How to import photos into Adobe Lightroom

When you open Lightroom, you’ll see a box at the bottom-left that is labelled ‘Import …’.

Click it, and the import screen will open up. The import screen may open up instantly when you first open Lightroom if you have an SD card inserted, but that depends on how your preferences are set up. You can change your preferences by navigating to Lightroom at the top and clicking on ‘Preferences…’

The Import screen is where you pick which pictures to include in your Lightroom catalogue to arrange and edit. You’ll most likely wind up opening the import screen really often. Generally, each time you come back from a shoot, you’ll spend some quality time with this screen.


There’s a lot of options within the import screen that you can take advantage of, but let’s focus on the most common ones you’ll be using.

The Left-Hand Side.

The simplest component of the import screen is the tabs on the left-hand side. This is where you select the source of the images you want to import into Lightroom. This might be an SD card, your camera, or something different.

What this panel looks like is generally pretty simplistic. You’ll always see your hard drive as an option at a minimum. That’s because if you’re attempting to import a picture into Lightroom that’s is already on your computer, you can do that.


Import types

The top of the import screen offers you a couple of alternatives. There are four ways to import your images right into Lightroom’s catalogue: ‘Copy as DNG’, ‘Copy’, ‘Relocate’, and also ‘Add’. Each one is valid depending on your reasons. Here is what Lightroom says about each of them:

Copy as DNG – Copy to new location, import, and convert to DNG

This choice is what occurred when the Lightroom designers recognised that if you’re duplicating a picture from one place to an additional, the brand-new copy can be a different document type than the original. ‘Copy as DNG’ does the same thing as ‘Copy’, but the new photo created will be as a DNG file other than JPEG, TIFF, CR2 or whatever it was when you took it.

Copy – Copy photos to a new location and add to catalog

‘Copy’ is the best option if the photo you want to add to your catalog isn’t in the right place yet. However, you still do not desire to erase it from its current location yet; rather, you simply want to copy it someplace else. When I’m copying images from someone’s flash drive, I don’t want to move the photos from their storage device entirely, because they might still want to retain a copy.

Move – Move photos to a new location and add to catalog

‘Move’ is ideal if you’re attempting to include among your images to your Lightroom catalog. However, it’s not in the ideal place on your computer system. For example, if you were in a hurry and copied images to a folder on your desktop, but ideally want the photos to appear under 2018 > February > Flowers, you can use ‘Move’ to import them into the Lightroom catalog, but also put them in the place you want the photos to appear in.

Add – Add your photos to catalog without moving them

‘Add’ is excellent if you don’t want to move the documents from their current location on your hard drive but want them to be included in the Lightroom catalog.

While ‘add’ works just fine, I generally copy images from your camera straight into the location I want them to appear in. This means I use the ‘Copy’ option to duplicate the images and place them in the location of my choosing.

The right-hand Side

Unlike the left-hand side panel, the right-hand side has a lot more options during the import process. They are all really important for your photos to be catalogued properly.

The major function of the right-hand bar is simply to inform Lightroom where to place the pictures that you’re moving, duplicating, or duplicating as DNGs. It does not show up if you’re adding photos, given that Lightroom presumes that they’re currently in the best location with all their metadata.


There are a few ways you can shorten this import process. You can create presets of the metadata you want to apply, or apply settings to the photos as they are imported.

For example, my copyright data remains the same for each photo I take. My website doesn’t change, my contact information doesn’t change, so I don’t need to change it each time I import. I created my own metadata preset by clicking on ‘Apply During Import’ > Metadata > New. Click ‘Create’ when you’re done, and give it a name. I call mine ‘Matt’ because generally, it will be your only metadata preset.

In the meantime, as long as you’ve chosen your destination folder for the import, everything else is easy to add later on if you forget.

Here’s what each of the import functions do:

File Handling

Build previews

I set this to ‘Embedded & Sidecar’ because it seems to make everything run at its most optimum.

Build Smart Previews

I have this switched on because it helps the photos load lower resolution copies for when you’re flipping through lots of different shots in the Library or Develop module.

Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates

Lightroom does a great job of knowing what is a duplicate image and which isn’t. I have this switched on because if I do multiple transfers to my Lightroom catalog during a shoot, I don’t want to spend time copying images I already have copied in a past transfer.

Make a Second Copy To

You could use this if you wanted the photos to be imported to two locations, but I’m not sure why you would want to do that, so I keep it switched off.

Add to Collection

We will get into Collections later on, but if you know what collection you want these photos added to, you can do it at import by selecting this and the Collection you want them imported to.

File Renaming

Rename Files

Here you can rename your files and use a template to make it even quicker. The templates are pretty straightforward, but I generally use a custom name. I write the name of the shoot, then make the start number ‘1’ and it will sequence the photos from there on out.

Apply During Import

Develop Settings

If you’d like a preset to be applied to each image you import, you can choose a develop preset here. Generally, this isn’t a great idea because all your photos will look slightly different and need different editing treatment. But the option is there if you need it.


This is the copyright information and other aspects that you want to be attached to your image. You can create a preset to make it easier to pre-populate on each import. We spoke about that a little earlier.


Each time you import photos, you should add keywords so it’s easier to find relevant photos later when your Lightroom catalog is swelling in size.

In addition to that, when you have actually picked all the images you wish to include in your catalog, you’re done! Click the “Import” button at the bottom-right of the import screen and things will start copying!