing that I'm going to go to File. Here I see Import From iPhone and I have Take Photo or Scan Documents. So I'll use Take Photo and I'm not actually going to do anything on my iPhone. It's going to switch to this mode here that you see where I can take a photo. It's going to do that just automatically.

So now I can take a photo and once I do I can see Retake or Use Photo. I'll say Use Photo and then on my Mac I get the photo. So it's that easy. The photo is not saved in my Photos Library. It's not on my iPhone at all. It just goes directly into the app I was using. In this case Preview.

Here's another place you can use it. In Mail if you want to attach a photo you can simply click the little photo attachment button. Here at the top you have the ability to grab a photo from your library. But you also have Take Photo and Scan Documents there as well. It will then access your phone and allow you to take a picture and it's instantly inserted in your mail message. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, yep you can do it there too. Click on the Media button and you have all the usual options but you also have Take Photo or Scan Documents here. You can then use your phone to grab a quick photo.

So what about the option to scan things in. You've seen that as a second option in every example I've shown. Well, this uses the iPhone's camera to scan a document in the same way the iPhone does it by itself. So you can do this already in the Notes app for instance. What it does is it looks through the camera and it tries to correct the image to get a flat scan of a document even if you're holding the camera at an angle. It does this automatically.

So let's try it here. I'm in Preview. I'll do Import from iPhone and I'll say Scan Documents. Now it goes to the camera on the iPhone and I've got a document here. I will get right underneath and you can see it try to figure out where the document is and it grabs it. I can continue scanning. So I can flip the page and go to page 2, 3, 4, etc. I'm going to say I'm Done here and hit the Save button. When I do that I get the scanned document. Notice how nice and flat this is even though I wasn't holding my iPhone directly above the page. I was holding it at an angle

So this is just the ability basically to skip having to save the scanned item in Notes or some other way on your iPhone and then transfer them to the Mac. You can do them directly to your Mac right here into Preview or to another app and then manipulate this as you would anything else. So, you know, here I am in Preview and I've got all the markup tools for instance. I can now sign this document. I can mark it up and add boxes and arrows. All sorts of things.

So what about third party apps. Well, it's definitely a possibility. Third party developers can add this into their Mac apps and you may see some doing that soon. Also keep in mind that any Continuity feature sometimes is a bit of a headache especially if you have older devices. If you have an older iOS device or an older Mac it may not be compatible. You need to have the latest hardware because it transfers directly from the device to the computer. So it doesn't go through your Wi-Fi router, for instance. It's doing this just as you would use, say, a feature like AirDrop. If AirDrop isn't working on your Mac then probably Continuity Camera isn't at all.

I see a lot of people also having issues with this because they simply haven't moved to Two Factor Authentication. You should be moving to Two Factor just for security reasons anyway. But this is an added incentive to go there if you want to use Continuity Camera.

Comments: 7 Responses to “Capturing Photos For Your Mac With Your iPhone Using Continuity Camera”

    Keith Flanagan
    6 months ago

    Will be interesting to see if apps like PDFPen integrate this. Would be great to scan things I can’t fit in my sheet fed scanner.

    6 months ago

    Very interesting as always. However, the process does appear to use wi-fi. Initially a message was issued stating that my device was not on wi-fi but this transpired to be my devices being on different networks. Another issue is time-outs. I have not been able to successfully capture an image (either photo or scanned document) due to a time-out issue. Is there a way to adjust the time-out period?

    6 months ago

    Eric: It does use Wi-Fi, but not your Wi-Fi network. So you can do it without being logged into a Wi-Fi network or even having one around. Both devices need to have Wi-Fi enabled.

    6 months ago

    Hi Gary, No problems using preview, image captured straight away. However, in mail the options under photo, Colin’s iphone, take photo & scan documents were all greyed out.
    Any ideas please?
    Thank you,

    6 months ago

    My time-out issue appears to have been a problem with the ‘name’ of my iPhone! That seems to have been lost during the update to IOS 12. Anyway, using iTunes to put back its name has resolved the problem and I have been able to successfully capture both phots and scanned documents.

    6 months ago

    Colin: Not sure. If one shows up, the other should too. Maybe try a restart?

    6 months ago

    I got it to work for Mail. Mine was greyed out too; I had to enter a valid To address and a Subject. It needed both.

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