Articles, Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Import in Lightroom

February 22, 2020

Lightroom is not like a regular file browser. You have to get your photographs inside of
Lightroom, before you can start using the software to retouch them or to organize them. You have to first get them inside. Hi, this is Shajee Aijazi from
and in this video, we’re gonna take a deep dive into the Import panel. Now, Import is a simple process, but there
are some aspects of it, there are some settings in there that can get a little confusing. In this video, we’re gonna take a look at
each one of the settings that is available in the Import dialog and we’ll see what each
one of them does. Now, it is a slightly long video, but I would
like you to bear with me, because it’ll clear up a lot of things for you about the Import
process. I can’t wait to begin, let’s dive right into
it. Alright, so here we are in Lightroom and we’ll
see how to import our photographs. Now, Because I already have photographs in
my Lightroom catalog, you’re seeing these photos here already, but if you’re just starting
to use Lightroom, if you haven’t imported anything yet, you may be seeing this area
to be completely empty. But we will just go ahead and import the photos
and if you follow along, it will become populated for you too. So, how can we go ahead and start the import
process? There are actually three ways in which you
can do that. The first thing you can do is, you can go
to the File menu, click on “Import Photos and Video” and that would open up the Import
dialog. The second thing you can do is press the shortcut
key that you see here, which is “Ctrl+Shift+I” on a PC and that’ll be “Cmd+Shift+I” on a
Mac, and then another third way to get to the Import dialog is simply by clicking this
“Import…” button on the bottom left in the Library module. So, let me just go ahead and press that. This is the method that I prefer doing, it’s
just so much faster. OK, so now we are in the Import dialog and
let me just go ahead and explain what’s going on here. On the left side, we have the “Source”, which
tells us where exactly the photos are coming from. Then in the middle, we see the actual photos
that are going to be imported into Lightroom. On the top of this thumbnail area, we get
to decide what is it that we want to do with these photographs. Do we want to copy them, move them or just
simply add them to the catalog. We’ll see each one of these in a little bit. Finally, on the right side, we decide if we
want to apply any operations to our photos as they’re being imported, along with deciding
where our photos would go. Let’s start by understanding the Source panel
here on the left. This is the area which decides where the photos
are coming from. So, this will list down all the hard drives
in your computer. It’ll list down any devices that might be
connected to your computer. Now, in my opinion, the best time to import
your photographs is right after the shoot; directly from the Camera or directly from
the memory card. So, if you have your memory card connected
to your computer, it’ll show under the Devices section above, and as you can see here I have
my memory card connected; and if I select that, it’ll start showing all the photos here
in the thumbnail area in the middle. Now, I am importing a shoot I did for a client
and this was a house that I shot. I have already imported the day shots from
this shoot and now I am importing only the night shots. So, this is when I am importing from the memory
card. But, if your photographs are already on your
hard drive, they’re already located where they need to be, you can also go to that location
from this panel and simply select the folder those photos are in and once you select that,
it will start showing those photos in the middle. If your selected folder has any subfolders
that you want to include in your import, you can simply check the “Include Subfolders”
option up here. You can select multiple folders by pressing
the Ctrl key on PC or the Cmd key on a Mac and then clicking on the second folder’s name. Now, let me just head on to select my card
that I have plugged in, so I can import my photos from there. Thats where I want to import the photos from. Now, once you have your source location selected,
let’s take a look at this middle area. This area is displaying the thumbnails of
all of the photographs that are in the source location that I’ve selected. So, I selected my memory card, it’s showing
me all the photographs that are in my memory card. On top here, you have these three little options:
All Photos, New Photos and Destination Folders. So, this kinda displays, this shows you different
methods of displaying the photographs. All Photos is pretty clear, it’ll show me
all the photos there are in the folders I selected on the left side. New Photos will only show me photographs that
are not already in my catalog. So, I mentioned before that I have already
imported the day shots of this shoot; and right now I am only importing the night shots,
so if I click on this New Photos, if I want to see just the new photos; when I click on
that, it’ll show me the photographs that are not already in my catalog, that I haven’t
