Lightroom basics #2: import pictures

Now that we’ve had a quick introduction to Lightroom’s catalog, it’s time to add pictures to it. This is done using the import window, which can be accessed through the File > Import Photos and Video… menu or using the Import… button on the bottom of the left panel in the Library module.

There are many options available, but since it is a basic tutorial, I won’t go into details about everything for now.

Selection of the pictures to import
  • In the left panel, select the Source, i.e. where your pictures are currently located. It may be a folder on your hard disk, a CD or DVD, a memory card or a network volume.
  • In the top panel, choose what you want to do with the pictures:
    • Copy as DNG
      If you work with RAW files, you can convert them to Adobe’s DNG (Digital Negative) format, which is a good option especially if you have pictures in different RAW formats, since it will allow you to store all your pictures in a single, supposedly future-proof, format. If you shoot in JPEG only, you shouldn’t use it.
    • Copy
      Choose this option to make a copy of the pictures to a new location, thus leaving the original files where they are and using the new copy for the catalog.
    • Move
      Move the pictures to a new location. This is particularly useful when used in combination with the option to organize the pictures in folders based on capture dates (see below). You shouldn’t use this if you import pictures from a CD or DVD, since the files can’t be erased from those.
    • Add
      Add the pictures to the catalog without copying or moving them. Select this f you already have your pictures in a well-organized folders structure and you don’t need to relocate them.
    • In the right panel, you can set a few options on how to handle the pictures to be imported:
      • File Handling
        The most important option here is Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates, which I highly recommend you to keep selected all the time.
        Let’s say that you have a large memory card and almost never delete the pictures from it, despite having already copied the pictures to your computer. With that option checked, the pictures that already are in the catalog won’t be available for the current import, thus ensuring that you won’t have duplicate pictures in your catalog.
      • File Renaming
        It contains a few options for renaming the files based on template, with or without custom text. For everyday use, I find this option useless; I keep all my files’ original names from the camera, since I absolutely never use filenames to identify the contents of the pictures (that’s what the metadata is for).
      • Apply During Import
        You can apply existing develop and metadata presets, as well as keywords, to all the pictures that you’ll import. You can also create a new preset from scratch at this point. Most likely, you won’t use these advanced options in the beginning, except maybe keywords if you import only batches of similar pictures (weddings, vacation, etc…).
      • Destination (not available with Add)
        There you can optionally choose one subfolder into which you want the pictures to be saved, as well as whether to create a folder structure based on the capture dates. In the Date Format field, “/” represents a folder level; thus, with “2012/2012-08/2012-08-23” (my favorite format), it will create a folder for the year, then subfolders for the months and, inside those, folders for the days.
        You will see a live preview of the folders structures when you make changes in that section, with the number of pictures that will be copied in each of the folders and subfolders.

When you’re done configuring the options, just click on the Import button at the bottom of the right panel and the pictures will be added to your catalog.


This post is based on Lightroom 4.1; the described interface and functions may be different in other versions.

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