Are you interested in saving time?

I thought so.  Downloading image cards and importing your pictures into Lightroom can be a slow, tedious task.  Learn how Auto Import in Lightroom can help you import your images fast and easy.

Especially after a long day of shooting, auto import in Lightroom can work even while your enjoying family or hanging out with friends.

How Auto Import in Lightroom Works.


Think of auto import in Lightroom as the friend that helps you be more productive and get your work done.  Just what we all need, right?

Auto import works by watching a folder, and when a file goes into that folder, Lightroom begins to do several things.  Those files are first moved out of the watched folder and placed into a folder that you previously selected.  For me, I named this folder ‘Originals’ because all of my original image files go into this folder and remain there.  You could call it anything, like RAW files, pictures, images files, etc…  This is not where you put your finished, edited files; this is where your RAW, unedited files go, so choose a name that fits.

As Lightroom moves the images to this new folder, they get simultaneously added to the Lightroom catalog, and any settings applied that you selected in the Auto Import Settings dialog box (more on that in a minute).  Settings you normally adjust set on all of your images can be added through Auto Import in Lightroom.  Is there a develop setting you always apply?

Use auto import in Lightroom to apply it.

Always add copyright information into the metadata of your images?  Do it with auto import.

Keywording, image preview type, renaming, etc.  These tedious tasks can easily be automated with auto import.  Keep reading, and I will teach you how.

Be sure to know that the Lightroom application must be running on your computer for any of this to take place.  Adding images to the watched folder will not trigger Lightroom to open. The Lightroom application must be open already.

Setting up Auto Import in Lightroom.


Let me help you get started using Auto Import with your images.  I will show you what I do, and then you can make any changes you feel are necessary to customize how auto import in Lightroom works for you.

First, create the watched folder somewhere on your computer.  This folder should be somewhere easy to find and is the folder you will copy images into from your memory card.

I call mine ‘IMPORT,’ and it resides on my desktop.


an image of two folders on a computer desktop one named import and one named originals



Second, create a folder where you will permanently store your image files.  This folder should be in a safe location and a location that you can easily remember. I put mine into a folder called ‘Originals,’ and have it on the desktop as well.  You can see it in the image above.

Third, we want to set the Auto Import Settings.  Bring up the dialog box by going to File -> Auto Import -> Auto Import Settings.


Lightroom menu to select the Auto Import Settings


Doing this will bring up the Auto Import Settings dialog box, which you can see below.  Let me go over what each of the settings in this dialog box does.


Lightroom auto import dialog box that allows you to change the settings for auto import in Lightroom


Auto Import Settings


Let me help you understand each setting in the Auto Import Settings dialog box.  If you’d like, set it up how I do so you can see how everything works, and then you can make changes later.

First, make sure you put a checkmark in the Enable Auto Import box.  If you don’t, auto import will not turn on.  All of your settings may be perfect, but if this checkbox is empty, nothing will happen.

Watched Folder:  This is the folder where you put images that you want to import into Lightroom.  For me, it is the IMPORT folder on my desktop.  After a photography shoot, I ALWAYS copy the images from my media card into the IMPORT folder.  Click ‘Choose…’ and select the IMPORT folder found on your desktop.

Destination Move to: This is the location you want Lightroom to move your images to as Lightroom imports them.  For me, it is the ‘Originals’ folder.  You can find all of my original images in this folder.  Hit ‘Choose…’ and select the Originals folder on your desktop.

Destination Subfolder Name: Lightroom will have already named this  ‘Auto Imported Photos’.  You can change this if you’d like.  I leave that name but put a (-) dash in front of the name so that this folder always remains at the top of my ‘Originals’ folder.

File Naming:  As the images import Lightroom can rename the files for you. I do not use this feature while importing my images, so if you are following my setup, you can ignore this.

Develop Settings: Lightroom can apply a develop preset on import if you would like.  If there is a preset that you constantly apply to your images, you can have that automatically applied by selecting here.  I apply my Fresh Air: Start preset.  Most of my preset packs have a Start preset which adjusts brightness, contrast, and density to get the image close to finished leaving me with less work to do later. You  can see my Fresh Air presets here.

Metadata:  If you choose to add metadata to your images on import, you can select that preset here. Metadata is information embedded inside of the image file, not visible to the viewer of the image but readable by computers.  I included copyright data so that as the image circulates the web on my website for with clients, the image will always contain my copyright information. I have written an article to help you learn how to create a copyright metadata preset, so check that out if you need help.

Keywords:  Add keywords about your session here.  However, because you do not change your auto import settings very often, I would refrain from putting keywords here.  Add your keywords inside the Library Module.

Initial Previews: Choose the type of previews Lightroom will create for the images.  The standard setting should be perfect.

Click OK, and auto import in Lightroom should be good to go!

Auto Import in Lightroom Setup Video.


I created a video that helps you visually see how to set up Auto Import in Lightroom.  Check it out below and be sure to subscribe to the Photography Hero YouTube Channel.


Guys, in this video we are going to go over auto import in Lightroom and what this means is that Lightroom will watch a folder that you specify for images to be placed inside of it.

When images are in it, Lightroom will automatically import them into Lightroom.  For example I have on my desktop this ‘import’ folder.

I could set I could set auto import up so that Lightroom watches that folder and whenever images go inside of it, they will import into Lightroom.  How we do that is we go up to the File menu,  go to auto import, and then you go to auto import settings to bring up the dialog box.  This allows us to choose how we want this to be set up so our watched folder becomes the folder that we will be placing images into. We want to choose that to be my import folder.