yet imported before. and Destination Folders divides this area
into sections. These sections are based on the option I select
in the Destination panel on the right side. So, right now I have it selected to ‘Organize
>By date’, so this divides the grid up into these sections that I can collapse; and just
see photos from let’s say, one date. So, one section will contain photographs from
one date, the other section will contain photographs from another date. Now, let me just switch that back to All Photos
so I can see all the photographs at one place. That’s usually the view that I prefer. If you want to import all the photos from
your card or whichever location that you’ve selected, you can click on the “Check All”
button at the bottom. Or if you only want to import only a few,
you can check only the ones that you want to import. Now, you could do this one by one, which will
take up a lot of time; OR you could simply select one, press the Shift key, select the
other photos you want to import, then press the check mark on any one photo. and once
you do that, it will select all of the rest of them. Pressing the Shift key will select the photos
that are together. If you want to select the photos that are
far apart from each other, you’ll have to press the Ctrl or Cmd key and then click on
the photos you want to select. And once they’re selected, just click on the
checkmark and it’ll select all of those photographs. At the bottom of this central area, we have
a few options. We can be in the Grid View or see the whole
image on the screen with the help of these two options. Then next to this is the Check All and Uncheck
All buttons; you can use these to check all the photographs or uncheck all the photographs.
and I want to tell you a cool thing about them. If you press the Alt key on a PC, or Option
key on a Mac, these change to Check Videos and Uncheck Videos. Which means that if you have shot some photographs
and some videos, but you only want to import the videos, you can select only those by pressing
this button you get. Or even the other way round with the Uncheck
Videos button. Now, I don’t have any videos right now,
in this shoot right now, so this is greyed out. Then next in this bar, we have the sorting
options. First we have the option of sorting by ascending
order or descending order. Then right next to it, we have a dropdown
menu, where we can select if we want to sort by Capture Time, whether they were checked
or unchecked, so let’s say, if I select this option, the checked photos will show on top
and the unchecked photos will show at the bottom, then file name, file type and Media
Type, which would mean photos on top and videos at the bottom or vice versa. Then next, I can increase or decrease the
size of my thumbnails with this slider over here. Now, once we are done selecting which photos
we want to bring, we need to decide how those photographs will be handled, how those photographs
will be imported and we have options for that right at the top. You can do 4 things with your photos. Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, Add. Copy as DNG: This copies the photos from your
source location to the folder you select from the destination panel, and it also converts
those files into the DNG format during this import process, during this process of copying
them. Now what exactly is the DNG? DNG stands for the Digital Negative, which
is actually a RAW format that is devised by Adobe, to kinda standardize the different
RAW formats that you get from different cameras. Adobe just wanted to have a single RAW format
and it created the DNG for that. Now, whether you should convert to DNG or
not, it’s a big debate in the photography circles. I personally do NOT convert my photos to DNG. And I mention the reasons for that in another
blog post, I’ll link to that in the description of this video, you can check that out. COPY: Choosing this option will also copy
your photographs onto the folder you select. It will take those files from the source location
and it’ll copy them to the destination location, but it will not convert them into the DNG
format. It will keep them in the original format that
you have shot them in. If you’ve shot them in RAW, they’ll stay
RAW, if they are JPEGs, they’ll stay JPEGs. Or, if you’re importing from your hard drive,
if they are any other format, if they are a PSD, if they are a TIFF, whatever format
they are in, they will stay that format. Now, this option is usually the option to
select when you are bringing your photos directly from your memory card or the camera. So, you would have your images in the memory
card, and you would bring them into a folder on your hard drive using this copy option. Then, next we have Move. This option will copy the photos into the
new location that you selected, but they will no longer be there at the original location. So, whatever you had in the Source panel,
those files will get deleted from that side, and they will just be there now in the Destination
panel after the Import process is done. Now, this would be a good option to choose
if you are re-organizing your photographs; but it’s not used all that much otherwise. In your regular, day-to-day basis, Move option
