How is a picture added to a computer?

Updated: 11/30/2020 by Computer Hope
Viewing a photograph on a computer.

There are many different ways to add (input) a picture or other image into a computer. Once a picture is digitized and saved to your computer as an image file, it can be edited, stored, and shared with others.

Since 1957, when Russell Kirsch captured and stored the first digital image, a 176 x 176 pixel picture of his infant son, technology has advanced significantly. Nearly all of us carry cameras in our pockets more powerful than any digital camera available to consumers twenty years ago. Computing power, storage media, and network bandwidth have also evolved dramatically since then, facilitating new ways to digitally capture, revise, and share the things that we see.

Below we've listed all the major ways to add a picture to a computer, with links to additional help and information.

Digital cameras and smartphone

Digital camera

One of the most common methods to add a picture to a computer is with a digital camera or smartphone. After you've taken a picture with either of these devices, they can connect to the computer using the appropriate USB cable. If it has a removable SD card and your computer has a card reader, it can transfer pictures from the device. Pictures taken with either of these devices are often saved as a JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group). SLR cameras can also save pictures as a RAW file. Newer digital cameras, and some newer Android and iOS devices, may also support the HEIF (high efficiency image file format) image file format.

Apple iPhone

If you use a smartphone to take a picture, you can use a cloud service to automatically sync your photos to your other devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. For example, on iOS devices, such as iPhones and iPads, you can sync your photos to your iMac automatically using iCloud.


When using a smartphone, you can e-mail the picture to yourself. You can also post the picture to a social network site or photo sharing cloud service, like Google Photos, and save the picture from the website to your computer.


Computer flatbed scanner

Another common method of adding a picture to your computer is with a scanner. A scanner can take a hard copy of a picture, slide, book, or magazine and save it as an image file on your computer. As with a camera, the default image file format is usually JPEG.


For people without a scanner, use your smartphone or digital camera to take a picture of almost anything with similar quality. If you need to get an image of a slide into your computer, you must use a scanner with slide scanning capabilities.

Flash drive, CD, DVD, floppy diskette

Flash drive

If a picture is already saved, it can be copied to any media (e.g., a CD (compact disc), DVD (digital versatile disc), flash drive, or floppy diskette) and then moved to your computer.


To create a picture of something you see on your screen, you can take a screenshot.

Download images

Most images you see on the Internet can be downloaded from a website and saved to your computer.