How to Download Nikon D3500 Photos & Videos to a Computer

Here’s a rundown of how to download photos and videos from a Nikon D3500 to your computer.

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The Nikon D3500 is what’s known as an entry-level DSLR. For camera manufacturers, that means it’s the simplest and cheapest in their range. They’re generally the simplest to use and have a trimmed-down set of features compared to their higher (and more expensive models).

In practical terms, that means that for many owners, it might be their first DSLR. It might be your first “real” camera stepping up from a smartphone or point-and-shoot. And because DSLRs work a little differently from a smartphone or even many compact cameras, it might not be self-evident how to get the photos and videos from the camera to a computer, whether that’s a laptop or desktop, Mac, Windows, or Unix. That’s where this guide comes in.

There are a few ways to download your photos and videos from a Nikon D3500 to a computer. None of them is particularly complicated or difficult, although some methods require a separate accessory memory card reader. But there are also good ways to do it without buying another accessory.

So, here’s a rundown of various options for downloading your photos and videos from a Nikon D3500 to a computer, including using wired connections and wireless.

And just so everyone’s on the same page, it’s worth saying that with a DSLR like the D3500, the images are stored on the SD card in the camera. That’s different from a smartphone, for instance, where photos and videos are typically stored in the devices’ own internal memory.1 So, what we’re really talking about with all these methods is downloading the photo and video data from a memory card to your computer. And in the D3500’s case, it takes SD cards; if you’re wondering what the best kind of memory card for this camera is, I have much more detail on which SD cards to get for the D3500, here.

There are two other approaches to getting images and video streams from your D3500 to a computer. One is to use the D3500 as a live-streaming video webcam; I have a detailed guide on that here. The other is similar but is known as tethering. That lets you connect a camera to your computer, either with a USB cable or with the SnapBridge mobile app, to control some of the camera’s features from the computer (and download the images/video in near real-time). But those are both more specialized operations that work a bit differently from what I’m describing here.

Connecting the D3500 to Computer with USB Cable

This is the simplest method for downloading photos and videos from your D3500 to your computer. And it doesn’t require buying another accessory. It just uses the micro-USB cable that comes with the camera. If you have misplaced that original cable and need a new one, replacements are easy to find and not expensive. But there is a bit of a catch: not all micro-USB cables will work with the data transfer that the D3500 needs. So go ahead and try any others you have lying around to see if the camera mounts to your computer. If it doesn’t, you can pick up replacement transfer cables like this aftermarket version or this one (make sure you’re getting the cable with the “micro” connector, not the “mini” connector–it should be in the item title). If you’d prefer to get the Nikon original, the model number is UC-E20, and you can find them at camera specialists like B&H Photo.

MaxLLTo 3FT Replacement USB 2.0 Transfer Cable Cord for Nikon D3400 D3500...
  • Length: 3FT, light and easy to carry.
  • Brand new, high quality usb 2.0 Data cable/lead.( Non-OEM )

Many cameras can charge the battery directly when you plug in the USB cable, but the Nikon D3500 isn’t one of them. On this camera, the USB is used only for data transfer, not charging. Which suits our purposes here just fine.

So, you plug the larger end of the USB cable into your computer’s USB port and the other end into your camera’s micro-USB port.

One thing to watch is that you have it in the correct port. The micro-HDMI port is a similar size and shape, but the cable won’t fit snugly in that (don’t try to force it). Another thing to watch: make sure that the camera is powered on and the battery charged. If the camera is powered off, the computer won’t be able to see the card.

The rest is handled by software on your computer. There is any number of software apps that will work for this, from something like Lightroom to Adobe Bridge to the built-in camera and file browser apps (e.g., Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows)).

You don’t need software that’s specific to a Nikon D3500; nearly any file management software can handle the basic process. On many of the more advanced image editing apps, you’ll be looking for an “import” or “ingest” function. On the file browsers like Finder and Explorer, you’ll be treating the files as normal files. Look for the files under the DCIM / 101D3500 folder/directory.

