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How to import photos to Lightroom

by | Tutorials

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This quick tutorial will show you exactly how to import photos to Lightroom. It’s a straightforward process and doesn’t require much knowledge of the software to get it done. We’ll focus on Adobe Lightroom Classic for this short tutorial. Let’s give it a go.


Plug in your SD Card

First thing you need to do is ensure your SD card is plugged into your computer. This could be straight into a socket on the side, rear or front of your machine (depending on whether it’s a laptop or desktop). Your SD card should show up in Mac’s Finder sidebar or Windows Explorer’s sidebar.

Open Lightroom Classic

Next up, open up Lightroom Classic (in your Launchpad for Mac or your Start menu for Windows). Once it’s launched, it’ll usually open up to the ‘Develop’ tab. You can see which tab it’s in by looking at the top right hand side of the application window. Now, switch over to the ‘Library’ tab.

Import photos to Lightroom

Once you’re in the Library tab, head down to the bottom left of the window, you’ll find the ‘Import’ option here. Hit that and it’ll open up the import dialogue window. Here you can select which photos you want to import. 

Selection options

By default, all the photos are selected. You can go through and deselect the ones you don’t want, or click ‘Deselect All’ in the bottom centre of the import window and select the ones you want one by one. 

Rating Options

Lightroom offers the option to rate your photos as you go through them. Each photo can be given a rating from 1 – 5 stars. To do this, you can either hover on the bottom left of the image and select the number of stars you want to assign, or simply use the number keys (1 – 5) at the top of your keyboard to rate the image.

View Options

There’s also the option to view your photos as a scalable grid or as larger items one at a time. Viewing them as larger items makes it easier to identify exactly which ones you want to work with.

Make a collection

To keep things organised, you’ll want to head over to the right-hand sidebar in the import window and ‘Create a new library’. The library is just a virtual folder where your photo selection will live in Lightroom. Name this library whatever you want; ‘Jackie’s Wedding’ or ‘Kgale Hill Hike’ for example.

Import Options

There are a few options to consider during your import. At the top of the import window you’ll see an option to either a) copy and import or b) import at location. Copying and importing will copy the files off of your SD card or storage media onto your local hard drive. Importing at location will keep the files on your storage media and reference them from there while you edit.

If you’re importing from your SD card, Lightroom will copy and import by default, and the copied files will be stored in your Lightroom Library. If you’re importing from an external hard drive or other folder on your local drive, Lightroom will import at location by default. Be sure to select which one makes more sense for you.


Once your collection is made, and your import method selected, you can hit the ‘Import’ button at the bottom left of the screen. The files will be imported into your collection and you will be navigated to the ‘Develop’ tab, where you can begin working on your photos.

In conclusion

A few tips worth mentioning are:

  • Always backup your photos to an external drive, your local drive (if you have the space) or cloud storage.
  • Make a collection for each photo set – this will keep things organised and tidy. Unless of course you are a creature of chaos.
  • Rating your images will help you keep your library organised, and allow you to filter images after a large import, to further narrow down the best selection.
  • Keep an eye on your Lightroom library size, as these can get pretty big, consume a chunk of hard drive space and slow down your machine.

That’s it! Although it’s a pretty straightforward process, it’s one you’ll have to do frequently, so be sure to bookmark this article if you ever get confused.

Happy editing!

For more how-to articles and videos, check out our other tutorials and our YouTube channel.

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