Cameras, Image Management, Lightroom, Photographers, Photography, Processing, Reviews, Technical, Tutorials

Importing images into Lightroom

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I would say, the import window in Lightroom is pretty intuitive and straight forward. Let’s see what would be the fastest way of importing images into Lightroom. At times, you might be packed with multiple photo shoots, where identifying the best practices always proves to be time saving. Keep in mind that you can’t reduce the time when the files are getting copied to your HDD. Either you need to do it through Lightroom or by the Operating system’s copy/paste feature.

Lightroom’s import window can easily be prompted using a shortcut using Cmd + Shift + I (Ctrl+Shift+I for windows users). You can also prompt this import window automatically by checking the option “Show import dialog when a memory card is detected”. For this you need to navigate from Lightroom menu > Preferences > General tab (refer screenshot below).

Import window


The import window is divided into three divisions/parts.

  • Part A – The first section (from the left) is the source, where we choose the files/folders that need to be imported. You simply have to choose the location of the folder which contains the images, be it a Memory card or a local destination in your computer/External HDD where you have copied and pasted the images already.
  • Part B – The central section which asks “How to do the import process”? has 4 options to choose from.
  1. Copy as DNG: If you select this option, Lightroom will convert the image files into DNG format and will save it in the selected destination. Source files in the memory card/other location will remain unaltered.
  2. Copy: This option is similar to the every-day copy and paste feature, to copy and paste to the destination you have chosen. Source files in the memory card/other location will remain unaltered.
  3. Move: This option is similar to cut and paste feature to the destination you have chosen. Source files in the memory card/other location will be moved to the location that has been chosen.
  4. Add: This process neither copies or paste to the destination folder. You are simply required to point the source folder to Lightroom. Assuming you have already copied the files to this folder (not through Lightroom) and now you instruct Lightroom to manage the files from here. I use this option as the order of the folders (that I created outside Lightroom), makes sense to me. Just copy paste from the memory card to the external HDD where you maintain all of your shoot images in an organised folder named (Lightroom) → (Year) → (Month) → (Shoot name).

Import window-1


If we consider the different time consumption for the above processes

→ Option a. takes longest time as it needs to convert the source files into a different format altogether

→ Option b. Copying and creating another copy, this process consumes time as it needs to be pasted as a regular process

→ Option c. is more or less similar to Option b,

→ Option d. Is the least time consuming of all the 4 options.

  • PART C – In order to preview the RAW files, jpeg preview needs to be generated for each and every RAW file. This process cannot be skipped but Lightroom comes with 4 options considering the different sizes in which the jpeg preview needs to be generated.



Screenshot 2017-05-08 16.50.55

In the File handling tab (refer above screenshot) there are 4 options to choose. All the four will consume time with Minimal preview size being the shortest time and 1:1 being the longest.

For better understanding, below is a table which will give you an idea about the time consumption while importing. Higher the unit under “Time consumption”, higher the time consumed for that particular process. You have to go through both PART – B & C during the process of importing. You can now calculate which process would be the most time consuming one. For instance, if you choose Option (A) from Part B and Option (S) from Part C, together these will be the longest time consuming options.

Screenshot 2017-05-09 12.44.45

Other parameters like the number of files, your computer’s processing speed and power will play a crucial role in the time consumption of this process.

Kindly note:

  1. You can choose Minimal or Sidecar or Standard option in Part – C, but when you process and you want to see the image in 1:1 ratio at that time Lightroom will generate the 1:1 JPEG file and you would see a “Loading” floating notification on Lightroom viewing area over the image.
  2. As the Copy as DNG and 1:1 shall take really long time than you expected, it is better to initiate this process before you hit the bed.

As mentioned in the beginning, it is important for every busy photographer to continuously find time saving methods to get their everyday procedures done quicker. Use the comments section to let us know your methods that help you save time.

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Navanee Viswa

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