Here are some good options for image downloading software, ranging from standard file browsers to more advanced image management apps:

  • Nikon Transfer 2. This is the software that Nikon develops and recommends, although you by no means have to use it. The Transfer feature is a component of the ViewNX 2 software, which you can download here. It’s free, and there are versions for Windows and Mac.
  • Finder (Mac) / Explorer (Windows). The SD card inside the camera should mount as a regular disk in Finder. From there, you can copy and move files just like you would with any other files.
  • Lightroom. Lightroom’s approach is slightly different, in that the process is actually a more comprehensive “ingest” or “import” that brings the files into the Lightroom database (catalog) simultaneously with copying the files to your hard drive. If you’re shooting many photos, Lightroom or one of its alternatives is well worth learning. There are free alternatives if Lightroom’s subscription model isn’t your cup of tea. With any of these image organizing apps, there’s a bit of a learning curve at the beginning, but it opens up incredible opportunities for processing and organizing your images that will reap more benefits the more photos you shoot. Once you get a few hundreds or thousands of photos in your collection, you’ll be glad you went this route.
  • Camera App / Photos (Mac). This is a Mac app that’s built into the operating system. It’s designed to automatically detect a camera device and then transfer the images to the computer’s hard drive.
  • PhotoMechanic. This is an app that many sports and press photographers use for a very efficient and streamlined approach to ingesting and culling a large number of images. But it gives you powerful tools for renaming, sorting, and backing up photos, as well as managing metadata—and that’s just in the ingest/copying process. It’s overkill for most D3500 shooters, but I include it here because, well, why not? I don’t recommend just going out and buying a license—besides, it’s not cheap—but if you’re curious about what’s possible and want to try it out, you can download a free trial.

There are ways you can tweak this process in your workflow by incorporating renaming the files, sorting them, and automatically applying processing, but those are more advanced topics beyond the scope of what we’re doing here. For now, we’re just trying to get the images from your camera to your computer.

There’s not really any downside to this method. It’s not the fastest in terms of transfer speed—using a memory card reader can potentially give faster transfer speeds, but that depends heavily on the combination of memory card, card reader, and computer. And it also means that you can’t be shooting with the camera while you’re downloading. But neither of those are big issues for most shooters.

There are a few things to watch, though:

  • Don’t use a USB hub. While some might work, it’s a common area where the process can break, either from an underpowered hub or some kind of miscommunication along the data transfer chain. So it’s best to plug the USB cable directly into one of the main USB ports on the computer itself.
  • The camera’s battery will need to be charged. You will need to have the camera powered on.
  • If the camera doesn’t mount when you connect the cables, make sure that the camera is turned off when you make the connection. Then power the camera on.

Use a Memory Card Reader

This is fundamentally the same method as above, except that instead of using the camera directly, you remove the memory card from the camera, put it in a memory card reader that’s connected (or, in some cases, built-in) to your computer. The rest is the same: you still use the software on the computer to copy or ingest the images from the memory card to your computer. You can use the same software options I outlined in the previous method.

Many laptops—and even some desktops—come with an SD card reader built-in. But even if yours doesn’t, the good news is that they’re cheap. You don’t need a fancy or expensive card reader. Something simple like this one will work perfectly well here.

uni SD Card Reader, USB 3.0 to SD/Micro SD Card Adapter 2-in-1, Aluminum...
  • 【USB 3.0/2.0/1.1】Experience amazingly fast data transfer speeds with the USB 3.0 port, fully enjoy...
  • 【Simultaneously Read/Write】Data transfer speed up to 5Gbps, photos/videos transferred within seconds....

This one has a few extra ports, useful if you’re using cameras or devices that have different-sized memory cards.

SmartQ C368 USB 3.0 Multi-Card Reader, Plug N Play, Apple and Windows...
  • Super fast data transferring speeds: Super-speed (5gpbs), high-speed (480mbps), full-speed (12mbps)
  • Supports most standard memory cards including cf/sd/sdhc/scxc/mmc/*mmc micro/*rs mmc/*mini sd/micro sd/ms...

And this a much higher-end option. It’s probably overkill for most shooters, but if you want the top-of-the-line and have the computer hardware to take advantage of it, this is it.

