5 Essential Things to know about the Lightroom Import Dialog

5 Essential Things to know about the Lightroom Import Dialog

In Lightroom 3 the Import dialog was updated and there are heaps of cool tools here to speed up and make the import process more efficient.


Here are five things that you should know about the import dialog.

1. Back up as you import

In the Import dialog’s File Handling panel you can select to make a second copy of your images upon import to another folder. This option is available provided you are using either Copy as DNG, Copy or Move as the option for importing images into your catalog – if you have Add selected this is not an option. This is a quick and no fuss way to ensure you always have a backup of your photos.

You should be aware that if you chose Copy as DNG the backups will be in the original raw image file format and they won’t be converted to DNG.

2. Fix as you import


In the Apply During Import panel is a Develop Settings option. Here you can select from any of the Develop Presets that you have in your Develop Module. If there is not a preset for a fix that you want to apply, create a preset with those fixes that you want to apply to all your images on import. Once saved as a preset you can then apply those fixed automatically using this option. The presets are shown in alphabetical order and no distinction is made between yours and those shipped with Lightroom.

For example, for one of my cameras, I prefer to set the Profile to Camera Standard in the Camera Calibration panel of the Develop module. By creating a Preset for this, I can apply it to all images as they are imported whenever I download from that camera.

3. Apply Metadata

Also in the Apply During Import panel is a Metadata option. Here you can create a copyright preset and apply it as images are imported. Typical copyright presets will include IPTC Copyright and IPTC Creator data. You should also include IPTC Status: Credit Line. The remainder of the IPTC information is generally added on an image by image basis but you can, at the very least, apply basic copyright information on import.

4. Rename files


If you prefer to rename your files to something other than what they are named by the camera open the File Renaming panel and choose a template to use. Where a template includes a custom name, shoot name or sequence you can type the relevant data into the boxes in this panel. The files will be automatically renamed as they are imported. If you are making a copy of the images at the same time as importing them, the backups will be renamed too.

5. Organize by date


In the Destination panel you can select to create a subfolder for the files as you bring them in and, if desired, organize this by date and then select a date format to use. So you can, for example, create a subfolder such as Rome Trip and have various additional subfolders added automatically for each of the days that you captured images during that trip.


If you scroll down in the folder system, you will see the intended folder structure with the numbers of images listed. This allows you to check the folder structure is correct before committing to importing images.

If you already have a folder that you plan to use then don’t select the Into Subfolder checkbox and instead select just the folder that you want to import into.

Bonus tip


Once you have the Import dialog set up as you want to use it most of the time, create an Import preset using the Import Preset option at the foot of the dialog. This allows you to select the preset any time to set up the dialog the way you usually want it to look. You can then make changes to it to suit a particular import and click to Import your images.


If you always use a standard importing process you can shrink the Import dialog to a small bar by clicking the Show Fewer Options button in the bottom left of the dialog. This bar still shows the settings you have in place – but it is more compact – and these settings too can be altered if needed.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Eric October 30, 2011 05:03 am

    Pep, can you give us more information?

  • Eric October 30, 2011 05:00 am


    It's at the bottom- organize by capture time? But you said you're interested in organizing by CF card only.

    What I do is auto import, and configure it each time, since I use an import preset. Maybe what you could do is auto import, and change the sub folder each CF card gets imported into. So, say you have CF one from camera 1. Set LR's auto import into the folder, say, for example, 2011/06/24-1/1. All the images you import into the default "watched folder" get moved into this folder, and if it doesn't exist, LR creates it. When that's done, go back into LR's menu and change the settings to import into the folder 2011/06/24-1/2, then 1/3, then 2/1, or something.

    You can always view the folder with all the images captured on that day, and organize it by capture time, or you can only view one folder that originated from the CF card.

  • pep October 29, 2011 02:48 pm

    help my lightroom 3 worked really well on importing all my photos however it now states that the shooting format is not supported in lightroom

  • Mohamed Ghuloom March 1, 2011 07:00 am

    I use 2,3 and 5

  • maris March 1, 2011 06:04 am

    Hi, Eric; Thanks for your reply. Yes, we are using different camera bodies. I do the metadata search for specific models, occasionally. It's really trying to isolate the images by disk (CF card).

    I use a mac which doesn't have a card reader built in. I upload all disks to a Nexto, and then important them all at once (in one import), and use keywords for the wedding in general. I then add keywords inside the main one like, getting ready, details, bridal portraits, wedding party, etc.

    I think your tip of changing the default setting to organize the folder in chronological order might be the trick.

    I wish that LR had a specific search tool. Call me old school, but that's what I'd like! :)



    My most recent post: http://tinyurl.com/6ax5pbr

  • Eric February 28, 2011 06:46 am

    I would think that unless your'e using the same camera body for each, you could metadata search for a specific camera model. I've also seen LR list the serial number of the camera used in the metadata, as I assume you shoot raw. One other solution I'd try myself in this situation is if you're importing from a different disk (not sure what you mean by disk) you could import them one at at time and have LR add a keyword upon import. Also, down by the bottom, there's different ways to organize images in a folder, the default being chronological order, as it seems in this case. See if an option is there to list them by when they were imported into the catalog in the folder, or perhaps by camera used, or something like that. That's what I'd try, anyway.

  • Maris February 25, 2011 04:55 am

    I have used LR since the beginning but still have one issue that I can't figure out a solution for.

    When I shoot a wedding, for example, I have a 2nd shooter as well as myself, and we use multiple disks. When all disks are uploaded, because the images are in chronological order, it's hard to select images from a particular disk, if that makes sense. I do rename the files by disk (d1-image #, d2-image #, etc).