is not used that much. Then the last option we have is ADD. And what this does is, it just adds those
photos into the Lightroom catalog at their existing locations. Nothing happens to the files of the photograph. They don’t get moved, they don’t get copied. They stay where they were. They just get referenced by the Lightroom
catalog. Now, this option is great when your files
are already in an organized structure, they are already in the folders, they should be
in; and you just want to get them to show inside of Lightroom. Now, if you choose Add, then on the right
side, the File Renaming and Destination panels disappear, since they are not really applicable. The files stay in the same place, they stay
with the same name. So, you can’t really rename them and you can’t
really pick out the location that you need to copy them in, because they’re not really
getting copied. I, usually import my photos right after the
shoot directly from the memory card, so the option that I use most often is the COPY option,
because what I want to do is I want to copy those files from my memory card, into a folder
on my hard drive, and I want to copy them as the original RAW files and not convert
them to DNG. Sometimes though, I may end up using the ADD
option when I have my photographs in the location they need to be in and I just want them to
show inside of Lightroom. But, I’ve almost never used the other two
options. I’ve never used Move, I’ve never used the
Copy as DNG. Then once you have selected your photographs
and decided how you want to bring them, we can take a look at the settings on the right
side, we have options if we want to apply some operations to the photos as they’re being
imported. So, let’s take a look at those. The first panel we have is the File Handling
panel and in that the first option Build Previews. Now if you understand how Lightroom works,
then you know that none of the files themselves are coming in Lightroom at all. The files that are being copied, that are
being imported, the files are not coming into Lightroom. Only their previews are coming in. Over here, Lightroom wants to know what quality
of previews do you want to make at the time of the import. If you don’t make high-quality previews right
now, every time you go on to a photo, or zoom in on to a photo, the preview will be generated
then and it will take up some time to load the preview at that time. So, in this Build Previews dropdown, we have
four options. Minimal is a pretty low quality preview. Embedded & Sidecar basically uses the preview
the camera created. It’s not really a high quality preview but
you have something to look at while you build other previews. Then Standard builds a standard sized preview. It’s a bigger preview than Embedded and Sidecar,
but it’s still not full size. You can select the size of the Standard Preview
in your Lightroom Preferences. So, once you’re inside Lightroom, you can
go to your Preferences and select what size the Standard size Preview should be. I talk a bit more about it in my blog post
about Lightroom’s speed. You can check the description for the link. Then, next we have 1:1 previews. These are the full sized previews. Now these can take up quiet a bit of time
to build after import, and they also take up a lot of space on your hard drive, but
when you’re going through your photos, when you’re navigating through them, you can zoom
in, you can go to the next photograph and you won’t have to wait for it to load at that
time. They will already be loaded. Now, what I choose, I choose Standard for
all my imports as that’s kind of the right balance between quality and speed. Then next is a checkbox called “Build Smart
Previews”. Smart Previews are basically previews that
allow you to edit the photos even if the original files are offline; and that’s really cool. So, what that means is, let’s say you keep
your files in an external hard drive; and its not connected to your computer. So, your hard drive could be sitting at home
and you would be in a coffee shop or somewhere, you would still be able to work on your photos. If you don’t build Smart Previews, you will
always need to have your original files accessible. I am going to keep this off, because I usually
have my original files with me at all times. Then Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates is
pretty straight forward. You don’t want to import photographs that
are already in your catalog. So, I’ll keep this on and if it is on, you
can see that it greys out all the photographs that are already in Lightroom. It won’t even allow me to select them. After that, we have Make a Second Copy to. Now, this creates another copy of these files
at a location you specify. You would think that this is a good way to
automatically back up your photographs, but the filing structure it creates is not ideal
for backups. It creates folders with the name “Imported
on” and then the date of the shoot, so let’s say “Imported on 27 December”, that’ll be
the name of the folder. So, if you back up your photos with this,
it can be quiet a pain to recover them. It can be quiet a pain to find your photographs
