Transferring Files between Devices (Mobile Tutorial)

It’s spring here in Oregon, so it’s time for some spring cleaning. And who doesn’t need to do a little cleaning in the photo library on their device? So today I’m going to kick off the first in a series of Mobile Tutorials on Image File Management, starting with transferring image files between devices.


If you are like me, you might find the iPhone screen is a bit small for editing. I remember a specific moment in my early days of mobile photography… I had posted an image online which looked good to me on the small screen (an iPod Touch at the time), but when I saw it later on a large computer screen, I was horrified. It looked awful! I had missed some subtleties in the edit since I was looking at a small screen. Within days of that experience, I went out and purchased an iPad, knowing it would make a huge difference in my photo editing to have a larger screen. The larger screen means I can better see what’s happening with the whole image, as well as the details, as I make changes. I also have more workspace for edits which require fine control, like masking.

But more than a big screen, more than one device means big complexities with file management. When you have more than one device in your workflow, how do you quickly and easily get my photos from one device to the other? How do you keep from duplicating files on multiple devices, to the point you can’t even find the ones you want to edit?

Over time, I’ve developed a few requirements for my file transfer:

  • I only want to transfer the files I intend to edit. If you take multiple photos of subject with your iPhone, exploring small adjustments in composition, exposure or focus, then it’s nearly impossible to tell from looking at the Camera Roll thumbnails which image is the best. In the past, I’ve resorted to counting the tiny thumbnails from a reference photo in order to find the one I want, which is a method fraught with potential errors. I want to take the “noise” of having many images on the iPhone and simplify things on the iPad by selecting the photos I want to edit before transfer.
  • I want to view the image on the larger iPad screen before I transfer the files. Since the iPhone screen is small, even with my wonderful reading glasses I can’t see as much detail as I can on the iPad. That means that if there are subtle differences in focus between one image and the next I might miss them on the iPhone. Viewing the image on the iPad before transfer allows me to look at several image options and then transfer the best one.
  • I need a solution that works with and without WiFi. My iPad is WiFi only, so I don’t have the option of a cellular data connection. I might want to transfer files between iPhone and iPad when a WiFi connection isn’t available, so I’d better have a solution for that situation.

I tried all sorts of things in my early days learning iPhone photography, from iCloud to Photo Transfer Apps. After a while, I settled on two procedures for transfer, one for when a Cloud connection is available, and one for when it’s not. I’ll walk you through both and then tell you why I don’t like the other options I’ve tried.

Transfer with a Cloud Connection

When I have Cloud connection, I use Dropbox as my means of transfer. With a Dropbox account and the app on both devices, I can upload all of the images from my iPhone to Dropbox and then review and download only the best ones from my iPad. Here’s how to do it…

1. You will need the Dropbox app on both devices and a Dropbox account. (If you don’t have a Dropbox account, sign up here. Using this link will give us both more storage!) Install the app and log in to your account on each device.

2. On your iPhone, set Dropbox to Auto Camera Upload. You do this by tapping the Settings icon, and then tapping Camera Upload to access the Menu.

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Once you are in the Camera Upload menu, turn the Camera Upload switch to “ON”, switch Use Cellular Data to “OFF” (unless you want to use your cell data for photo uploading – not recommended if you have a limited data plan), and switch Background Uploading to “ON.”

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Now, everytime you connect to WiFi, your most recent photos will transfer from your iPhone into Dropbox. Handy, huh?

3. On your iPad, you DO NOT want Auto Camera Upload. Be sure Camera Upload is turned “OFF” in the Dropbox app on the iPad. Dropbox will prompt you to turn it on, but don’t enable this feature on the iPad.

4. When you are ready to review your photos, open Dropbox on the iPad. Tap the Photos icon at the bottom of the sidebar to see the most recent photos by date. You can scroll through to see any image larger on the right side of the screen. Note: You are not seeing the full image in this view, because the top and bottom menu bar overlap part of the image.

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To see the full image as large as you can, tap the preview on the right and the rest of the Dropbox window will disappear and the image will enlarge. You can swipe left or right to scroll through the images in full screen mode, where you can see all of the details. When you identify an image you want to edit, tap the image again. This will take you back to the Dropbox window.

From here, tap the Export icon on the top menu bar and then select Save Image to save to Camera Roll. Voila! You are done. You have reviewed the images full screen, and then transferred only the specific image you want to edit to the iPad. Now you can proceed with the editing process on the iPad.