    For example, say a bride has chosen her 50 images for an album and I have a list from my proofing site of the image file #s. The list is typically in disk order. When I go into LR to flag those images, I'll be cruising along in the grid in d1 files making selections and then d2 files are intermittently in the d1 section. It's very annoying.

    So my question is really this:

    Can I search for an image in LR by file # within a keyword list (like Jones Wedding d2-113), or would I need to create a keyword specific to the disk number when uploading? Are there ways of isolating images by disk other than by keyword?

    I hope this makes sense!


  • bees February 23, 2011 03:45 am

    Who knows how to handle the preview when importing canon cr2 files?

  • Eric February 19, 2011 02:53 am

    YES LR2 changed from copying the same folder structure on the external hdd to putting the backup images in a folder called 'imported on xxxx-xx-xx' or whatever. Very, very annoying as I did not realize it until I had maybe a dozen or so folders like this. Some of these folders were imported several days after the actual shoot date, and could have several days worth of images in one folder. I do the backup manually, I copy the same folder structure as on my pc on the two externals I use, a folder for the year, 12 sub folders for the month, and then in the month a folder that says 'xxxx_xx_xx'. But on the externals, I make a sub folder that says 'RAW' that dump all the original raws in before I make any deletes. Since LR writes changes to xmp, I continually copy over and update the information in the RAWs so they have the most current information. When I know I won't make any more changes, I convert to DNG on the pc, then copy those DNG's into the folder on the external itself, so the DNG's sit in the folder along with the sub folder with the original RAW's, but the original RAW's have all the metadata with the LR edits, so if I lose the DNG's on the pc or the catalog crashes, I can reimport the DNG's or the RAW's and rebuild the catalog. In theory, anyway, I haven't had a catalog fail yet.

    but- point being, no more 'imported on X date' folders. I haven't yet tried it with LR3.

  • Val February 18, 2011 06:04 am

    Great tips.
    CAUTION: Note that if you Create a 2nd Copy (at least when converting to DNG), and you rename your images, the 2nd copy retains the 'out of camera' name, NOT the new name. Also, the 2nd copy may not be in the folder you intended but created in a new sub-folder inside your selected folder.
    Hope this helps.

  • John February 18, 2011 04:35 am

    I've always wondered if I could automatically apply lens correction on import...anyone know of a way to do it?

  • Eric February 18, 2011 04:17 am

    that develop settings idea is genius- I had just asked in the LR forums w/ victoria bampton about this very thing, applying the lens profile as a batch process.

  • ScottC February 17, 2011 05:04 am

    As always Helen, great lightroom tips that I know I will use.

  • WBC February 15, 2011 11:23 am

    A lot of people (including me) make a mistake about the handling of RAW+JPG...

    Under the GENERAL tab of PREFERENCES there is an option to "Treat JPG Files next to raw files as separate photos". If you check this it will show you the JPG version alongside the RAW version during the import process and let you treat them differently.

    The common thought seems to be that if you do not check this box and do not see the JPG files it will not import them into Lightroom.

    I suppose technically this is correct, but you need to understand that your import WILL copy the JPG files to your library - it will just never mention it to you. If you shoot RAW+JPG like me, this can add up to a lot of disk space used up on 5MB JPG files. Now disk is cheap, but you also end up backing them up, keeping copies, extra defragging time, etc...

    The best way to deal with this that I found was to simply stop shooting in JPG and just use RAW. I had to change my workflow a bit but...

    Another way is to just move or deal with the JPG before running the import

    Lastly, you can check the preferences box and simply uncheck all the JPG files in the import screen. Since there is no easy way to sort by extension its not going to be good for a long day of shooting.

    Hope this saves someone else some headaches :)

    PS. Otherwise, I absolutely love LR3

  • Kiran February 15, 2011 11:18 am

    I wish these tips were available when I started using LR! Well, better late than never. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Mike Nelson Pedde February 15, 2011 05:18 am

    P.S. For a list of over 170 sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos (including this one), try: http://bit.ly/LRTips

  • Mike Nelson Pedde February 15, 2011 05:17 am

    Great list!

    Two notes on #2:

    1) When I started using LR3 there was a period where I found all of my new images were coming in with the process version set to 2003. Turned out I was using an import preset left over from LR2, and because of that the process version was being set back to 2003 instead of the current process version. If you use an import preset, make sure it's doing what you want it to do! When I was studying computer programming the most popular question in the lab was, "Why is it doing this?" The answer was always the same: "Because you told it to."

    2) Applying an import preset will set a default Develop setting to EVERY image you import. If you have an older computer especially, this can slow down your imports - moreso if you're like me and import every image and then cull them in the Library module. An alternative is to go into the Develop module, set the Develop sliders to the defaults you want, and go to Develop/ Set Default Settings. Now your images will be imported w/o any Develop settings applied, but any image you open in the Develop module for the first time will have these initial settings applied to it.


  • Devansh February 15, 2011 02:59 am

    Options for tip no. 4, 5 and the Bonus tip, are available only when you choose "Copy as DNG", "Copy" or "Move". Simply using "Add", does not allow you to choose options mentioned in, tip no. 4, 5 and the Bonus tip.

  • Craig February 15, 2011 02:45 am

    I use all these features and they are a tremendous help to my workflow but i wish they would allow you to set the preset or chose to remember last used. There has been a few times that in the rush of the office, I forgot to selct the preset and had to clean up the mess later (wrong folders, names, keywords, and metadata)

  • Rick February 15, 2011 02:32 am

    As my collection of keepers continue to grow, I find myself wishing I'd known more about LR's import features to stay organized from the very beginning. There are some great tips here, and thanks for sharing them.