How to Import Your Images Into Lightroom

Before you can start to use Lightroom, you need to import some images into the application so that you can see, rate and edit them!  So, this is going to be the very first step in your editing workflow. 

For this tutorial, I'm going to show you how you can import images into Lightroom directly from your memory card. This way, you are adding the photos to your hard drive and letting Lightroom know about them in one easy step.  

Here's how to do it! 

Learn step by step how to import your images from a memory card into Lightroom.


In the LIBRARY module, to File > Import Photos and Video to see the import window, or click the import button on the bottom left of the Lightroom window.  It doesn't matter which one you use, both will get you to the import dialogue screen. 

The important thing to remember about the import dialogue box is that it works from Left to Right - so where you are uploading FROM is on the left, and where you are uploading TO is on the right.  In the middle is WHAT you are uploading.  Simple!


On the panel of the left,  you can see the different sources that you can upload from, for example, your memory card, or the computer hard drive, or your external drive.  Choose the source that you want to upload from, in this example, the memory card. 

STEP TWO: Choose your Import Options

 In the middle at the top, you will see some options about how these files should be imported into Lightroom. For importing from a memory card, you can choose from the following:

Copy as DNG

This copies the images to the folders that you have chosen, and automatically converts them to DNG at the same. It also imports the references to the files into your Lightroom catalog.  There are a few advantages to converting to DNG – smaller file sizes is one, and also the fact that Adobe always promises to have software available to read DNG files. (All camera RAW formats are specific to that camera, and in years to come, they may not have software to open them. Think VHS – it’s now quite outmoded and you can’t read without a VHS player!) However, converting to DNG is not essential, and some people don't like to do this, since you are then (somewhat) committed to using Adobe products.  

The original images stay in the original location – so for example if you have uploaded images from a memory card, the images will remain on the memory card and if you upload from an external hard drive, the original images will remain on the hard drive.


This copies to images to the folders that you have chosen, and imports the references to the files into your Lightroom catalog.  These are not converted to DNG and stay in their original file format, so if you are not sure about converting to DNG, choose this one.

As with copy as DNG, the original images stay in the original location.

Oh, before I forget, I've got a totally free, Lightroom Starter Kit for you to download that gives an import and export cheat sheet, three presets, PLUS an editing checklist that walks you through all the steps you are going to need to take on the images once you have uploaded them! Click here to go get it.


By default, all new images will be checked for import. However, if you only want to import some of the files, you will need to uncheck the ones you don't want imported.  You can use the Check All and Uncheck All boxes at bottom to quickly select all or unselect all. To quickly select a group of images, click on the first image, then hold down your SHIFT key and select the image at the end of the range - that highlights them all, so when you click the check box on the first image, it will apply to all the selected images.  


In this area, you can choose where you are going to save the files to. ­  (If you have chosen the Add option, you don't need to do anything here since you aren't actually moving or copying files to disc)  The Destination Panel on the right-side of the photos shows the locations where you can store your images - all you need to do is choose the physical destination where you want to add the files to, such as your hard drive.  If you would like to create a subfolder to hold the photos, you can choose that too!


Although you could just go ahead and hit import after Step Four, you do have a couple of other options.


The first is to choose the quality of the image previews. When you import an image into Lightroom, remember you are only importing the reference, not the actual file. So you can see the images within Lightroom, lightroom makes a "preview" - a small JPEG file of the images so that you can see what you are working on. You can choose the size of this preview upon import.  The smaller previews are faster to create, but if you need to zoom into part of the image, then Lightroom will need to create a larger preview at that time.  You can create larger previews on import, but then importing will take longer. Personally I go for minimal sizes, since this imports my images quickly, and also since I probably won't want large previews for every single image I upload.  If I then need a bigger preview (like for zooming in to check focus) Lightroom will simply render a larger preview as and when I need it. 

You can also have Lightroom create a second copy to a different location - useful if you want to back up your memory card immediately.  

 If you check Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates,  Lightroom will not import any images that it already thinks it has in it’s Lightroom catalog - I always have this checked. 

If you want to be able to view your images even when the drive containing your images is not plugged in, you can create Smart Previews. 


You can also choose the rename the files upon import - for example if you want to add in the name of the activity to the actual image file name.  There are a few different ways you can have your files names - the list is pretty self explanatory so I will leave it there! 

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In this options, you can choose to have a preset applied upon import, simply choose this where it says Develop Settings. 

You can also choose to apply some metadata to your files such as copyright information and keywords at the same time. 


That's it! Once you have set everything up you can hit the import button at the bottom. Lightroom will start to import your files - either simply adding them to the catalog if you have chosen Add or Copying them from your memory card to your destination, and adding the references into Lightroom.  

Once you get your files into Lightroom, there is so freakin' much you can do. You'll want to tag them, rate them, adds keywords, sort them into collections, back them up and so on, and of course edit them!   If you need help with working with Lightroom end to end, then check out my Launch Into Lightroom course. It walks you through everything you should know how to do in Lightroom, step by step, so that you have a fully organised image collection, a streamlined workflow and be able to edit your images to perfection. 

Remember, you can also download a totally 100% free Lightroom Starter Kit and get a guide to importing, exporting, a step by step editing checklist AND some free Lightroom presets! It’s like Christmas :-)

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