Transfers from memory cards

You can (and should) configure Lightroom's preferences so that with Lightroom running, the Import Photos dialog opens automatically whenever a card from your camera is connected to your computer. Upon inserting the card, the dialog opens with the images folder selected and the contents of the card displayed as thumbnails, ready to be imported to your desired destination.

To access the Lightroom preferences, go to the Lightroom menu and choose Preferences… In the General tab section make sure the 'Show Import dialog when a memory card is detected' option is checked. This will automatically launch the Import Photos dialog each time you insert a card.

Lightroom gives you the option to move, add (in place) or copy your photos during import. When uploading images from an SD/CF card, however, the only options available are ‘Copy’ or ‘Copy as DNG’. DNG is Adobe's openly documented raw file format. If I am working on a shoot or am busy, I’ll select the ‘Copy’ option and choose to convert the raw imported files to DNG later when there is time to do so. If I am not in such a hurry I’ll choose the 'Copy as DNG' option instead.

This is the top bar in the Import Photos dialog. When importing from a card the two available options are 'Copy as DNG' and 'Copy'.

While the Import Photos dialog does give you the opportunity to edit photos before you import them, your  main priority here should be to get the files from the card safely onto a computer hard drive as soon as possible.

I don't even bother to scan through the collection and deselect obvious clunkers at this stage. Get the photos from the card into the Lightroom catalog first and decide later if any need deleting. The thing to bear in mind here is that the longer your images remain exclusively on the card, the greater the risk of losing your data. You only have the one copy, camera cards are small, easily lost and can also be prone to read/write errors. The sooner you offload what’s on the card, the lower the risk of accidental data loss and the quicker you can spot any problems such as corrupted files.

In this Import Photos dialog note that some of the photos are grayed out. This is because when the 'Don't Import Suspected Duplicates' option is checked in the File Handling panel (see below), Lightroom will ignore any currently catalogued files during import.

In the Source section of the Import Photos dialog there is an 'Eject after import' checkbox so that once you have finished downloading the card will be ejected. This can be useful on a Mac, as it saves you having to do so manually. At this point I always place the card back in the camera and immediately format it before I start shooting again. Formatting the card in the camera is preferable to deleting the image files via the computer. Doing so in-camera is good practise because it can help prevent file corruptions from occurring.

File Handling

In the File Handling panel it is best to select the Embedded and Sidecar option for the rendered previews. This will make use of any previews already contained in the imported files to quickly generate some kind of previews in the Library module grid view, even though they will subsequently be refreshed and replaced with larger and more accurate Lightroom-rendered previews. Checking the 'Don't Import Suspected Duplicates' option is a good idea as this will prevent you from importing photos on a card that already exist in your catalog.

This is the File Handling panel in the Import Photos dialog. I recommend selecting the Embedded & Sidecar option for rendering previews and 'Don't Import Suspected Duplicates' should be checked. To automatically create backups of your card imports, check 'Make a Second Copy To' and select a backup location.

You can check the 'Make a Second Copy To' option and choose a destination to save backup copies of your imported files. This may slow down the overall import speed, but it does guarantee that when you carry out an import you are simultaneously creating backup copies. These backup copies should be stored on a separate, dedicated backup drive.

File Renaming

With personal work I generally don't rename files. I always rename files, however, for assignment shooting. To do this, check the Rename Files box and choose a renaming template from the pulldown list (shown below).

I prefer to create a custom renaming scheme by selecting the Edit… option from the Template menu. This opens the Filename Template Editor (shown below at right).

File Renaming is optional. However, if you are going to rename I recommend using a custom renaming scheme. In the Filename Template Editor I selected the Filename number suffix token to create a custom rename scheme that always used the original filename serial number when renaming.

In the example that's shown above I created a custom rename scheme that incorporated the original filename number suffix into the renaming scheme. Using this renaming template, the four-digit number will be based on the original filename. There is a good reason for doing this. If every time you carry out a shoot you start the numbering from zero, most of the photos in your catalog will end with numbers from say, 0–1,000. By using this custom template the numbers will keep rolling over from one job to the next. If a client only has the last four digits in a filename to reference a picture by the chances are that only a few photos in your catalog will have that specific number, as opposed to nearly every shoot.

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