digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

Get Inspired · Find Creativity · Seek Adventure

Step by Step Tutorial – Import Photos Into Lightroom

Last week we took a look at setting up a good workflow, your base or foundation if you will. There were quite a few requests for more, so in this follow up article I will walk you through the steps I use when importing photos into Lightroom.

NEW: My Review of Photo Editing Software for 2018.
One Lightroom alternative sticks out from the rest.

Part One

First: Catalogs

One of the first things you have to decide when using Lightroom is whether you want to work with one main catalog or multiple ones for different projects. There are many schools of thought on this topic and I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

I disagree with having one catalog per year, or one per photo shoot or client job – I think those methods cause issues of trying to find your images and not knowing what catalog to even look in. I suggest either having just one, or a few set up by category. These are the ones I use:

  • LR5 personal – my main one which has over 100,000 images in it and still works just fine. This will depend on your computer and processing power of course. This catalog has all my personal work, travel photo, family photos, tours, etc.
  • Teaching – this catalog is set up with a minimal number of images, just the ones I need for teaching my classes and my students' images. The images in this one are on a portable drive which I take to class with me. It does make it a lot easier to find the images I want to show when there are fewer of them.
  • Client work – I have one catalog for portrait work that I do for clients. I also have one for weddings which I do not shoot very often any more but I have one for the ones I do photograph (usually family ones).
  • Events – again not one I use much any more but any events like photo walks, festivals, etc that I shoot go into this catalog.

You can read more about my tips for handling your catalog here.

LR Preferences and setting up

In another previous article I went over some of the things you'll want to take a look at in your Lightroom preferences.

By following the workflow tips, thinking about your catalog structure and doing your preferences ahead of time, you'll be set up for success from the beginning.

Second: Importing images into Lightroom

The easiest way for me to show you how to go through the import process is just that – step by step. So in the following video I'll do that and cover the following:

  • Automatic launch of the import dialog box, how to set that up
  • The parts of the import dialog box and what they mean
  • The options you have in each panel for importing, what to choose and why
  • How to set up import presets
  • Adding keywords and copyright to your image metadata
  • Converting to DNG during import or later
  • Renaming your files on import or later
  • Sorting files and filtering
  • How to fix a mistake – adjusting the time your images were shot in the metadata

Watch the video and if you have any questions please put them in the comments below.

A few of things I forgot to mention in the video that are worth noting here.

#1 – Remember to back up not only your image files but your catalog as well!

#2 – When you are done downloading, backing up, and veering the files are all valid – use the Format feature in your camera to wipe the card ready for your next shoot.

#3 – Notice when I imported the JPGs from the little camera it was exactly the same process and once inside Lightroom the program handles them exactly the same. So if you are still shooting mainly JPG I urge you to consider switching to RAW for most things – especially since you are already using Lightroom.

Part two – exporting a catalog

When I travel for an extended period or have my laptop along like I did for Cuba and Nicaragua, I use my portable hard drives and make a special Lightroom catalog just for the trip. Then when I get back home to my main work station I export it as a catalog (which pulls not only the images but all the stuff you've done to them in LR too like tagging, keywords, develop, etc.). Next I import it into my main LR catalog and merge them.

The reasons I make a special lightroom catalog when traveling are:

  1. Keep all my images in one place and easier to find (as opposed to multiple catalogs)
  2. To move the originals from the portable drive to my main one
  3. To retain all the process I've done to them in Lightroom
  4. To back it all up when I'm done

Follow along with me in this video as I do just that and merge my Cuba images into my main catalog.

lightroom alternative for photo editing softwareNEW: Adobe has announced changes to their licensing model for their products.

Lightroom Alternative: I've reviewed what I believe to be one of the best lightroom alternatives currently available. I encourage you to check it out before making ANY decisions about your photo editing software choices.

Read: Lightroom Alternative - Is Luminar the Answer?

LightroomI've put together a little collection of Lightroom articles I've written over the years, so if you'd like to learn more about Lightroom, simply visit that page.


Digital Photo Mentor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

lightroom alternative photo editing software

{ 17 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

Next Post:

Previous Post:

Featured Photography Special

4 Weeks to Better Photography

An online photography class for beginners, with new lower pricing for 2018 and Downloadable Videos.

Join the Photo Community

10 Photography Challenges

Participate in monthly photography challenges. Join our very interactive community, participate in challenges each month that help you stretch and grow. Learn new skills and make your photos "pop".

More Articles Here

All my past photography articles here.

We publish regularly, so if you'd like to posts sent directly to your inbox, just put your name and email into the big orange box at the top of this page.

Adobe Training

Learn how to use Lightroom
Learn how to use Photoshop