Catalog > Free Tutorials > The Best Way to Import & Organize in Lightroom
  • The Best Way to Import & Organize in Lightroom

  • by Aaron Nace
    March 28, 2019
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Tutorial Description

Staying organized can be tough for any photographer. Whether you’re coming back from vacation with a handful of memory cards or you just finished a professional shoot and need to sift through thousands of photos for a client, keeping your files and folders tidy can help you save time.

Today Aaron shows you his workflow for importing and organizing photos using Adobe Lightroom. Learn to quickly bring any number of images into Lightroom, protect them with copyright information, and organize them using Lightroom’s powerful catalog feature.

Importing into Lightroom

Once you’re ready with a new batch of photos, the first thing you’ll want to do is create a new Catalog.

Catalogs are a great way to organize different projects or the different types of photographs you take. For example, if you’re a world traveler, you might make a travel Catalog and then organize all of your photos within that Catalog by the country where they were taken.

To create a new Catalog, go to File and click on New Catalog. Name your Catalog in a way that will make it easy to identify the contents later (i.e. we’re organizing travel images, so we named our Catalog ‘Travel’) and click Done.

Lightroom will close and reopen within your new Catalog.

There are a couple of ways to get your photos into Lightroom. Lightroom has a built in Import dialog which will let you navigate through the folders on your hard drive to locate the photos.

The alternative, and Aaron’s preferred method, is to simply use either Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (Windows) to locate the folders and drag and drop the images into Lightroom.

No matter which method you choose, the end result is the same. You should see all of your photos displayed in a grid with checkmarks indicating that they have been selected for import. We’re almost there!

At the top of the Import menu you’ll see options for Copy as DNG, Copy, Move, and Add. We recommend the Move option because it will move and organize your images on your hard drive based off of your settings in Lightroom. We have ours set to organize by date, so once we select the folder where we want our Catalog to be saved, a date folder will be created reflecting the date the photos were taken. This option will keep your organization consistent between Lightroom and your computer.

Protect Your Images

Before importing, it’s always a great idea to embed your personal information into each photo for copyright purposes. Within the panel on the right, you’ll see an option that says Apply on Import. Open that menu, click on the Metadata dropdown, and select New. A new window will open with several areas to fill in information. You can fill as much or as little of this out as you like, but whatever you do fill out will be embedded in each image you import into Lightroom. This way, if someone tries to use one of your images without permission or payment, you have a surefire way to claim that the photo is yours.

We recommend, at the very least, filling out the section labeled IPTC Copyright. Add your name or the name of the copyright owner, change the Copyright Status to Copyrighted, and add a website if you have one.

Once you’ve created a metadata preset, you can reuse it any time you bring new images into Lightroom. Now that your photos are protected, let’s get them into Lightroom!

Using Collections

Click the Import button in the bottom right of the screen and your images will be transferred into your freshly made Lightroom Catalog.

If you look at the Folder menu on the leftmost panel, you’ll notice a folder with the year and, within that, a folder with the date the images were taken. For even better organization, we recommend adding an additional word or two to the end of the date folder to make it easier to identify what photos are inside. For example, we’re using this folder for images all taken from a trip to Greece, so we added the word Greece to the end of the folder name.

So we’ve got all of our travel images in our new Lightroom Catalog and we have all of our images from Greece in our Greece folder. This is a great start but we can get even more organized!

Lightroom allows for another layer of organization within Catalogs called Collections. You can make any number of Collections, which all live within a Collection Set, to further organize your photos.

With our example, we created a Collection Set called Greece, so we can quickly identify where the photos were taken. We then created a Collection within that Collection Set called All Photos, where every photo taken in Greece can live. Now we can get even more refined. Say we want to have a Collection of all of our architecture images. We can create another Collection called Architecture, and then drag and drop only photos of buildings into it. You could have a Collection of all the photos containing people, or food, or natural landmarks – you name it!

This makes is easy to go into your Catalog at any point later on and very quickly find a photo of a specific place, person, or building. The best part is, once you’ve figured out your organization workflow once, it’s really easy to keep up with it as you add more and more photos.

So if you’re a working pro or a travelholic with camera, using Lightroom for organization can help keep your photos safe and save you valuable time!

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