How to Import Photos Into Lightroom

Importing Photos and Video into Lightroom

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 where they are at the same time.

Note: The best way to learn from this tutorial will be to follow along. So open up Lightroom and get ready to import.

One piece of advice I always tell new Lightroom users is to go really slow with the process the first few times. Once you have completed this process several times and are familiar with the Lightroom import settings, you will get into a habit of doing it and it will go much more quickly. In the meantime, just go slow and bookmark this tutorial for future reference!

Step 1. Insert a Memory Card in your Card Reader or Connect your Camera

Personally, I never hook my camera up to my computer to transfer files as it drains the camera battery. If you do not have a card reader attached to your computer, I would recommend getting one.

I think this one looks great for SD card users and one would work perfect for Compact Flash Users.

Lightroom Import Settings

If you want Lightroom to open automatically 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 and check the box next to “Show import dialog when a memory card is detected.”

Step 2. Open the Lightroom Import Dialog Box

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

best way to import photos into lightroom

Step 3. Choose Your Import Source

Next, you will need to tell Lightroom where you want to import your photos or video from. This can be a memory card, a hard drive, or your camera.

If you are adding your photos from a memory card, you can also check the “Eject After Import” box which will automatically disconnect the memory card after completing the import.

how to import photos to lightroom from camera

Step 4. Tell Lightroom How to Add Photos to Catalog

Next, you need to let Lightroom know how you want these photos added to your Lightroom Catalog. If you are importing from a memory card or camera, you will only have the first two options below available. If the photos are coming from a hard drive, you will have more options. Let’s go over these 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 a location you choose (including any .xmp files).
  • Move: Moves the files to a location you choose (including any .xmp files) and removes them from their current location.
  • Add: Keeps the files in their current location but lets Lightroom know they exist so they can be edited.

importing photos into lightroom

    Step 5. Choose the Photos or Videos To Import

    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 have not 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.

    how to add photos in lightroom

    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 have not previously been imported.  Excludes suspected duplicates.
    • Destination Folders: Only available when copying or moving photos. Groups photos by their destination folder.

    Step 6. Choose a Destination for Your Photos

    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 will 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.

     how to import pictures into lightroom

    Step 7. Click Import

    The last thing you need to do is click IMPORT!

    Additional Import Setting Options:

    You may have noticed that I skipped a few of the right-hand panels on the import window. That is because these options are not CRITICAL to the import process. However, let's go over them below to show you how they can help you during your Lightroom import.

    1. File Handling

    In the File Handling 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. Lightroom smart previews 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 for the backup.

    how to import raw files into lightroom

    2. File Renaming

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

    lightroom import

    3. Apply During Import

    The Apply Duing Import Panel gives you the option to apply certain settings or keywords to each photo that you are importing.  

    Under the Develop Settings, you may choose to apply any Lightroom 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.

    how to import photos into lightroom cc

    Remember to 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!

    Do you have any questions or comments about How to Import Photos in Lightroom? Just leave us a comment below - and PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

    Portrait Lightroom Presets

    Don't Miss the Other Installments in this Lightroom 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

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