Whether you are importing images from a memory card, or from your computer hard-drive, image import using Lightroom is pretty straight forward. Before starting, it’s worth saying that because you are importing files into Lightroom, then it stands to reason you plan to edit them. You should therefore always shoot your images in RAW (lossless) format, as it gives you extra editing bandwidth. If you want to know more about this, then we recommend reading our article on shooting In RAW vs JPEG.
Here is a very short video demonstrating Importing Images using Lightroom from a camera as the source.
Lightroom Importing Images
To initiate the import process, press the Import button. It is at the very bottom of the left-hand menu, or by clicking “File” and “Import Photos & Videos” from the main menu.
This brings up a pop-up window for file import.
On the left-hand side of this window, you select the image source. In this case, we are importing from a Canon EOS 5D IV. Along the top, the centre of the window is a couple of options. The first is “Copy as DNG”, and the second is “Copy”. There are also a couple of greyed out options which are disabled for memory card/camera import due to security.
I prefer to make a direct RAW file import, as the DNG format is slightly compressed (lossy). It kind of depends on how accessible you want your RAW files to be. Manufacturers all have proprietary RAW standards, whereas DNG is an industry-standard. I have always shot with Canon, so there is consistency and backward compatibility. If you use several different cameras, or non main-stream cameras, you may want to consider just the Copy option.
With that done, we can now select which images to import, by checking the radio button on each image. Or you can just go ahead and import all images. If you choose to select individual images, there are a number of functions to help you, including a Loupe View, Grid View, and the ability to change the thumbnail size.
File Import Options – File Handling
The file import options are all at the right-hand side of the window. Starting from the top are the File Handling options. Working through each option.
Build Previews merely impacts what you see whilst the import process is underway, whereby:
Minimal – Immediately starts to display low-resolution previews.
Embedded & Sidecar displays the largest-sized preview that is available from your camera. This option takes slightly longer than minimal to view in your imported collection, but not as long as Standard, which displays RGB renders, and 1:1 which displays full-size previews. I generally go ahead and leave this option as the default Minimal, and let Lightroom finish importing images before I start working on them.
The next option in File Handling is Build Smart Previews. Smart Previews allow you to edit images that are not physically connected to your computer. They are basically a lightweight, smaller, file format, based on the lossy DNG file format.
For instance, if you keep your images on a drive at home, but you need to access the images when you are working away using your laptop, then Smart Previews give you that flexibility. If however, your whole collection is on your laptop with you at all times, then you don’t really need them.
The next option is Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates. If you select this radio button, Lightroom does a check before importing your image, that the same file does not already exist in your library. i.e. that it has the same name, EXIF data. This can be a useful option, if for instance, you are gathering images from various sources.
Selecting the Make a Second Copy To radio button, prompts you to select a location on your computer, or external drive, and as the name suggests makes a second backup copy of your file.
The final radio button is Add To Collection, which, when selected prompts you to select a location in your Lightroom library. This is quite useful if, for instance, you are importing images from a single studio shoot, and you want them all to appear in a single collection.
File Import Options – File Handling
The File Renaming panel lets you specify how your imported files are named. You can either choose from a set of templates from the Template pull-down menu or choose the Custom free-text option.
You can also choose to have the file extension as either upper-case or lower-case in the Extensions pull-down menu.
File Import Options – Apply During Import
The next set of options are the Apply During Import. These allow you to automate any common actions you do with your files. So, for instance, if you always apply a specific develop setting, you can include that during the import phase to save you the trouble later on.
The other options in this menu allow you to modify the metadata, and, a really useful one is keywords. If you have a common set of keywords (tags) that you want to add to all your images, you can do this during the import to save time.
File Import Options – Destination
The final panel option is the Destination you want your images to go to. You can select either your Hard Drive or an External Drive, and then drill down to the specific folder.
Once this is done, you press the Import button, and your images will start to load into your Lightroom library.
One thing I tend to do as soon as my images are imported is to give the Folder in the Lightroom library a contextual name. You don’t need to do this, but I just find it helps later on when you are searching for specific images or a specific shoot or location.
If you found this article on Lightroom Importing Images useful, please check out some of our other Lightroom Articles & How-To Guides. Here are some that may be of interest to you:
Image File Management may not be the most exciting subject, but it’s important to get it right. This article covers techniques to get the best from Folders and Catalogues
Using metadata and keyword tags with your Lightroom image library, is a powerful way of optimising your images for the web.
The Lightroom Library Module provides numerous functions to manage and sort your images.
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Specialising in landscape and wildlife photography, David is a semi-professional photographer based in Scotland, with an established fine art and stock photography portfolio; which includes published photography with the New York Post, Huffington Post, as well as various travel and tourism companies worldwide.