Getting started with Lightroom 4 – importing images

Since Lightroom at it’s heart is a database where we can organize our images and quickly search later there are a few things we can do from the very start to help save time later. Today I am going to cover importing your images into Lightroom 4.

First there are generally 2 different ways that you will import your files. You will either import them directly from your card or if the images have already been downloaded to your computer then import them from a folder. Lets start with importing files from your card.

Once you connect your card to your computer Lightroom will recognize this and bring up the import dialog box with your images shown. By default all images will be selected and you can either leave them all selected or pick and choose the images you would like to import. At the very top right you have the location you are going to be copying these images to. By default I have my hard drives organized in folders first by Year, then by type of shoot (portrait, wedding, commercial, etc..) and then finally by Client name and date. This has always made the most sense to my brain but use whatever type of file scheme you would like to.

The file handling section at the very top right is an important choice that will effect the performance of Lightroom a lot. I always select to render previews at 1:1 files. Importing your files as 1:1 previews will take a lot longer than selecting minimal for this option however it will create the previews at a 100% view of the actual pixels. It uses the Camera Raw engine to process them and also creates the minimal and standard previews. This way all three preview types are available to Lightroom which makes handling images once you get into the develop module much quicker.

importing into lightroom

I also want to make sure that my files are as organized as possible and searchable in the future. I use the File Renaming section to rename the files starting with the date and then a sequential order. So a shoot that I photographed on May 28, 2012 will be renames to 05812-0001.CR2, 052812-0002.CR2 and so on. Lightroom already has this naming convention setup in the template list (I used the preset Custom Name-Sequence template) or you can click on the edit button from the Template drop down to create your own custom naming template.

When you click on the Edit link from the Template drop down menu a screen will appear where you can create your own naming templates. All you have to do is select the options you would like to include in the name like Date YY to show the year and it will show up in the example text area at the top. Once you are done creating your custom name then click the drop down at the top of this screen and choose Save current settings as new preset.

The last part of the import settings is the Apply During Import section on the right. This is a really important step where you can preset the metadata to help keyword your images. The first thing you will want to do is click on the Metadata drop down and select the New option to create your own custom metadata preset. I have a preset all setup for images that I shoot as well as a separate one for my associate photographer. In this preset I just include some of the basics like my name, copyright info, contact info, etc…

Underneath the Metadata drop down you have the ability to enter in any keywords that will apply to the entire set you are importing. Here I enter in some of the top level keywords to help me keep things organized like Wedding 2012, name of the wedding location, name of the bride. Then later on when processing the shoot I can add more detailed keywords for specific images or groups of images if needed but at least from the start you have a general list of defining keywords.

Now you are ready to click the import button at the very bottom right to start the import process. Again since I like to import files in the 1:1 preview size i’ll usually do this at the very end of the day and just let the computer run and process the images while I sleep away. With weddings and thousands of high resolution images I capture the import process can take a little while to run through.

What do you want to learn about Lightroom 4? Let me know in the comments below I love to hear your suggestions.

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Author: Mark Stagi

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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