How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

If you’re new to using Adobe Lightroom, learning how to import photos into Lightroom is a perfect place to get started.

Even if you already know how to open your photos in Lightroom, you might find some useful information below.

In this Lightroom tutorial got beginners, I’m going to discuss several methods including converting your RAW to DNG, importing images directly from your camera and how to import an existing collection of photos into Lightroom from your hard drive.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

When you import photos into Lightroom you must be working in the Library module. That’s where all of the importing and organization takes place. Open up Lightroom, navigate to the Library module at the top of the screen and click on the Import button at the bottom of the panel on the left.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

The Import screen can be divided into three tasks. Where do you want to import photos into Lightroom from? Which photos in that location do you want to import in Lightroom? Where do you want the photos to be physically stored on a hard drive?

Where do you want to import photos into Lightroom from?

Ok, so where are the photos right now? If you have inserted a memory card or connected your camera to your computer then you will see it here. This is the method many people use when importing photos into Lightroom.

If you are wanting to import an existing collection of photos into Lightroom, meaning the images have previously been moved from the camera to a hard drive, then you will want to navigate to the folder on that drive that contains the images you wish to import.

You will notice that you have the option to automatically eject the device after Lightroom has finished importing the photos. This is more useful when importing from your camera’s media card into Lightroom.

Which photos do you want to import into Lightroom?

Now we select which photos we want to import into Lightroom. If you want to import all of the images from this location then make sure all of them are checked. If you only want to import certain images, uncheck all the images and manually select the images you want to import. This can be done by Command-Clicking (Control-Clicking on Windows), or Shift-Clicking. Once the images you want to import are highlighted, click the check box on one of them and Lightroom will place a check mark on the rest for you.

Now that we have the images selected, how do we want them imported? If you are importing from a memory card or camera, then you want to choose one of two options. You can copy them or you can allow Lightroom to Convert to DNG. Personally, I leave my RAW files in their native camera format and do not convert to the Adobe DNG format.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

If you are importing an existing collection from a hard drive then you have two more options. You can Move the images on the hard drive to their new location, which we will discuss in just a moment, or you can simply Add the images to the Lightroom Library. By adding the images you are simply making Lightroom aware of the photos and telling it where they are currently located.

Where do you want the photos to be physically stored?

Now we come to the destination. If you are not simply adding the images to the catalog from their current location, you need to tell Lightroom where you want these images copied to. This is going to be a physical hard drive in your computer or an external drive that you use to store all of your photography. Click on the hard drive icon and choose the parent folder that these images will belong in. We can create a sub-folder for our images in a few moments.

We can also let Lightroom make some global changes to our images during import. You need to realize that anything you do here will be applied to all of the images you are importing. So, you want to be very generic in doing so, which I will explain.

File Handling

First, let’s look at File Handling. If you like everything to run fast, choose Minimal for the Render Previews. Smart Previews are an interesting feature in that they allow you to make Lightroom adjustments to images that are not currently accessible – say, they’re on a hard drive back at the studio. However, they also take up massive amounts of data. I personally do not use smart previews.

You also want to place a check mark next to Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates. Let’s say you import images from your card in Lightroom. Then you forget to format the card before doing another photo shoot. When you start to import the second session, Lightroom will realize this and hide the first sessions images from you.

This helps keep your Library well-organized and avoids wasting hard drive space from storing duplicate files. If you want to store a second backup copy of your images to another drive you can assign that location here as well. If you want to add the images to a collection in Lightroom then you can also do that here.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

File Renaming

Every photographer has their own way of renaming or not renaming their images. This section of Lightroom has a ton of options to fit your specific workflow including the option to create your own custom presets for renaming files. If your archive structure is based on custom-named files then this section should be pretty obvious to you. I personally do not rename my files because that organizational method has been outdated for nearly two decades now.

I find renaming when exporting from Lightroom to be very useful for a variety of reasons – but importing serves no real purpose.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

Apply During Import

This area will allow you to automatically apply presets to the images during the import process. You can also assign metadata and keywords to the images as they are being imported into Lightroom. Personally, I do not apply develop presets during import. I like to do that while actually editing my images. At that point, if I want to apply a preset to a group of images I can do so by synchronizing them. In my workflow, I don’t find this feature helpful during import. You might.

On the other hand, I do find the metadata feature very helpful. Here you can do something like applying your copyright and contact information to all of the images during the import. Simply choose New from the drop down options and create a preset containing your information. You can then apply this to all of your images.

Remember what I said before, you need to be generic because this affects all of the images being imported into Lightroom. When adding Keywords during import, you need to be extremely generic. If all of your photos are of a beverage, you can add keywords like Drink & Beverage. However, you might have shot on different colored backgrounds.

If you added the keyword Blue, it would be added to images shot on Yellow backgrounds. This would make no sense. So, you need to be very generic when adding keywords. Just ask yourself, Does this keyword relate to EVERY image that I’m importing? If the answer is no, then do not add that keyword to the list.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom


Before you can import photos into Lightroom you need to specify where these images need to be copied to. Again, if you are importing from an existing location then this option will not be available during import.

If you just installed Lightroom then you are going to see the default setting of Organize By Date. Do you remember what you photographed on June 27, 2010? I don’t. Organizing by date does not seem very helpful to me so I change this option from “By Date” to “Into One Folder”. Now I can organize my images with folder names that are much more easy to navigate.

Now click the Into Subfolder box and enter a name that describes the images you are importing into Lightroom. You will see inside the folder structure that Lightroom instantly updates a preview showing you exactly how your new folder structure will look.

How To Import Photos Into Lightroom

Ready to Import Photos into Lightroom

That’s it. Click the import button and you’re done. Double check to make sure that the files exist in the destination on your hard drive and now you are free to format the card in your camera. At this point, you should have all the information you need to import photos into Lightroom.