Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorial - Part VI - Importing Your Images

Part I - Index and Introduction
Part VII - Basic Editing Tools

Importing Your Images

The first step in your workflow with Lightroom will often be importing images into the catalog. Images can be imported from any accessible location from your operating system, including cameras connected to your computer.

To import images into your catalog, use the Import button in the lower left corner of the Library module and the import window will appear, as seen in the following picture:

Lightroom Import Window

In the left side palette, the user can choose the source folder or device from which images must be imported. Especially in the case of entire block devices or big folder hierarchies, it's important to know that subfolders can be automatically imported selecting the Include Subfolders checkbox (it appears only when a suitable source is selected). When the source has been selected, Lightroom will begin scanning it and showing previews of the images it found in the main window.

After choosing the source, you must select how to deal with imported images. Lightroom gives you four choices:
  • Copy as DNG: Lightroom will convert the images to DNG in a new location and add them to the catalog.
  • Copy: Lightroom will copy the images to a new location and add them into the catalog.
  • Move: Lightroom will move the images to a new location and add them into the catalog.
  • Add: Lightroom will add the images to the catalog.
The option you'll choose will depend on what you need to do, on how you're used to work and on the type of storage system you own. If you're importing files from your camera, you'll probably copy them into your catalog (and optionally convert them to DNG).

As I already explained in the first part of this blog post, I usually copy into the catalog the new photos and the photos I'm working on and that need to always have with me. Over time, when the images are ready to be moved to long time storage, I move them to a different folder of the catalog, usually located in another storage device.

After choosing how Lightroom has to handle the files to be imported, in the case you chose to have Lightroom copy or move them, you have got to choose their destination using the file chooser in the right column of the window.

Depending on the import operation to perform, on the right palette there will be a series of panels where you can tune the parameters of the import operation:
  • File Handling: This panel lets you tweak the basics of the import operation. You can choose how Lightroom will generate previews of the imported files, whether Lightroom should check for suspected duplicates not to import the same image multiple times and whether Lightroom should perform a secondary copy (a backup) of the imported imaged to a location specified by the user. This panel is always available.
  • Apply During Import: This is a very useful panel that lets you specify whether Lightroom should apply a develop setting and/or a metadata setting to all of the imported images. It also lets you add a set of keywords to apply to all of the imported images. This is a very handy feature, and you will get used to it very quickly. More information on develop settings will be given in the following parts. This panel is always available.
  • File Renaming: If you configured Lightroom to copy or move images, this panel can be used to have Lightroom rename the copied files according to the rules you establish. This panel is only available when Lightroom copies or moves files.
  • Destination: This panel is used to specify the target directory where files will be moved or copied to. The user can instruct Lightroom to organize the files into subdirectories according to date an image was taken. This panel is only available when Lightroom copies or moves files.
Finally, selecting the Import button will start the import operation.

Tweaking Preview Rendering

By default, Lightroom will generate minimal previews of the imported files and will only generate full screen previews when needed. While this is a benefit in terms of space consumption and CPU usage during import, whether is a good choice for you depend on how you work on your images.

In my specific case, I found that generating 1:1 previews during the import operation is beneficial when I'm editing images and continuously jumping from one to another. For the same reasons, I configured my catalogs to purge previews after 30 days.

Depending on your usage patterns, you could find a preset that's more beneficial in your case. If your goal is importing as faster as you can and you rarely inspect imported images, then the default settings or the Standard previews will be sufficient.

On the other hand, if you closely inspect most of the images you import, it might be wise to have Lightroom generate full size preview while importing your images. It will save you time and frustration and won't have to wait for Lightroom to generate a preview every time you open an image for editing.

The deal, as usual, is a tradeoff, and in this case it's a tradeoff between responsiveness and used space. If you don't mind sacrificing some disk space to store full size previews, the user experience will be much better while editing your images. Also, you don't have to wait for Lightroom to generate the previews, either. Indeed, Lightroom will first generate standard previews and you'll be able to use your catalog while Lightroom will generate the remaining previews in the background.

On the other hand, if you're running short of space, you're left only with the choice of using minimal previews and having Lightroom generate them on demand.

However, you can have Lightroom generate previews for an entire folder anytime you need it, using the Render Standard Previews and Render 1:1 Previews items into the Library/Previews menu.

Last but not least, if you want to configure the standard preview size for your catalog, you can do it in the Catalog Settings window, as shown in the following picture:

Lightroom - Catalog Settings

DNG Versus Proprietary RAW Files Formats

DNG is a file format developed by Adobe whose goal is to be a fully compatible, full featured, provider independent digital negative file format. The benefit of converting your RAW files to DNG is that, hopefully, you will be using a standard file format that's being embraced by more and more digital camera producers. You can think of DNG, for simplicity's sake, as the PDF analogous for digital cameras.

The downside of using DNG is that some information found in proprietary RAW file formats cannot be imported into DNG files and may be lost. You can search the Internet for further information about the difference between DNG files and the specific RAW file format you're currently using.

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