Whenever I’ve taken new photos on my iPhone, I spend a few minutes when I am next on my iPad to review and download images through Dropbox. Then, whenever I pick up my iPad to edit, I start with the photos I’ve already selected on the Camera Roll. It saves me a lot of time and hassle since I don’t have to revisit a bunch of photos on my Camera Roll to find the best one every time.

Troubleshooting Dropbox:

  • If it doesn’t seem to be auto uploading from the iPhone, open the Dropbox app and check your settings to make sure Camera Upload is turned on.
  • If you have a lot of photos to upload, you might need to occasionally open Dropbox and tap on the app while it’s uploading since it will time out.
  • If you have a lot of images on your Camera Roll, you might want to pare down the number of images on your device before you turn on Auto Camera Upload or you could fill up the free space included with the Dropbox account. (The next mobile tutorial will cover transferring files to the computer and deleting from your device, so hang tight.)
  • If your Dropbox account runs out of space, you can either purchase more space or delete the files in Dropbox you no longer need. Since this is only temporary storage for me, I never purchase space.

You can use this method for transferring files as long as you have a connection to the Cloud, either through WiFi or a cellular data connection, and between any type of device. Dropbox makes apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, both Windows and Mac computers, and can be accessed from a web browser. With all of those options, it should work for whatever devices you operate!

Transfer without Cloud Connection

When I don’t have a cloud connection, I use Apple’s AirDrop feature, which will work between most iOS devices.

1. Make sure WiFi, Bluetooth and AirDrop are turned on for all devices. You can do this quickly and easily by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to get to the Quick Access menu, and then tapping the icons. For AirDrop, when you tap you will get a popup menu with options. I always set AirDrop to “Everyone” to make things easy.

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2. On the iPhone, go to the Camera Roll. Tap an image to view, and then swipe left and right to scroll through your image options. When you find one you want to transfer, tap the Export icon to bring up the Export menu. You can select multiple images to transfer as well.

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3. When you are ready to transfer, make sure your other device is turned on and unlocked, or AirDrop won’t find the device. Tap the AirDrop icon to search for nearby devices.

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4. When your device shows up in the AirDrop options, tap the icon to transfer the selected file(s). Watch the screen of the receiving device, and you’ll see a window with the status of the transfer.

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The upside with this method is that you can quickly and easily transfer files between devices, in either direction. The downside with this method is that you can’t view on the large iPad screen before transferring, but at least you can view it full screen on the iPhone. If I’m not sure which of a few images is the best on the iPhone, I’ll transfer them all to the iPad and then delete the ones that don’t work out.

Since most of the time I have WiFi, I don’t use this method often, but I like to have it available.

Why not iCloud or a Photo Transfer App?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, when I first added the iPad to my workflow I tried many different options for file transfer between devices before settling on these methods. I’ll share what I didn’t like about the other options I tried. I last used these options ~two years ago and the features may have changed since then, so take my comments here with a grain of salt.

Apple’s iCloud/Photo Stream

There were a few issues I ran into with this service that led me to give it up entirely:

  • When Photo Stream is turned “On” for a device, it automatically uploads and downloads the images in the Photo Stream to your device. All new images from all devices are mixed up into one “Photo Stream,” essentially a combined folder in the Cloud. Each file gets a new sequential image name and date/time, based on when it was added to the Photo Stream, so I lose traceability to the real date/time an image was created. As a linear thinker, that matters to me. I like to keep my image sources (iPhone or iPad) separate and sequential within themselves, not all jumbled together in one place.
  • Photo Stream was limited to 1000 photos. As you get beyond 1000, and remember that is total across all devices, you just lose the older ones out of the Photo Stream and you are back to transferring manually if you want an older image. You can probably pay for more storage, but since I just want to transfer not to archive, I have no interest in paying.
  • Images were resized, without your knowledge or ability to change the settings, depending on the device you were viewing the image on. So if I took a square image on my iPhone, which would be 2448×2448 pixels, it would be available on my iPad with only 2048×2048 pixels. I have no idea why they would do this, but after finding this out, it was a deal breaker for me. I work really hard to manage my file size and resolution as I edit files, I don’t want my file transfer service to change things without my knowledge!

Even if these settings changed since I last use it, the fact that there was so little control or notification about the settings makes me nervous. This service is not made for the serious photographer who is worried about file management and resolution, but for the average iPhone user who doesn’t have the same needs as I do. Apple can change how it operates in the next update and I could have a new issue I need to resolve, without even knowing. No thanks.