SD UHS-II Dual-Slot Memory Card Reader by ProGrade Digital | USB 3.2 Gen 2...
  • DO MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE:​ ​Because the ​ProGrade Digital™​ USB 3.2 Gen 2 Dual-Slot ​SD™​...
  • DESIGNED FOR LIFE ON THE ROAD:​ ​Wherever you go, your included adhesive metal plate attaches the...

After many years of shooting digitally and with many different cameras, using a memory card reader is still the way I find the easiest. The data transfer speeds are quick, because it’s going over a cable rather than wifi. So, it doesn’t matter how full the card is. And it’s reliable. There’s no need to be messing with connecting wifi apps or selecting images. And if you have multiple memory cards, you can be downloading from one while shooting with the other.

The biggest upsides of this method are:

  • It’s potentially faster. The transfer speed you get in real-world conditions is dependent on the combination of the SD card, the memory card reader, and the computer. But with the right setup, you can get faster download speeds. That’s not much of an issue with a few images but can make a real difference if you come back from a shoot with full memory cards.
  • You can potentially download from multiple cards at once. This is purely a convenience and speed thing, but if you’re coming back from a trip with multiple full SD cards of images and videos, you can download from them simultaneously. This won’t work with most memory card readers or even most downloading software. But there are ways to make it work; I have an example here.
  • You can keep shooting while you’re downloading images. For many shooters, this is never really an issue, but there are times you might want the camera to be available even while you’re backing up images from the memory card.

Wireless: Mobile App

Right off the bat, I’ll say that this method rarely makes much sense for downloading photos and videos from a D3500 to a computer. It’s much slower, much more tedious, and much more cumbersome. But since it does technically work, I’ll include it here.

The Nikon D3500 does have Bluetooth wireless capabilities, but they’re pretty limited. And using them to transfer photos to a laptop or desktop is tedious and convoluted. It makes much more sense for downloading images from your camera to a mobile device like a phone or tablet. The only time it makes much sense to me to do it this way is if I’m on the move and want to select which images I want to work on later without opening up my laptop. In other words, a kind of on-the-move intermediate step.

The D3500’s wireless features only work with the SnapBridge app. And I’m not much of a fan of the SnapBridge app. Over the years, I’ve run into far too many bugs and glitches with it. But it’s also free, and it’s designed to work specifically with the Nikon D3500.

When you connect your D3500 to the SnapBridge app (I have a detailed guide on how to do that here), you’ll get the options to download media or to control the camera. For our purposes here, we obviously want the download option.

That will then download the image from the camera’s memory card to your phone’s camera roll. Once it’s on your phone, you can use other methods to transfer the data to your computer. There are a number of different ways to do that depending on the phone and its operating system. On some phones, you can connect the phone directly to the computer using a cable. Or you might be able to do it wirelessly. Or you might be able to use an intermediate cloud service like iCloud or Dropbox.

So, it has a few extra steps to go from the memory card to the computer. And it’s slow—downloading just one image over Bluetooth will take more than a few seconds. So, it becomes quite impractical for large numbers of images or video files. But, as I said, it is technically possible.


  1. There are some cameras that do have their own on-board memory storage in addition to the memory card. The D3500 is not one of them. Like most DSLR and mirrorless cameras, the D3500 does have what’s known as a buffer memory, but that’s purely a temporary working memory space that acts as an intermediate storage bucket while the data is being written to the memory card, and it is not used for storing media long-term. 

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2021-12-05 at 16:32. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

Nikon D3500 Accessories

Looking for replacements or spares? These are some of the core Nikon D3500 accessories.

Battery & Charger for Nikon D3500

Spare batteries are very handy in your camera bag. Unlike the old mechanical SLRs that didn't need a battery to keep shooting, with the D3500 and other digital cameras, you're high and dry if your battery runs out of juice.

If you're looking for a replacement or spare battery for your D3500, the model number is EN-EL14a. It's a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that's also used by many other Nikon DSLRs (7.2V, 1230mAh). You can also find very good aftermarket versions, like this one from Watson or these from PowerExtra that provide more cost-effective alternatives.