from this folder structure. Now, we talk about Backup Strategies in a
lot more detail in The Complete Lightroom Course, so if you haven’t already checked
it out, go do that! But anyways, I will keep this option off because
I do not like to backup my photographs using this. I have another backup strategy. Then, Add to Collection. You can add your photos to any existing or
a new collection right when importing them. Now, if you use Collections to organize your
photos and I definitely recommend that you should, then this can really save you a lot
of time! Because now, you don’t have to manually add
them to the Collection after they are in your Library. It’ll happen automatically right on import. So, these photographs will end up in the Collection
of your choice. When you check the checkbox on, it’ll start
showing you your existing collections and collection sets; or you can create a new collection
with this + icon on the right. Then after the File Handling panel, we have
the File Renaming. Now, if you’ve read The Ultimate Quick Guide
for Lightroom that we have on our website,, I talk about The
History Book Technique in that, which is basically the naming convention I use for my files and
folders. I won’t go into what that is, over here, you
can check The Ultimate Quick Start Guide for that. I’ve included the link in the description. Now, I have the template already made for
The History Book Technique. So, I will simply select that from this Template
dropdown. You can make your own file name template from
this Template dropdown and then going to Edit. Since that’s a detailed topic in and of itself,
so I won’t go into right now. I talk about it in another one of my video
and blog post. But, anyways, after selecting the The History
Book Technique template, I will type in the name of my client here in the Custom Text,
and type in the project name in this Shoot Name field. Then, next up, we have the Apply During Import
panel. This panel contains options that allow you
to apply certain settings to your photographs as they are imported into Lightroom. First, you can select if you want to apply
any preset to your photographs. It’ll list down all the presets we have in
the Develop module, and this can be really helpful. If there’s a certain setting you apply to
all of your photographs, you can make a preset out of that and apply it at import. That way, you don’t have to apply those settings
manually every time. For example, I apply lens correction and camera
profile settings to every single one of my photo; so what I’ve done is that I’ve saved
them in a preset and I apply them over here. This can also be really helpful if you are
trying to achieve a uniform look for the entire shoot. So, let’s say you want your entire shoot to
have a cinematic look. You can choose a cinematic preset from these
and apply that on import, apply that over here. The photos, when they come into the Library,
would already have that look applied to them. You won’t have to do anything. The other thing you can do from this Apply
During Import is to apply a metadata preset to all your photographs. Metadata is basically some information that
can be embedded into the file of the photo. Things like the creator of the file, copyright
information, the title of the photo. All of these get embedded right into the file
of the photo. So, its a good idea to add your copyright
metadata right here at import, so that all of your photos that are being imported have
that embedded into them. What you do is, you select a metadata preset
from this dropdown that contains your copyright information. Now, these are the presets I’ve created and
they contain my copyright information in them. If you haven’t created a preset with your
copyright information, you can create one by going into this dropdown then choosing
New… and then adding the copyright information in the box that appears. Now, I talk about how to create Metadata Presets
in another video. Over here, I have my preset created already,
so I’ll just simply select Copyright 2017 from here, since I am importing this in 2017. So, this will embed all my copyright information
for 2017 into the files that are being imported right now. Next, you have the Keywords box. Keywords basically allow you to tag your photographs
with words that you may use later search for them. So, at this point, you can add all the words
that would apply to all of the photographs that are being imported. So, for example, this is a shoot of a house,
I can add ‘house’ or I can add ‘architecture’. But, at import, I would make sure that I only
add keywords that apply to ALL the photos that are included in the import and not just
some of them. So, in this case, I am only importing the
night shots, so I can add the keyword ‘night’ to it. But, if the import included both day and night
shots, then I wouldn’t add ‘night’ keyword, because then it’d apply to the day shots as
well, and we don’t want that. If there are keywords that don’t apply to
all the photos in the import, I can add them later on from the Library module. Then finally, you need to decide where the
photos will go. That’s what the Destination panel will allow
you to do. Over here, I have my “Photos I” external hard