Photo Transfer Apps

I tried multiple apps and they all work pretty much the same: Download and open the app on both devices, select the image(s) to transfer from an iPhone thumbnail, select the device to send it to, and then wait. There are some problems with this method:

  • Choosing images to transfer based on thumbnails doesn’t work well. As we’ve already established, if the iPhone screen is too small to see fine detail and subtle differences in focus, a thumbnail is not going to work either. You end up needing to transfer more images to the iPad in order to review and decide the best ones there.
  • The apps limit you on the number of images you can transfer at one time. They must assume you are only transferring one or two, because they all limit the number you can transfer at a time and require you to select them one-by-one. I can’t remember exactly how many the apps limited me to, but I was finding this an issue for me. I had to do a repetitive batch transfer process to get the images over the iPad for review, which took a while.
  • Once I selected a group of photos, depending on the app they would actually transfer over in reverse order. And since I had to transfer in batches, that was a double-whammy to my desire to keep things in chronological order.
  • The apps would say they worked with WiFi or Bluetooth, but connection was spotty with one or both depending on the app. Pairing devices was a challenge in all of the apps I tried. When it did finally work, transfer was slooooowwww and you had to make sure your device didn’t go into sleep mode, or you needed to start the transfer process again.

Once I worked out the Dropbox transfer method, and later the AirDrop method, my life got much, much easier. I haven’t even explored this topic in a couple of years, everything has worked so well.

I hope this helps you manage your files between devices! Let me know your thoughts in the comments. The next File Management tutorial will cover quickly and easily transferring image files from your devices to your computer. Stay tuned!

The Beauty of Teenagerhood

The changes have been slow and steady… The deepening of the voice, the gaining of height, the expansion of opinion. My little boy has transformed into  a teenager. Surprise of all surprises, I am loving it.


He turns 14 in just over a week and I find myself enjoying his blooming “teenagerhood” more than I ever expected.

Babyhood was an amazing period of development, but exhausting. Those early toddler and pre-k years were full of laughter and vigilance and frustration. You just can’t reason with a young child! Not to mention the vast amounts of time and attention children need and want. Where is there room for your own self? There were times I felt like there was some thing wrong with me, because I needed time for myself and didn’t want to spend all of my time with my child. There were many, many times were I wondered if I was cut out for being a parent.

But lately, as I observe this transformation between childhood and adulthood, I wonder if this was the time I was waiting for. I just didn’t know it until now. I get to see my boy as he becomes the adult he was meant to be.

I get to see him explore his interests, from choir to technology. I get to watch him develop his own opinions and think for himself. I get to observe him make his way through increasing social complexity, learning to develop and recognize healthy relationships and ways of interacting with others. I get to put in my two cents (whether he wants it or not) to influence his direction and choices and thought processes. Influence, but not define. He’s doing the definition himself.

And, along with all of that, I get to witness the most wonderful examples of his budding independence… Just last week he wrote an letter to the editor of the local paper expressing frustration about the new standardized tests coming out in Oregon schools. At first the paper wanted to publish it, but now they want to interview him, he expressed himself so well. I sit back and watch in amazement and gratitude, that my almost-14-year-old has the skills and the confidence to participate in the civic process on his own.

The added bonus, and we will see how much longer this lasts, is that he is still interested in sharing things with us and exploring our interests too. He goes to model railroad club with his dad (all of the “train guys” love him). He is doing more with photography. A couple of months ago I got this text, which warmed my heart:


He helps with my mobile photography classes, working with the Android users since I’m familiar with iOS. He’s just joined Instagram and has started playing more with his own images. He let me share this one he created last week:


“A little like you, Mom,” he said. Yes, a little like me. Influenced by me, but still with his own point of view.

Just like him, as a person.

Swapped and Gone

The first mailing in the Liberate Your Art Swap is off! The next three weeks, lots of wonderful mail will be making its way around the world. So how many people were in the swap this year? From where? You’ll have to wait on those answers… I’ll share all of the swap stats along with a video of the postcard art during the Blog Hop, which will be April 16-20, 2015. All of the details on the video and the blog hop will arrive via email for those participating in the swap.

We had a wonderful Swap Day on Sunday! Here’s what it looked like around my house, all swapped and waiting for the volunteers to arrive. The swapping itself is a process that would not work well with many people, too many opportunities for mistakes, so I got up early to do that part.


Then came the sticking of labels and stamps on all of the postcards. With 8 of us, we finished in record time – 1.5 hours.



Here are the last of the decorated envelopes I received in this year’s swap. What gorgeous mail art I received this year! I think I will go into withdrawal after this. :)

A mermaid from North Carolina swam to Oregon, courtesy of Beverly.


