Importing and Backing Up Images at the same Time

by Michael Clark

Downloading and importing images is one of the major bottlenecks in any digital workflow. Luckily, Lightroom has a few options that can help speed up and simplify the downloading, importing and backing up process.

Lightroom can automatically download images from a compact flash card via a card reader, back them up to two places as they are being downloaded and import those images into Lightroom with full metadata and keywords all at the same time. If you didn't know this it might be the best news you've heard in a while. Of course, Lightroom isn't unique, Photo Mechanic has led the way with even more options for speeding up the downloading and backing up process but it is very nice to see some of these processes used in Lightroom.

To set Lightroom up to download from a card reader and back up images at the same time you'll first have to adjust a few of your preferences. In the File Management section of the Lightroom Preferences panel (as in the image below) change the "When a memory card is detected" toggle to Show Import Dialog and also check the box below it that says "Ignore camera-generated folder names when naming folders" if you want Lightroom to do that, especially for you Canon users out there.


Now, when you plug in your card reader and insert a card you will get an import dialog box that opens right away once the card reader is mounted on the desktop. I have been told this will open whether or not Lightroom is actually open but I have not seen that in practice. Once Lightroom is opened up, you'll see a dialog something like the one below. This import dialog is a bit different than the normal one that opens when you import images that are already on a hard drive attached to your computer.


In the same manner as always, you can choose to reference images from their current location. Just below that though, with this new dialog, you can choose where you would like the images being downloaded to be saved as they are imported into Lightroom. Just click the choose button and select the destination and folder you'd like to download the images to. I suggest creating a new folder and making sure you have a logical folder naming convention. Note that the folder name you create is also going to be the name that Lightroom uses in its folder structure.

Below the Copy To section you can control how the images are organized and under that section you'll find another check box where you can back up the images you are downloading to a second location. And as usual you can enter keywords and create a metadata preset to be applied to your images as they are imported into Lightroom. Everything is pretty self-explanatory when you see the import dialog box, so if it feels like I just rolled through that quickly you will understand when you start doing it yourself.

That is a lot of work done for you automatically. I love that Adobe has included this feature in Lightroom as I can now with a few clicks have my images downloaded, backed up, and imported with metadata and keywords all in one step!

I haven't tried this with multiple card readers to further speed up the process. That would really speed up the download process if it works. I tend to go one card at a time or download images from my Epson P2000 portable hard drive directly if I have shot a lot of gigabytes.

That's it for this Monday. I look forward to hearing your comments...

Adios, Michael Clark


2007-04-02 06:01:05
Importing and creating a DNG is a great feature, will make the workflow much faster. I just wish it could delete the RAW files off the card as that would save one more step.
Jon Haverstick
2007-04-02 15:25:01
In an effort to save space on my MacBook Pro's internal hard drive, my usual workflow is to dump my RAW files from my CF card to an external hard drive in a folder with a meaningful name (e.g., Poppies 3-30-07, Portraits-Jerry&Billie 2-25-07, etc.). After I have the files organized on my external drive, I import into LR, using "Import Photos at their Current Location" to leave the originals on the external drive rather than copy to my limited internal drive.

Does this method you've described above allow me to copy to my EXTERNAL DRIVE only, and import into LR WITHOUT duplicating the RAW files to my internal drive? Or would I end up with a copy on my external hard drive AND a copy on my internal hard drive?


Michael Clark
2007-04-02 17:57:33
Jon -

The answer to your question is yes. You can download images to any hard drive connected to your computer and import them into Lightroom as they are downloaded without duplicating them.

2007-04-03 06:07:24
Re djp post:

Importing and creating a DNG is a great feature, will make the workflow much faster. I just wish it could delete the RAW files off the card as that would save one more step.

djp | April 2, 2007 06:01 AM

Would be a nice thing, however since formatting cards on camera is such a quick and easy step, and is recommended by most manufactures, I understand that Adobe didn't see the neccessity to include it. Anyhow, its implementation in futures versions could be appreciated by many users.


Jon Haverstick
2007-04-03 13:11:55
Thanks, Michael! I'm going to give that a try right now! This should shave a few minutes off my workflow!



2007-08-05 10:45:31
I found the organize by feature intriguing as it provided a folder hierarchy structured by year>date. Seems LR will build a folder structure but as you can tell there will be pitfalls; for now, I'm still working on a folder hierarchy. From what I've learned about LR so far, it will not matter too much if I change the folder names or structure because LR will display the folder name in red and prompt for a location update. However, I'd like the get the folder structure right the first time.