How To Automatically Launch Lightroom By Inserting A Media Card
July 14, 2015
2 comment

The act of getting my images from camera in to Lightroom can be a laborious process, especially after a long day of taking pictures. It starts by opening the side door on my camera to eject the memory card. Then I need to carry the card over to my computer, reach over my desk and feel around the back of my computer and use my fingers to find the card slot and hope that I’m inserting the card with the right side up.

Even if that all goes according to plan, I then need to continue the tedium to open Lightroom. I have to find my mouse, which could be anywhere if my 5-year-old got ahold of it, then I have to see where my mouse pointer is on the screen and drag my mouse across my desk to get the pointer over the Lightroom icon. But I’m not done yet. I still have to muster enough energy to generate the force required to initiate a click over the icon to actually launch the application. Then I still need to actually go through the import process.

The engineer in me knows there has to be a better way. I think I can solve the card to computer transfer by enlisting the aforementioned toddler. If he can put a disk in the Xbox, how hard can it be to put an SD card in to a computer?

With that step solved, the next challenge is launching Lightroom. I could rely on my son to do this step, too, but I’m afraid he’d open up a browser instead and head to the Disney Junior website. So I’d need to find another approach. Fortunately, there is a pretty simple solution that aligns with the fact that  I have never inserted a memory card in to my computer and not opened Lightroom. So why not have Lightroom open every time I insert a memory card?

These steps are Mac-centric, but there is a similar approach on Windows machines if you search for the term “Autoplay”.


On the Mac, you can tell the operating system that you want to open a certain application when a device is inserted. In this case, the device is either your camera or the memory card from your camera. Setting it up is not the most intuitive operation, though, so I’ll walk you through it.

First, grab your memory card, hand it to whichever child you’ve designated as your card inserter, and have him or her put the card in the computer.

Next, open up the Image Capture application. You can ⌘+Space to open Spotlight and type in “image capture” to easily find it.

lightroom image capture mac launch

Lightroom Fanatic > Image Capture

As you can see in the image above, the SD card from my Fuji XT100 shows up as a device name Untitled. My Nikon D7000 “device” shows up as Nikon D7000.

Image Capture didn’t recognize a newly formatted SD card from my Fuji X100T as a device until it had at least one image on it.


With Image Capture open, select your SD card. Now, look on the bottom left of the Image Capture window and you’ll see the little expand triangle. Click the icon to find the options for what to do when you insert your card.

mac yosemite image capture open lightroom

Lightroom Fanatic > Image Capture Open Options

By default, the option is No application. Let’s change that by clicking on the drop down and navigating to the Lightroom application.

mac osx yosemite launch lightroom insert card

Lightroom Fanatic > Image Capture Open Lightroom

That’s it! You can now close Image Capture and eject and remove your memory card. When you insert it next, behold the labor savings of having Lightroom automatically launch!

A few extra notes…

I did have to repeat the process for my second camera and, on my Nikon D7000, I had to repeat the process for both my cards. But since I always format my cards the same way in the camera, Image Capture seemed to recognize any formatted card. I took a card from my D7000, stuck it in the Fuji, formatted it, took a few pictures, and Lightroom launched when I inserted the card.

Finally, the option inside of Lightroom to automatically open the Import dialog when an SD card is inserted is still unbelievably unreliable depending on your camera and whether or not Lightroom recognizes the memory card as coming from a camera. This tutorial doesn’t solve that, so you may still need to open up the Import dialog manually. How pedestrian! I did notice, however, that after I made the change in Image Capture that, when I already had Lightroom open, the Import dialog would open up when I inserted a card, but if Lightroom was closed, only the application would open, not the application AND the Import dialog. Half-way there!

Now, with all the seconds that you’ll save by automatically launching Lightroom, go forth and take more pictures!



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There are 2 comments

  • Steve H says:

    The problem is that IC won’t recognise the card after it’s been reformatted in the camera. So each time you format a card, this process has to be repeated. It’s a bugger [technical] term, because I’ve not found a way around this so far. It’s a good reminder of how to use IC though.


    • dave says:

      Mine seems to recognize after reformating, both for my Nikon D7000 and my Fuji X100T. Wonder if it’s camera or model specific?