Powerextra 2 x EN-EL14 EN-EL14a Battery & Dual LCD Charger Compatible with...
  • ✔ Battery Specs:Capacity: 1500mAh / Battery Type: Lithium-ion / Voltage: 7.4V / Come with CE...
  • ✔ Standard Compatible with Nikon EN-EL14 EN-EL14a:Ideal Replacement Battery for Nikon Coolpix P7000,...

You can’t charge the battery while it’s in the camera, so you’ll need a separate charger. The camera comes with one. If you’re after a spare or replacement, the model number is MH-24. It's an AC quick charger that plugs directly into the wall socket. Unlike many other cameras, you can't charge the Nikon D3500's battery in the camera. Some of the aftermarket batteries come with a dock charger, which can be a cheaper way to solve the problem.

Memory Cards

There's no official SD card for the D3500, but some cards will work better than others in this camera. And there's no point splurging on a super-fast SD card when the camera can't take advantage of it.

I've put together more detailed SD card recommendations for the Nikon D3500. But if you're just after some quick recommendations, any of these make for a good choice and are reasonably priced:

Camera Strap for the Nikon D3500

You don't have to stock with the original Nikon strap with the D3500--any camera strap will work. But if you want to replace the original (the black one with the gold/yellow Nikon branding), its model number is AN-DC3.

There's also a huge variety of other good alternatives. My personal favorites are the ones by Peak Design, which come in especially handy if you're going back and forth between multiple cameras because they come with a quick-release system. And they're very strong.

Lenses for Nikon D3500

One of the great things about DSLRs--and especially ones that use a long-standing mounting system like Nikon's F-mount--is that there's a huge variety of lenses that you can use with it. So there's no "right" lens to use--it depends on what you're aiming for and how much you want to spend.

But for the D3500, in general, you want to look for lenses that have Nikon's F-mount system and that are designed for DX camera bodies (that's the cropped sensor size of the D3500). And you'll probably want one that has autofocus. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but sticking to those basics will make things easier if you're looking to expand your lens collection.

The D3500 typically comes with a basic 18-55mm zoom lens. There's nothing wrong with it as an entry-level lens. It works just fine, it's inexpensive, and, most importantly, you can still take great photos with it. But it's very much a starter lens. If you're after some recommendations on lenses to get for the D3500 to step beyond the kit lens, here are some ideas. These are sensibly priced, are logical additions to a D3500, and go beyond what the kit lens can do.

Nikon AF-S DX 18-300mm ƒ/3.5-6.3G ED VR zoom lens. If you had to choose just one lens to take with your traveling, this is a great choice. It has a very wide zoom range. At 18mm (equivalent to 27mm on a full-frame body), it's great for interiors or landscapes. At 300mm (equivalent to 450mm on a full-frame body), there's plenty of reach for wildlife, sports, or dramatic sunsets. It has vibration reduction, is compact and portable, and is competitively priced. Sigma also makes a good version that's a bit cheaper but great quality. They're both high-quality, extremely versatile, and surprisingly affordable.

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens...
  • Maximum magnification of 032x
  • Angle of view from 76 degree to 5 degree 20'. Focal length range: 18 300 millimeter, minimum focus...

Nikon AF-S 50mm ƒ/1.8G lens. It's hard to go past a 50mm prime lens for versatility, fun, and learning the fundamentals of photography. They're fast, which means they're good in low-light as well as give you that nice blurry background while keeping the subject sharp. They're inexpensive. They're often very sharp. And they're small and highly portable. This is the ƒ/1.8 version. Nikon also makes a B&H Photofaster ƒ/1.4 version, but it's about double the price. because the D3500 has a cropped DX sensor, the 50mm lens will become a slight telephoto perspective, equivalent to a 75mm lens on a full-frame camera (i.e., 35mm equivalent). Which makes it all the more useful as a portrait lens, whether you're taking formal portraits or candids of the family. And if you want a more traditional "true" 50mm perspective, you can put the 35mm ƒ/1.8G on the D3500 instead.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G Lens
  • Fast, upgraded f/1.8, compact FX format prime lens. The picture angle with 35 millimeter (135) format is...
  • Focal length 50 millimeter, minimum focus distance 1.48 feet (0.45 meter)

Nikon D3500 Body Cap

If you're storing or transporting your D3500 camera body without a lens attached, you'll want to put on a body cap. It goes over the opening where the lens goes and prevents dust and moisture from getting inside and wreaking havoc (and pesky dust bunnies on your photos).

