Complete Guide to Importing Photos from Camera into Adobe Lightroom

Complete Guide to Importing Photos from Camera into Adobe Lightroom

New to or struggling with Adobe Lightroom CC? Wondering how to import your camera’s photos into Adobe Lightroom? Well, you have come to the right place!

I’ve decided to start at the beginning; focusing on how to build a photo library with Adobe Lightroom CC. Over the course of the next few blog posts, we will cover topics essential to developing a highly functioning archive. You may be asking yourself, “why does this matter?!” Consider this. The Obama White House Photo Office had an archive of approximately 4 million photos at the end of 8 years. Pete Souza created 2 million photos alone! By adhering to specified standards for filenaming, captioning, and tagging photos we were able to locate the needle in the haystack. Implementing a consistent workflow and utilizing Lightroom will save your future self time. Now, let’s start with a quick overview of Lightroom and then move on to how to import photos from your camera!

What is Lightroom?

Lightroom is an image organizer created by Adobe which enables you to organize, store and retrieve photos or video as well as manage image metadata. The primary function of this software is the ability to streamline and improve the user’s workflow. As a result of a proper implementation of your digital asset management system, user’s can create a searchable image archive. Additionally, Lightroom offers nondestructive photo editing capabilities.

Lightroom Modules

There are 7 modules in Adobe Lightroom CC: Library, Develop, Map, Book, Slideshow, Print and Web. While you can only work in one module at a time, you can navigate between them as often as you would like. Each module is located in the bar across the top of your Catalog. To hide the Module Selector, click the white arrow at the top center of the screen. For brief descriptions of the modules, see below.

  • Library – The Library is the central hub for Lightroom. Here you can utilize the image organization options in your catalog. Import and export images, view photos, create image collections, rate photos, and add metadata are a few of the choices available.
  • Develop – The Develop module enables you to post process your photos in a nondestructive manner. If you are an Adobe Photoshop user, the interface is quite similar to that of Camera Raw. Here you can enhance your photos: i.e., fine-tune color balance, adjust exposure, increase (or decrease based on your preference) contrast, alter saturation and vibrancy, remove red eye, sharpen, reduce noise, convert to black-and-white, and apply presets. Furthermore, enjoy the benefits of synchronizing edits from one selected photo to an entire take. Note: Only JPEG and RAW formats are supported.
  • Map – Geographic organization and representation of images based on added or embedded metadata.
  • Book – Design photo books and easily order through Blurb.
  • Slideshow – Create presentations using your images to which you can add music, text and backgrounds.
  • Print – Define image parameters and print your images. My favorite part, the ease of printing contact sheets (anyone else having some major film nostalgia?).
  • Web – Create web photo galleries and upload the gallery to a web server.

What is a catalog?

A catalog is a database which stores a record of your photos. This includes information about each photo such as file location (where it lives in your system), post processing instructions (photo editing), and metadata (captions, ratings, keywords, etc).  During the import process, a link between your photos and the record in your catalog is created. As a result, you are able to preview your files without direct access to the images.

What is Importing?

Importing your photos is the process of showing Lightroom where the files live so the Catalog can link to them. By “adding” or importing photos into your Lightroom catalog you will generate previews. Once imported into the catalog you can alter the metadata, edit the files, and locate images (even if they are not locally stored).


Step by Step Instructions to Importing from Camera

1.  Develop a file structure prior to Importing into Lightroom

There are a multitude of organizational structures you can develop and no one way is correct. It is about figuring out a method that works best for you and sticking to it! In a future post, I’ll cover what method I have landed on and why. For now, I recommend creating a top level folder to house all of your images. This creates a clean folder system which will simplify the process if you decide to move the folders or build a new catalog in the future. Within the top level folder include subfolders by date or subject matter.

2. Open Adobe Lightroom CC

Double click the Adobe Lightroom CC shortcut located on the Dock (mac) or desktop. If this is your first time using Lightroom you will need to create a New Catalog or use the default provided. I’ve chosen to use the default but you could create a 2017 catalog or one for a specific event you’ve photographed. Consider the following: Are you importing personal photos or business images? Do you generally photograph events or hired projects? Do you need to see all your images at the same time? Determine which catalog you intend to use and proceed.

3. Open the Import Window

To open the Import Window, click the Import button in the bottom left corner of the Library module or go to File > Import Photos and Videos.

How to import photos into lightroom - Open import window

4. Choose to Import photos from Camera (this is your Source!)

When you click the Import button, Lightroom will automatically open the Import Window. From there you must select the parameters for your import, starting with the Source located on the lefthand side. In the Source panel you can select to import files from your local drive or from a device (Camera or external drive).  Select the Camera (in my case my trusty Nikon D300) from the drop down menu. Check to “Eject (the card) after import”. Note: Feel free to uncheck this option if preferred. I like it because once the import is complete I can immediately throw the card back in my camera and format it.

Import photos from Camera to Lightroom - Select Camera as source

5. Select Import Option

Across the top center of the Import Window are four file handling options. Your selection informs Lightroom what to do with the files you have selected to import.

  • Copy as DNG – Selecting this option will convert your RAW images to Adobe’s Digital Negative Format. While this is the most time consuming option, DNG’s are considered a good format for archival purposes. An added bonus is it takes up less hard drive space. Wondering if you should be converting your files to DNG’s? What are the pro’s and con’s? Check out PetaPixel’s “DNG: The Pros, Cons and Myths of the Adobe Raw File Format“.
  • Copy – Copies files from the selected source and saves them to the specified destination without changing the file format. We will be using this method to import from the Camera’s memory card because it will leave the original files intact on the card.
  • Move – Moves the files from their current destination to a new one. This option will delete the files/folder from the original location. If moving your files, you will need to select a new destination for them. 
  • Add – Tells Lightroom to reference the files in their current location (on your computer or external hard drive) without moving or copying them. Select if you want to import without changing the files location.

When importing from your Camera, Move and Add will not be available. Make sure Copy is selected and proceed.

Import photos from Camera to Lightroom - Select to Copy images from Camera

Looking to import from your Computer or Hard Drive? Click here to learn more.

6. Determine File Handling specifications

While these settings will be dependent on your custom workflow, I highly recommend checking “Don’t Import Selected Duplicates”. This ensures you do not accidentally import the same file twice which would result in a messy catalog with multiple file copies. If there are any images you do not want to import into the Catalog, uncheck them now.

7. Apply File Renaming Template and Metadata Presets

This is an essential first step in creating a cohesive and searchable digital archive. While there are many file naming conventions, keywords, and caption styles, you need to standardize! This will be the easiest way to organize and search your photos. I’ve selected my standard “2017ShelbyFinal” File Renaming Template as well as identified the start number and applied the “2107 Shelby Copyright” Metadata preset during Import.

8. Select your Image Destination

Prior to hitting the button, you need to tell Lightroom where to copy your images. Select “Destination” from the drop down menus on the right. Select the target folder location. Consider your developed file structure; in my case I have them organized by date within a 2017 folder. 

Import photos from Camera into Lightroom - Choose your image destination

9. Import your photos!

Once your import settings have been specified, click the Import button in the bottom right corner.  The images will begin to populate in the Library module of your catalog. Now you can organize, edit, color correct, post process and share your photos in Lightroom.

Import photos from Camera into Lightroom - Import photos

Stay tuned for future content covering Lightroom organization, DAM, color correction and more. Tips in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop!

Comment below with any questions you may have about the Lightroom Import Process!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *