Scott's Photography
Lightroom Import Presets

August 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

I know, this seems out of order. I wrote about Lightroom Export Presets before Import Presets. There is actually a good reason for that. It takes a little more time to decide exactly how you want to import your photos. Exporting is usually a simpler process.

I had to experiment for a while before I decided exactly how I was going to import my photos... and ultimately the way I exported photos influenced how I imported them.

If you already have your photos stored in an organized way, and that includes keeping your photos in one "main" folder... then your initial import into Lightroom is easy. You will just import that root folder into Lightroom.

For me, I had all my photos on an external hard drive (G:) inside a folder called "Photo Projects." Inside that folder were folders named YYYY - Event, such as 2013 - Grand Canyon. Since I am not a professional, this is enough organization for over 90% of everything I do. I have a dozen other folders (still inside the Photo Project folder) without dates for special stuff, and those got imported do.

I like to keep my RAW images separate from my JPG & Photoshop (PSD) copies. Previously I just created a JPG sub-folder for the JPGs, and a PSD sub-folder for the Photoshop versions. However, my biggest problem with Lightroom is its inability to display a folder full of photos without showing the photos in the sub-folders. To get around this I created an Import Preset that would put the photos into a RAW sub-folder. This would provide me a folder like 2013 - Grand Canyon\RAW where the images from my Camera would go. I would then export JPGs into a JPG sub-folder like 2013 - Grand Canyon\JPG.

This seemed to work, but as I tweaked my Export Presets it was a pain to have to be prompted for a folder so I could navigate to the JPG folder (and create it in the dialog box where I select the folder). So I changed it so I export all my photos into a single Exports folder, and use them from there. Once I did that I had to go back and modify my Import Preset to stop using the RAW sub-folder, because it was no longer necessary. See, exports effect imports.

This does not solve the problem of having my CR2 (Canon RAW files) and PSD files in the same folder, but that is not as much of an issue once I decided on a workflow for my JPG files.

NOTE: I tried to create a Lightroom Plug-In that could stack photos in a folder by filename. I downloaded the SDK and the documentation on how to create Plug-Ins. There was an API call that would return all the files in a folder, and a means to loop through them. There is a method for importing photos and putting them on a stack. Sounds perfect. Except my photos were already imported. And there is no API to removed photos from the catalog. That would have been perfect... go through a folder, if there is more than one file with the same name but different extensions... remove those files from the catalog and import them back into the catalog in a stack. But you can't remove them. So I have to manually stack CR2 and PSD files.

UPDATE: I learned more about PSD files with Lightroom and Photoshop. There is a setting in Lightroom where you tell it to open files edited in Photoshop as PSD files. When you "Save" the file in Photoshop (not Save As...), the file will be saved with the same name as the RAW file, but with the PSD extension... and Lightroom will automatically stack them. Perfect!

My current Import Preset is set to import from my Camera and place the files in a folder inside the main folder on my G: drive. I just have to put the name of that folder in the place Lightroom provides.

I also add basic copyright information to all my photos when imported them, and rename them from my Camera's IMG_#### to pic_#####. My camera already rolled over its 4 digit sequence. With Lightroom's 5 digit sequence number it will be a lot longer before it rolls over.


If you are going to use Lightroom you really should spend a little time with it and create import and export presets. They will ultimately save you a lot of time. It just takes a small investment in time up front to decide exactly how you want to do it.

It is so easy now I don't have to think about it anymore.