Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

Once you are a Lightroom user, the best way to import photos from your memory card to your hard drive will be through Lightroom.  This way you can add your photos to your hard drive AND let Lightroom know about them at the same time.

**The best way to learn from these tutorials will be to follow along.  So open up Lightroom and get ready to import.**

Amanda always tells new users to really go slow with this process the first few times.  I think that is GREAT advice.  Once you have done it several times, you’ll get into a pattern and can go more quickly.

Insert a Memory Card in your Card Reader or Connect your Camera

I never hook my camera up to my computer to transfer files as it drains the battery.  If you don’t have a card reader attached to your computer, I’d recommend getting one.  I think this one looks great for SD card users.

This one would work perfect for Compact Flash Users.

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

If you’d like to have Lightroom automatically open for you when you insert a memory card, go to Edit>Preferences (Windows users) or Lightroom>Preferences (Mac users).  Under the “General” tab, find the Import Options section.  Check the box next to “Show import dialog when a memory card is detected.”

Open the Import Dialog Box

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

If it didn’t automatically open for you, you next need to tell Lightroom you want to import some photos.  You can do that by choosing File>Import Photos and Video or clicking on the Import button that is below your left-hand panels and above your filmstrip.


Choose Your Source

Now, tell Lightroom where you want to get your photos from.  This can be a memory card, a hard drive, or your camera.

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

If you are adding your photos from a Memory Card, you can also check “Eject After Import” to automatically disconnect it after importing.


Tell Lightroom How to Add Photos to Catalog

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

We need to let Lightroom know how we want these photos added to the catalog.  If we are importing from a memory card or camera, we will have only the first two options available.  If the photos are coming from a hard drive, we will have more options.  Let’s go over the options.

  • Copy as DNG: Copies the files to the location you choose and converts any RAW files to the DNG (digital negative) format.
  • Copy: Copies the files to the location you choose (including any .xmp files.)
  • Move: Moves the files to the location you choose (including any .xmp files.) Files are removed from their current location.
  • Add: Keeps the files in their current location but lets Lightroom know they exist so they can be edited.

Choose the Photos To Import

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

The big box in the middle will show all the photos on your memory card or your camera.  Lightroom will automatically place a checkmark next to all the photos that haven’t yet been imported.  

If you only want to import certain photos, click on the first one you want to import and then shift+click on the last one you want to import.  Then check one of the boxes.

You can filter the photos that you see here by choosing one of the following:

  • All Photos: Shows all the photos in the location your choose.
  • New Photos: Shows only photos that haven’t previously been imported.  Excludes suspected duplicates.
  • Destination Folders: Only available when copying or moving photos. Groups photos by their destination folder.


Choose a Destination for Your Photos

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

If you chose the “Add” option above, you won’t need to do anything here.  If you are copying your files to your hard drive or moving your files to a new location you’ll need to choose where they are going.

Open The Destination Panel on the right-side of the photos. Use the listed drives to tell Lightroom which drive and the location on that drive to place the photos.

Use the “Into Subfolder” option if you’d like to create a new subfolder to hold the photos.  Use the “Organize” drop-down menu to choose whether to place all the photos in one folder or in folders by date.  If you choose to place them in folders by date, you will then be given the opportunity to choose your date format.

The last thing you need to do is click IMPORT!

You’ll notice that I skipped a few of the right-hand panels on the import window.  That is because they aren’t CRITICAL to the import process.  Read below to find out how they can help you during Import.

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

File Handling

In this panel you can tell Lightroom the size of previews you want it to build on import. I typically choose “Minimal” because it is fastest.  “Embedded and Sidecar” will use the largest preview available from the camera. “Standard” previews are large previews and are what you see when choosing the “fit” zoom level. 1:1 previews are a 100% view of actual pixels. As you edit photos, Lightroom will create larger previews of photos as you need them.  With this option, you are only choosing the initial preview that you will see.

Smart Previews allow you to edit your images when they are not connected to your computer.  They are a lightweight smaller file.

This panel also allows you to make a backup copy of your files at the same time that you are importing them.  You can choose any location connected to your computer.

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

File Renaming

This panel allows you to choose how your files are named and is available whenever you are copying or moving files. Simply check the box “Rename Files”  Then choose a naming option from the Template choices.  If the option you choose has a custom naming feature, you’ll need to enter any custom text you want included.

Mastering Importing in Lightroom | Lightroom Tutorials

Apply During Import

This panel gives you the options to apply certain settings or keywords to each photo that you are importing.  

Under the Develop Settings, you may choose to apply any preset you have in your Develop presets folders.  

Under Metadata, you can choose to apply certain bits of metadata to your files such as copyright information and other personal information to allow people to find you if they want to use your photo.  You can create a preset/template by choosing either “New” or “Edit” from the drop-down menu.  

You can also add keywords to the photos you are importing by typing them in the box.  These keywords will be applied to ALL the photos you are importing so make sure that they apply to all the photos.


  • Go Slow the first several times you import.  Look at all the options there are and decide your best workflow for getting your images into Lightroom! 

Happy Lightrooming!

Don't Miss the Other Installments in this Series!

1. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Catalog

2. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Importing

3. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Library Module

4. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Develop Module

5. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Your Photos

6. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Photos With Presets

7. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Exporting and Everything Else