drive, and you can see here as the G: drive and in that, my folder structure is organized
according to The History Book Technique. Again, if you’re not familiar with what The
History Book Technique is, go and check out The Ultimate Quick Start Guide for Lightroom
on So, anyways, I’ll click on this 2017 folder
and then at the top of the Destination panel, I have this “Into Subfolder” checkbox I’ll
make sure it’s checked on. Along with that, from this Organize dropdown,
I’ll choose ‘Into One Folder’. Then in the Subfolder text field, I’ll again
follow the template for The History Book Technique to name my folders. I’ll add the date first, then a dash, then
the Client’s Name, then another dash, then the Project Name. and if I scroll down all
the way, you’ll be able to see that in the 2017 folder, it’s creating a new folder by
that name. What you see in light grey and italics, that’s
the new folder that will get created during the import process. And it’s in this new folder that it’ll be
copying all of the files that I am importing right now. Now, I don’t recommend it, but you can also
organize your photos according to date, by creating date-based folders. So, for that, you’ll have to scroll back up
on the Destination panel and on top of the panel, you have this ‘Organize’ dropdown. From this, instead of ‘Into One Folder’, you
can select ‘By Date’. When you select that, it’ll show another dropdown
where you can select the format of the date; and there are quite a few to choose from. Now, any of these formats that have a slash
in them, that will create nested folders, which would mean that it would first create
the 2017 folder and then inside that, it’ll create the month folder and then inside that
it’ll create the day’s folder. Just to be sure of what’s happening with each
one, what you can do is select anyone and then scroll all the way down to see what folders
are being created and WHERE are they being created. It’s really important to make sure you have
selected the correct parent folder. So in this case, I’ve selected 2017 to be
the parent folder, and then Lightroom is creating the date-based folders inside that. If you’ve selected the wrong folder, the new
folder that Lightroom creates will end up at a place where you didn’t want it, where
you can’t find it. So, always double-check by scrolling down
below and checking what you see in italics at the bottom, making sure it’s happening
the way that you would want it. Now, since I don’t use just a date-based folder
structure, I like to have a folder name with a bit of a description of what’s inside, so
from this Organize dropdown, I will just switch back this “Into One Folder” and then type
the name of the folder according to The History Book Technique, in that text field. Now, just want to show you couple more things
and then we’ll be done with the Import dialog. Lightroom remembers the previously used settings
and will bring those up the next time you open the Import dialog. But, there may be cases where you may need
different settings for different purposes. For example, if you’re importing from a card,
you may need one set of settings and if you’re just importing from inside your hard drive,
you may need another settings. So, what you can do is, you can save all of
these settings, the settings that we just saw, as an Import Preset. What you have to do is simply go right at
the bottom and in this black bar it says Import Preset. On the other side of this bar, you have a
dropdown, you have the option to ‘Save Current Settings as New Preset’. When you click on that, it’ll ask you for
a name, you can name it anything you want, so let’s say, ‘Memory Card Import’ and then
you can come back to those import settings every time you import something similar. So every time you’re importing from a memory
card, you can just load this preset and you’ll have all of those settings in place. Now, what does it really include in the Import
Preset? It only includes the settings from all the
right side panels. So, all of these panels on the right, it only
includes the settings from those. It does not include the source nor does it
include which photos you selected, because that changes every time. Finally, I want to show one cool little thing
that you can use when you’re using Import Presets. If you click on this little arrow on the bottom
left of the dialog, it’ll compress the Import dialog to this really compact view. And this just shows you a summary of the main
settings used. And if you’re using a preset, you kinda
already have the settings dialed in, so you can just quickly see all the important settings
and just click Import. Though, if you’re like me, I prefer the
full view. But anyways. so, now all that’s left to do is to just click
on the Import button and that will bring your photos into Lightroom. I hope you enjoyed the video and if you did,
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1 Comment

  • Reply arthur green August 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    only 120 subscribed ?? I thought it was brilliant !! and ive spent a week looking at youtube tutorials.

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