Auto Import Images Into Lightroom

Auto Import Images into Lightroom

I use Lightroom as the centerpiece of my digital imaging universe. I use it to stay organized, create batch edits of my RAW image files and output specific files built to my clients’ specifications. I have few complaints about Lightroom, but one of them is tethering. I find it a bit too quirky for my liking, so I’ve begun experimenting with other tools to make capturing directly from camera to computer a little smoother. But, still, I want those pictures to end up in my Lightroom catalog. Enter Auto Importing, the helpful Lightroom feature that allows you to automatically import photos without even clicking a button.

The premise is simple: Lightroom “watches” a folder you designate, and any image files that wind up in that folder are automatically imported into the Lightroom catalog and moved wherever you’d like them to go. You can see how this would be incredibly handy for everything from tethered capture to quickly importing image files outside of the traditional Lightroom environment. I like it because I can tether with whatever application I choose, setting up Lightroom to watch my capture folder and automatically relocate, rename and process my RAW files. Here’s how it works.

To start the process of auto importing into Lightroom, open Lightroom and look for the File menu, then select Auto Import and Auto Import Settings. This opens a dialogue where you establish the specifics of your import.

Auto Import Images into Lightroom

The first step is to set up a Watched Folder. Do this by clicking Choose and creating a new folder or pointing to an existing folder. If you use an existing folder, note that it must be empty of image files when you turn Auto Import on. Name and place this folder wherever it’s convenient—likely on the desktop, but it doesn’t have to be there. You could, for instance, tether straight to a subfolder of your Pictures folder and keep your desktop clutter-free.

Next, choose the location for the destination of the files. Again click Choose and navigate to where you’d like the files to end up. I organize mine by client and subject, but again, do whatever works for you. Then decide what you’d like to name the subfolder; by default, Lightroom suggests Auto Imported Photos.

Next, you can enable some of the traditional features of any Lightroom import, such as file naming, develop settings, metadata presets, keywords and whether you’d like Lightroom to spend processing power building full size, standard or minimal previews. If you want to keep things fast, choose minimal for the previews. The nice thing about all this information you can apply on import is you can really treat the automatic import just as you would a manual one. Part of what makes Lightroom great are these importing options, so it’s nice to have them even with such a nonstandard import.

Auto Import Images into Lightroom

Once all of the information is set up as you’d like it, the last step is to click the checkbox at the top of the window next to Enable Auto Import. This actually turns the functionality on. To test it out, drag a JPEG or RAW file from anywhere you’d like and drop it into the watched folder. Within a few seconds, you’ll see it disappear as Lightroom monitors, moves and imports the image into its catalog.

Lightroom must be up and running for the import to occur, but even if it’s not and your watched folder is filling up with files, you’ll notice the next time you open Lightroom that within a matter of moments it will find those files and automatically import them. To disable the feature, you don’t have to come back to the Auto Import dialogue; you can simply click Enable Auto Import under the Auto Import heading of Lightroom’s File menu. It displays a check next to the menu item when the Auto Import function is active.

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