A different HEIC question

Just checked this. So, if I try to use the file chooser, it won’t even let me select any of my photos for uploading, because they’re HEICs which I guess the uploader doesn’t accept. So they’re all grayed out. Even the ones that I successfully uploaded by dragging and dropping earlier today.

ok. 2 final questions:

  • what’s the general process you’re using to copy your photos from your phone to your computer?
  • on your Mac specifically, are you backing up your photos to a cloud service like iCloud or Google Drive?

I used to primarily use AirDrop (a Bluetooth method that works between Apple devices) to move photos from my phone to my computer. Recently I started doing it wired, plugging my phone into my computer and importing them using the Mac Photo app. Either way has been the same result in terms of how things act when I try to upload to iNat.

I am not using any cloud service. These photos are all directly on my hard drive.

hmmm… i’m not sure what to make of this. when i try to upload a .heic file via drag+drop, i don’t even get as far as you did:

there’s no observation “card” created in my upload page. it just fails with an error message.

it seems like the Mac (not iNat) must be doing some sort of conversion on the fly when you try to upload your photos. but there might be some sort of weird timing thing / race condition where that conversion isn’t complete before iNat attempts to use the file.

there’s another thread where @sullivanrabbit proposed this workflow for exporting photos (https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/random-iphone-photos-wont-upload-to-inaturalist-from-macbook/17857/3), which seemed to solve the problems that the original poster on that thread was having. the problem described there sounds similar to what you’re describing here. so you could try that workflow and see if it solves your problems, too.

So perplexing! The mystery continues! Really appreciate you trying to get to the bottom of this!

I will give the method in the other thread a try.

One other idea, just something that entered my head although I think your suggestion about the Mac doing some sort of on the fly conversion seems the most plausible. But just raising as another idea, could it have anything to do with the browser I’m using? I’m working in Firefox.

i don’t think it’s browser-related. i think the Mac or the Photos app on the Mac are the 2 likeliest suspects for doing the on-the-fly conversion.

i tried loading my file via a Chromium-based browser and via Firefox, and it didn’t make a difference. neither browser seemed to attempt to do a file conversion that allowed me to get the observation cards that you got in your upload.

Note - i’m no expert with these but just some quirky things that could maybe be checked:
Could it have to do with any the following:

  1. colorspace - are your heic files in a less common colorspace and when you open them on your computer or such, perhaps your image viewer auto-converts to display, or something?
  2. are some of your heic files ‘live photos’ and those are the ones not working?
  3. how iphones can take multiple images in a series, and then select one to display, do you need to select ones to save first

Got it. Yep I guess that seems the most likely at this point! Definitely not what I was expecting. I’m so curious if anyone else with a Mac is experiencing the same thing!

Thanks for weighing in! I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the term colorspace, so not sure about that one. But in answer to your other two points, great ideas but I don’t think either of them are at play here. None of these are “live photos” (I always make sure to have that feature turned off), and I take all my photos as single photos rather than using the options to take a series. Also, ALL of the photos EVENTUALLY work if I give them enough time. So there doesn’t seem to be any distinction between the individual files.

I am a Mac user, running Monterey. On Firefox, I uploaded a bunch of .heic files - my own and ones which have been given me by different friends and family members (with different phones). All just come up like this :

I repeated with one of the images on Chrome and Safari, also the same.

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Did you just put these photos onto your Mac recently? If so, I wonder what will happen if you give it 24 to 48 hours and try again. That’s what works for me.

Oh I just read @pisum’s comment above :

I tried doing it through the Photos app and it does indeed seem to load it if I take that route.

There was a mix, some from this week, some from last year.

Aha! So it sounds like the Mac Photos app is indeed behind the conversions, if it works for you when uploading from the app but not otherwise. So interesting!

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Yes it seems to have some automatic export settings when you drag and drop anything straight out of it. Even if you drag a photo into it and then back on to your desktop it converts it to jpeg.

The direct dragging of Photos to browser only seems to work on Safari for me though. It doesn´t appear to work on Firefox or Chrome.


Really fascinating! Thanks for the sleuthing!

Strange that I’m using Firefox and it still works for me, albeit only after some time has passed. I’ll have to try uploading from Safari and see if that bypasses the waiting period.

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Another workaround to your problem would be to change the settings on your phone camera app. On my iPhone 7, I can choose whether the default is to save a photo as jpeg or heic.

I think I can do that on this one too. (I went to this 13 from a 6 and I still feel like I’m learning my way around it.) The thing is that HEIC apparently take up MUCH less space, and I tend to take A LOT of photos without clearing things out that often. So I do like the space-saving aspect. But definitely an option to consider!


revisiting this…

according to https://mackeeper.com/blog/convert-heic-to-jpg-on-mac/, the Photos app does indeed do an automatic conversion on drag and drop.

the article also mentions the export process described in the other thread by sullivanrabbit, and it also mentions the Automator-based conversion method i linked an article to above.

so it sounds like these three methods would be the 3 out-of-the-Mac methods for heic-to-jpg conversion.


Thank you again for all your help with getting to the bottom of this!

This does indeed seem to be what’s going on. And I suppose the reason it takes time for the Photos app exporting feature to kick in must be because of some sort of race condition as you suggested earlier.

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