Navigating the Lightroom Import Dialog
April 26, 2013
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With your Lightroom Preferences set and Metadata Preset ready to go, it’s time to import some images. In this post, we’ll cover importing images from your camera or memory card.

Initiating An Import

By default, Lightroom will automatically open the import dialog when you insert a memory card. You can toggle this option in your Lightroom preferences. Go to Lightroom > Preferences, on the General tab, under import options, check the box next to Show import dialog when a memory card is detected.

Lightroom Fanatic - Adobe Lightroom General Preferences

Lightroom Fanatic – Lightroom General Preferences

If you want to manually initiate an import, select File > Import Photos and Videos…

Lightroom Fanatic - Adobe Lightroom Import Photos and Video

Lightroom Fanatic – Import Photos and Video…

The Import Dialog

Lightroom Fanatic - Adobe Lightroom Import Dialog

Lightroom Fanatic – Lightroom Import Dialog

The import dialog in Lightroom is shown above. When you are bringing images in from your memory card, you’ll see slightly different options compared to bringing images in to your catalog that are already on your computer.

1. Source

If you have inserted a memory card, the Source should be highlighted to reflect the card. If you wanted to choose another source, such as a connected iPhone, you would select it here.

2. Copy as DNG / Copy / Move / Add

Only Copy as DNG and Copy are available when importing from removable media.

Copy As DNG – Makes a DNG copy of the image from your media card and places it in to the destination location.

Copy – Copy the image from your media card in whatever format it exists as on the card, whether it is a JPEG or a proprietary RAW format.

When the source is a hard drive, you also have these options:

Move – Allows you to select destination.

Add – Add without move, added to catalog wherever they are, no “Destination” section.

3. File Handling

Render Preview – As photos are imported, Lightroom can generate previews of the images, either by using the embedded preview that are created by your camera or by having Lightroom render a preview. The rendered preview is slower, but will represent how Lightroom interprets your camera’s format.

Build Smart Preview (Lightroom 5 Only) –  If you’re importing your images to a removable drive and want to be able to edit those images while disconnected, you can use this option to take advantage of the new LR 5 Smart Preview feature.

Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates – I use this when importing from my iOS device. If you’re importing from the same memory card or device without deleting images that you previously imported, selecting this option should allow you to only import the new items. Items that Lightroom believes have already been imported (based on the file name, EXIF capture data and time, and file size) will be grayed out.

Make a Second Copy To – If you want to make a second copy of the images being imported to another location, such as a backup drive, you can specify the location here.

4. File Renaming

Using this section, you can rename the files coming in from your memory card to conform to your own preferences and workflow. If you don’t want to rename your files, simply uncheck the box next to Rename Files.

5. Apply During Import

Develop Settings – Any develop preset can be applied to your images as they are imported. This is particularly useful if you have presets for specific cameras that always get applied.

Metadata – If you have created a preset of metadata that you want applied to each image as they are imported, you can select the preset here. You can also create a new metadata preset by selecting New from the drop-down.

Keywords – Using this field you can apply any keywords that you want to associate with the images being imported, separated by commas.

6. Destination

This is where you specify the target location for your images.

Into Subfolder – If you specify a subfolder, it will be created underneath the location you choose.

Organize – Into one folder – With this option, the images will be copied in to the location you selected, or inside the subfolder you specify if you are using that option.

Organize – By date – With this option, the images will be copied in to a folder created using the date the images was created and the format you specify. If you are using a subfolder, the date folder will be underneath the subfolder.

Organize – By original folders – This option is available if you are copying items from another folder, and it will retain the folder structure from the source. If you are using a subfolder, the source folder structure will be copied underneath the subfolder.

7. Import Preset

Now that you’ve gone through all of the other options on the import dialog, you can save all of your settings as an Import Preset to use again in the future. This is a great time saver, but there are a few caveats.

  • Keywords get included when you save an import preset, as does the custom file name. So if you are trying to create a universal preset, only populate those items that you want applied to every import. Or, create a set of presets for different situations, such as one for client work, one for personal work, or one for a specific project. Then, select the preset you want to start from and tailor the rest of the options, such as the file names and keywords, specifically for the current import.
  • Once you have a preset created, you can modify it by first selecting it, making any changes you want to make, then saving your changes by selecting Update Preset from the Import Preset drop-down.

Select Images

All Photos – This will show all the items from the source.

New Photos – This will filter the view of images based on what Lightroom interprets as new.

Destination Folders – Groups your source images according to their destination folders, such as when you group by the date and time the images were created.


Click the Import button to begin your import.

The last import shows up in the Current Import folder under Catalog during importing.

Lightroom Fanatic - Importing

Lightroom Fanatic – Importing

…which turns in to Previous Import after the import has completed.

Lightroom Fanatic - Import Complete

Lightroom Fanatic – Import Complete


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