The camera comes with one, but they're easy to misplace. The model number for the replacement part is BF-1B. It's the same cap used for all Nikon F-mount camera bodies. And this is a great opportunity to save a few dollars with an aftermarket version--it's just a piece of plastic, after all. They're often sold paired with a rear lens cap, since you often need both of those things when removing a lens.

Nikon D3500 Rubber Eyecup

If the rubber eyecup has been knocked off the viewfinder when you take out of your camera bag, the replacement part model number is DK-25. There are also slightly cheaper aftermarket versions, such as the ones by Vello or JJC.

2 Pack JJC Eyecup Eyepiece Eye Cup Viewfinder for Nikon D3400 D3500 D3200...
  • Made from soft and durable silicone + high quality ABS
  • Provide cushioning around the camera's eyepiece, and are especially useful to eyeglass wearers

Battery Dummy for Nikon D3500

A battery dummy is used for longer-term power supply to the camera. They're especially useful for things like time lapse photography, astrophotography, or using your D3500 as a webcam.

It's an accessory that fits into your camera's battery compartment. By itself, it doesn't provide any power, but it's attached to a cable that you can then attach to different power sources such as AC power or a larger battery pack.

Nikon's official model is EP-5A. You can also pick up aftermarket versions. Some include only the dummy battery part; others come bundled with AC adapters.

TKDY EH-5 AC Adapter EP-5A DC Coupler Power Supply EN-EL14A Dummy Battery...
  • [COMPATIBLE WITH MODEL:] EP-5A DC coupler (Connector) replace EN-EL14/EN-EL14a Battery, work for Nikon...
  • [STEPS FOR USAGE:] Remove the original battery, Replace with virtual battery, and cover the battery...

FAQs & Tips

I've put together a number of resources related to the Nikon D3500.

Good places to start are with the Nikon D3500 Q&As and recommended SD cards for the Nikon D3500.

Where Can I Find the Nikon D3500 Manual?

You can find the Nikon D3500 manuals here. There are several different versions. The Reference Manual is the most detailed and most complete. The User Manual is basically a quick start guide. There are also versions designed for different parts of the world.

The Reference Manual is available as both a downloadable PDF and as on online HTML version.

Where Can I Find the Nikon D3500 Latest Firmware?

Nikon releases firmware updates on their website.

So far, there haven't been any firmware updates issued for the D3500.

Where to Buy a Nikon D3500 DSLR

The D3500 is an excellent entry-point camera for getting started with DSLR photography.

You can find them at Amazon and B&H Photo.

You can also find them used at major used camera gear sellers such as KEH (which is where I often buy when I'm looking for used gear).

Nikon D3500 FAQs

Is Nikon D3500 full frame?

The Nikon D3500 is in Nikon's DX format series of DSLRs, which means it has an APS-C sensor. These sensors are sized smaller than a full-frame sensor but larger than most smartphone and compact camera sensors.

The Nikon D3500's sensor measures 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm and produces images that are up to 24 megapixels (6000 x 4000 pixels). The sensor has a native ISO sensitivity of ISO 100 to ISO 25,600.

What year was the Nikon D3500 released?

The Nikon D3500 was released in 2018. It replaced the Nikon D3400.

What is the weight of the Nikon D3500?

The camera body itself (i.e., without a lens attached) weighs approximately 12.9 oz. (365 g).

Does the Nikon D3500 have a built-in flash?

Yes, the Nikon D3500 has a built-in flash that uses i-TTL.

Does the Nikon D3500 have wireless connectivity?

Yes, the D3500 has Bluetooth connectivity, although that connectivity is limited to use with Nikon's SnapBridge app.

by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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