Now, when an image is placed into the ‘import’ folder Lightroom will suck that image in and move it into a location that I have selected. I’m going to choose to put it in my original folder because that is where I want all of my images to go.

you’ll see that Lightroom wants to create a subfolder called ‘auto imported’ for the imported photos. I’ll change this a little by placing a dash in front of it The reason I’m going to do that is because that will keep it listed first in all of my folders in the original folder and so when I have more and more shoots come into this area I will continually have my ‘auto imported’ photos folder be at the top.

We can choose to name the images as they come in. We can choose to add a develop setting to the images as they come in. We can choose to include meta data and if you’ve watched the video on copyright, notice I’m going to include my copyright metadata.  We could choose to add keyword.  I could think of the keywords that match this shoot and have those added as the images are imported.  Finally, I can choose what type of preview for the image, which I chose to be standard.

The last thing I need to do is I need to click ‘Enable’ and if I click OK that folder is now watched.

I created this folder on the desktop as if it’s a media card that I just inserted into my computer and here are my images from the shoot.

I’m going to select all of them and I’m going to drop them right into the import folder.  Notice them in the folder and notice them start to disappear.  What’s happening is Lightroom is pulling them in to the software and if you look at the process the progress up here it’s actually sucking them in.

if I click on the auto imported folder you’ll start to see them come in one at a time.

This is how I import my images into Lightroom.

The reason, is because it keeps my workflow exactly how I want it to be. All of my images come in to the import folder, they are moved into my originals folder, and then when I am finished editing them, I export them into my finished folder so I know where my images are at all times.

One other thing I want to show you right here, is that I can’t leave them in the ‘auto imported’ folder. The reason is, because as I try to import more images with the same image name, it’s going to overwrite them and I’m going to lose images.

What we want to do is select all of the images that we’ve just imported.  I’m going to do a command-A (control-A on a PC).  Then when I right click on ‘auto imported’ folder’s name I can create a folder inside of auto imported folders with the images that I have selected.

If I click on that I can name this. Let’s just name this ‘Johnson Family.’

Next, I need to click ‘include selected photos’ so the photos I’ve selected will go into the new folder I am creating.

I hit ‘create’ and now you’ll see inside of the auto imported photos folder that I have this family session completely separated out. If I go into the ‘originals’ folder, here are my all my image files.

More images can now be auto imported into Lightroom and they will not interfere with the other images because I’ve now moved those into the ‘Johnson Family’ folder. This is how I work my workflow. This is how I get my images into Lightroom. This is how I keep them from interfering with other images or folders of images.

Next, once I’m finished editing the images, I take this folder and drag it into the originals.  Which leaves my auto imported folder empty.  I would then start to have my sessions listed down here below. By doing it this way, I now know which sessions are edited and which still needed to be edited.  Those that I have finished edited, are easily available for me to go back to if necessary.

Auto import is a fantastic way to speed up your workflow and to get your images into Lightroom quickly.


By following this simple workflow, I always know precisely where my images are on my computer.  This workflow helps to alleviate the problem of lost image files which can plague photographers and can ease the stress caused by losing images.

Once the images are into Lightroom, you’re not done!


After auto import up and running on your computer, there is more to do.

Don’t just leave your images in the ‘Auto Imported Photos’ folder!

Once your images are into the Auto Imported Photos folder, you can’t just leave them there.  If you do, when you go to import additional images, you’ll start to have problems of images getting lost or overwritten by the new files coming in.

Understand that the ‘Auto Imported Photos’ folder is a very temporary stopping place for your images.  Maybe you let Auto Import run overnight, which I do all the time.  In the morning, you must get them out of that folder and into a more specific location.

I do this, by creating a specific folder for each session that I shoot.

Do this by following these steps:

FIRST: While in Lightroom, click on the ‘-Auto Imported Photos’ folder name so you can see the images inside the folder in the workspace area of the library window.

SECOND: Select all of the images in the ‘-Auto Imported Photos’ folder by holding down the COMMAND/CONTROL key and hitting the A key on your keyboard.  Or by going up to the Edit menu > Select All.  Doing this will select all the images in the ‘-Auto Imported Photos’ folder.


THIRD:  Right-click (or hold the control key down and click on ‘-Auto Imported Photos’ folder) to bring up the menu.  From the pop-up menu, you will see the option ‘Create Folder Inside  “-Auto Imported Photos”.   Select this.


Lightroom dialog box in the folders panel to create folders


FOURTH:  Name the session and make sure to have a checkmark in the ‘Include selected photos’ box.  Click Create.


Lightroom create folder dialog box




Don’t name folders or shoots by the date!

It is so difficult to remember dates that images were taken, so don’t organize your images by date!  If you do, later you will regret it and will become frustrated.  Instead, choose something like: Johnson Family, or McBride Wedding, or Keaton’s Baseball Game 03/16, etc…

You can add the date at the end of the title if you would like, but don’t name the folder with the date only.


Staying organized with auto Import in Lightroom.


Look at the image below of my folder panel in Lightroom.


image of folders in the folder panel of Lightroom


As you follow this plan, your images stay organized, and you as a photographer can find any photograph from every session quickly and easily.




Auto import in Lightroom is one of those power tools that professional photographers use to stay organized.  Whether you are a pro, wanting to become one, or just a photographer of your kids, auto import in Lightroom can be a help for you.

Remember, taking a little time getting organized now will not only speed up your workflow but help reduce headaches and the stress of lost images later.


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