Adobe Lightroom is the go-to program for photographers. Between Lightroom and Photoshop, it’s possible to create world class images for display on the web or in print. So, if you’re a photographer and if you’ve ever been interested in learning about Lightroom, this is your chance.
In this post, I’m going to discuss one of the very first tasks you’ll complete when launching Lightroom. That task is importing a photo collection. Now, while you’ll initially do this just once, you’ll also continue to perform this function over and over and over again, so it’s important to read this post carefully and save it for later use.
Locating Your Photos
If you read my previous post regarding where photographers store their photos, you know exactly where yours live. In my case, I’ve got the photo collection that I’d like to import already pulled off my camera. Actually, this particular collection is a few years old. It’s located on my external drive, in “Jay Drive > Media > Photos > 2013 > 10-Washington-Oaks.” If you have your photos still on your camera, go ahead and copy them over to your computer or external hard drive. They should reside in their permanent home. In this tutorial, we’ll be working from there. In later posts, I’ll discuss exactly how to go about importing pictures to Lightroom directly from either your camera or card reader.
Launching Lightroom & Clicking Import
NOTE: To view these images at full size, simply right-click on any image and then click “Open Image In New Tab.”
Now is when you should launch Lightroom, if it’s not already open. If you’re running the latest version (2015 CC), the interface should look like this:
I want you to take a look at a few things in the next two images. I have what I’m about to discuss highlighted.
After you open Lightroom, be sure to click the word “Library” in the upper right area. After you click Library, then click the “Import” button that’s found in the lower left area.
If you’d prefer, instead of clicking the “Import” button, you can alternatively click the “Import Photos and Video” from the “File” menu at the top left corner of the application.
After you click Import, you should see the import dialog that looks like this:
Choose Your Photos
This next part is really easy. Working from left to right in the import dialog, we want to find our image collection and see what we’ve got in there. So, in order to locate our photographs, we need to do a bit of navigating. If you’ve got your files stored on your local drive, then go ahead and browse through that location. It’ll most likely be the first drive listed in the “Source” panel. Since the photos I’ll be working on are located on my external hard drive, I need to navigate a bit further down to the “My Passport (K:)” drive.
After I do some navigating through the folders I outlined in the “Locating Your Photos” section of this post, I find my images. I click the folder they’re stored in and they appear in the center panel.
Now, there’s a small caveat when clicking around in the Source panel. If you have a good number of folders that all contain images and would like click the top folder to view all images in the sub-folders, you need to be sure to check off the “Include Subfolders” check box located at the top of the Source panel. If you don’t check this box, you’ll still have the ability to view your photos, but you’ll have to click each folder to do so. You won’t have an overview of all images in all folders at the same time.
Adjusting Thumbnail Size
Once you have your folder chosen and see your images, you might decide that you either want to view more images or fewer images at the same time. By moving the “Thumbnails” slider from left you right, you can shrink or grow each thumbnail in your collection.
Also, while looking through your photos, you might decide that you don’t need each and every one of them imported to Lightroom. If you take a look at your image thumbnails, you’ll see that there’s a small check located at the top left of each image. By default, all images are checked. If you would like to import all files, simply keep them checked. If you would like to exclude some photos, uncheck the ones you’d like Lightroom to ignore. If you’d like to perform a mass unchecking or a mass checking of your images, simply use the “Check All” or “Uncheck All” buttons below the thumbnails. From there, you can check and uncheck as you desire.
The Larger Preview
Here’s something fun. Say you don’t really have a great view of your thumbnails and would like to take a closer look at the images you’re considering for import. Instead of heading back to the original folder where the images are stored, all you need to do is click the thumbnail you’re interested in. In my case, I would like to take a closer look at an image I think has some nice shadows in it. Notice how the grey box around the thumbnail lightens after I click on it.
After I select the thumbnail I would like to see a close up of, I need to click on the “Loupe View” button located under the thumbnails. By doing this, my thumbnail will grow in size, which will allow me a closer view (and a higher quality one than simply sliding the thumbnail slider).
Once we finish up with the center column, we need to head over to the right column to tell Lightroom exactly what we’d like it to do with the files we’ve chosen for import. If you haven’t already, click the small triangle next to the words “File Handling” in the right column to expand that box.
After you expand that box, you’ll see you’ve got a few choices to make. The first one is what quality you’d like Lightroom to import your images as. From the “Build Preview” dropdown box, there are a few alternatives.
Minimal: This choice just imports light version thumbnails to Lightroom after you click the “Import” button. If you’d like to work on each thumbnail individually at a higher quality later on, all you need to do is double click the image in question, wait a few seconds for Lightroom to pull in the higher quality version of that file and you can then do what you’d like to it.
Embedded & Sidecar: This choice uses low-resolution JPEG thumbnails from your high-quality full size photos to import. After loading them, Lightroom will begin loading higher quality thumbnails, which are still lower quality than the full sized photos.
Standard: If you’ve got time, you can use this option, which imports higher quality previews from the get-go. Once they’ve imported, you can begin clicking around to see your images at a higher resolution without waiting.
1:1: After importing the smaller preview thumbnails, this option begins bringing in the highest quality previews as to limit your waiting time after clicking a thumbnail. This option is extremely slow to initially load and uses a lot of space in the Lightroom database, so I suggest you use special care when choosing this option.
Smart Preview & Duplicates
If you use an external hard drive and work on a laptop, you may want to take advantage of the “Build Smart Previews” option. What this option does is import preview images to your Lightroom database, so you can work when your external hard drive is disconnected. Since this option takes up additional space, only use it if you’re working under these conditions. If you’ve always got access to your local drive or external hard drive, keep this option unchecked.
Directly under that option is another one called “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates.” Folks usually keep this box checked because it prohibits importing duplicates of the same images. If you do end up importing duplicates, the thumbnails of those duplicates will display as grey.
Importing Your Photos
For now, I’m going to ignore a few of the remaining options because I plan to discuss them at greater detail in later posts. At this point, I’m going to click the “Import” button at the bottom of the right column and wait for my collection to be imported to Lightroom. Once it’s finished (which it is now), it’ll look like the graphic below.
And there you have it, photographs that are imported to Lightroom.
A Few Notes
I do want to mention a few things about this post. First, for the example collection, I imported JPEG files. The true power of Lightroom comes from editing RAW files. I simply used JPEG files because they are smaller and easier to deal with. If I were to actually take the time to use Lightroom to enhance my photography, I would definitely shoot my photos initially in RAW format.
Second, to keep the screenshots as clear as possible, I used my laptop screen, which is a 15.6″ format. When editing in Lightroom, you’d most likely want to use a larger monitor. Things won’t be so compact on a larger monitor and you’ll have much more fun. When I do my editing, I use a 27″ monitor.
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