I loved the message on this envelope, found within another envelope, from Chris in California…


A lovely painted piece graced the back of this envelope from Nancy in Florida:


Diane in Michigan is making the best of the cold weather — sending mail to warm the heart!


Another stitched envelope! This one from Jen in Arizona. Great “Liberate Your Art” motif going on here.


This elegant envelope arrived from Texas, sealed with wax. Kirsten‘s lettering is gorgeous!


Dani sent this fun greeting from Australia…


Another celebration of winter from Vicki in New York.


These flowers bloomed all the way from Danie in Australia! Can you imagine how many people smiled at the envelope along the way?


Kristen, here in my home state of Oregon, created a lovely collage on the back of her envelope…


And last, but not least, Cindy sends a bit of glitter with the phrase, “Not all who wander are lost.” I love that saying!


That wraps up the mail art for the 2015 swap. It was the best year yet for decorated envelopes. Thank you all so much!! It has been so much fun to received them.

The next swap update won’t be until the Blog Hop in April where we wrap everything up for the year. Stay tuned!!

A Life Well Lived

Last week was a reminder of what a life well lived looks like, in the end. It looks like a room full of people, sad to see you go. It looks like scholarships and foundations which last beyond your time on earth. It looks like crying and laughter alike, from family and friends whose lives you touched.

Last week I disappeared from my normal life, the blog, and everything else to attend the Celebration of Life of my dear great Aunt Mernie in Tucson, Arizona. She was 92 years old, the last of her generation in our family, and definitely an example of a life well lived. She was a longtime teacher, volunteer and community member who touched many people’s lives and inspired everyone to do their best, right up to the very end.

My sister and I talked right after she died, and tried to figure out what was so special about Aunt Mernie. I said it was because we always felt seen by her. She acknowledged our presence, our person-ness, from the time we were young children. She continued to acknowledge our presence, on through our adult lives with our own children. I got a birthday card from her just last fall. Who expects a birthday card from their great aunt at 92? 

Listening to different people’s memories at her Celebration of Life gave me a more complete picture of just how many lives she touched. How many other people felt like adopted grandchildren, as we did. 

And it inspires me, in showing me what a life well lived looks like. I know I can’t ever be just like Aunt Mernie. I don’t have an inherent disposition that is so kind and generous, as hers was. But if I can live my life in a way that influences people in a positive way, even just a small fraction of what she did, then I will call it a success.

Aunt Mernie, thank you for that. You will be very missed. 

Why Liberate Your Art?

We are getting close to swap day! Woohoo! With about a week and a half left for envelopes to arrive, we have 140 artists participating so far in the Liberate Your Art postcard swap this year. It will be interesting to see how many come in over the next nine days.

People ask me why I do this big swap, which takes quite a bit of my time and energy. My first answer is that I get to connect with all of YOU, which is awesome. But more importantly is to encourage people make, liberate and connect with art. You may not realize, but this simple step of sending your art out in the world can be life changing. Here are a few quotes in notes I’ve received this year with postcards:

I’ve never shared my art before and it is liberating!

I’ve never done anything like this before. I agonized over what to do, how to do it — all this time! Now I am sending these babies out in the world and so looking forward to mail! Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

I have never printed copies of my art, but now that I have, I think it is kinda fun.

I struggled a bit thinking myself a fraud for joining an “artists” project. Grade school judgements stick in the brain. Ultimately, the idea of just sharing anything was ok. Also, my 12 year old harshly said, “Oh, get over it!”

Thank you so much for reconnecting me to the artist within, the uninhibited free expression of who I am without self-consciousness. I wouldn’t consider anything I’ve created “perfect” or “masterful” but I’m having fun and sharing expressions of my inner and outer world.

Because of [this swap], I have friends that will be friends for the rest of our lives. That means the world.

Um, yeah. Those words, those feelings, those connections are more than worth the hours I put in to making this swap come together. T-9 days. I can’t wait to liberate!

Here are some of the wonderful envelopes I received in the last week. They are coming fast and furious now, and I’m not able to photograph and share every decorated envelope I receive. Forgive me if yours doesn’t get featured!

Charm sent this lovely doodled envelope from Australia.


Carroll in Vermont sent this wish for better weather through the mail. It says, “Doesn’t Jack Front know he’s worn out his welcome?! Besides, he really looks like he needs a vacation!”


On the back, she is clearly “anticipating spring.”


Linda sent this gorgeous envelope from California. I swear, some of these envelopes are worthy of framing. I might just do that after the swap.


I recognized Natasha‘s designs from a mile away! She does Henna art in California and has participated multiple years. Natasha, someday I’m going to wear some of your henna art…


Isn’t it amazing what you can do with a plain white envelope? Sheila in California sent this beauty. (What is it with all of the California people? Are you guys just extra creative?)


Jan from Michigan sent this message. Yes Jan, I agree! It’s almost time!


Deanie’s envelope from Arizona caught my eye. There is just something about vintage cameras…


The front of this envelope from April in Florida was artfully done…


…but it was the back which blew me away. Isn’t that a gorgeous piece of collage art? And on an envelope, no less…


Lisa is clearly dreaming of spring in Massachusetts. Keep dreaming! It will come!


This beauty came to me from Bonnie in Pennsylvania. Tea, anyone?


For all of the covered envelopes, a few here and there remind me that less can be more. Isn’t this a wonderful composition and use of the kraft envelope as part of the art? This is from Janet in California.


And finally, every so often I get something in the mail that is not art but is exciting nonetheless! Kris sent this lovely taste of Texas to me. The swap day volunteers and I will enjoy these! Thanks Kris!!


I can’t wait to LIBERATE! We are almost there…

Where does art come from?

Is there a place you feel most like yourself? Where you shed the trappings of everyday life and the expectations of others? I have a place like that. Or places, I should say. It’s wherever I find a dirt trail winding among the trees. Wherever I can be surrounded by the forest – tall trees, filtered light, greenery. Just the sounds of the breeze, the birds, and my breath.


It’s in the forest that I most feel like me. I’m not Kat the artist, or Katrina the engineer, or Trina the daughter, sister and wife. I’m just me, the core of me that doesn’t need a name. The forest reminds me there is this constant, consistent existence inside all of the outer trappings. This essential “me” that is the same no matter what direction I am facing in life, which name and role I’m taking on. I get to be that essential me, get in touch with that core, when I am in the forest. What a beautiful thing!

This lovely realization came through a couple of hikes I managed to squeeze in recently. It’s nice to know that regardless of how busy my life is or how many items on the “to do” list, there is a constant source of peace I can tap into. This realization has also led to an “aha” about my art.

Sometimes, looking at my work in the last couple of years, I’ve wondered how someone who is so busy can create art that is so peaceful and contemplative. I mean really, look at the work I create. It might make you think I live life in some zen way, full of meditation and awareness. Yet I am usually going a hundred miles an hour, filling most of my time with commitments and projects and goals. I have a full time corporate job, I create and sell art, I write and teach, I’m a wife and mother. Doesn’t sound very zen to me.

At times, I’ve wondered: Is the art I create a yearning for something else? Some simplicity that I can’t seem to achieve? But even though I’ve asked myself those questions, it’s never really felt this way. It doesn’t feel like the art comes from a place of emptiness or wanting. It feels like the art is just there. And I reach in and pull it out.

And that’s the “aha”… My art is there. It comes from that constant core, the “me” that’s me regardless of the name I’m using, the role I’m playing. The same self I get in touch with in the forest is the same self that I’m tapping in to when I create my art. It’s always there, always ready to be accessed. It just takes me finding a moment, finding ways to connect with it. Isn’t that brilliant? My art is from a place of abundance, not a place of lack. Because what I have, what I always have, no matter what else is happening in my life, is me.

I’ve always thought that connections brought through art are special. That when someone creates with honesty, you can see the true person through their art. I’m getting a deeper, more personal understanding of that. People who connect with my art are people who see me. The real me, under all of the window dressing of the different roles I play. It explains why I want to sell my art – because getting out there increases those connections. It explains why I love to teach about art – because it helps others find that connection to self too.

All of this has led to me rewriting what I think of as a “welcome” message, for the About me page on my website. Trying to capture who I am and what I do in just a few sentences is a difficult thing, but here’s my first draft…

My art is an expression of who I am, beyond the trappings of a modern, busy life as a mother, wife, engineer, teacher, and artist. There is a place of stillness, peace, and beauty that exists deep within me which comes out in the imagery I create. If my work resonates with you, then you have this special place within you too. I am honored to have made a connection with you. Nothing makes me happier than sending a piece of my art home with you to grace your space, or showing you how to create that kind of connection for yourself.

Welcome to Kat Eye Studio, my online creative space. Get comfortable, grab a cup of tea and make yourself at home here. Let’s connect through art.

What do you think? Does that capture it? Does it let you see a little bit of that real me, invite you to join me? I’d love to get your reactions to this new understanding, these new words.