Apr 022013

In the past I have used iCloud to transfer photos taken on my iPhone and iPad over to my main computer, and then I have imported them into Lightroom. However, there is an even easier way to copy them to your computer and import them into Lightroom — simply plug your iPhone or iPad into your computer with its USB connection, open up Lightroom’s Import dialog, and select your iDevice in the Source panel on the left.  Set your import settings just like you would for a memory card, so that your photos get copied into the correct destination folders.

I picked up this tip from Adobe’s Phosphors blog – “Illuminating Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Bridge”.

For more on importing in Lightroom, watch my free video tutorials.


  38 Responses to “Quick Tip: How to Import Your iPhone and iPad Photos into Lightroom”

  1. that would work for any removable drive/phone. Android, Kindle, USB stick, etc. Wonderful tip/reminder.

  2. Thank you Laura that is so helpful. I have been wondering how to do that.
    Could you tell us how to get photos from iPhoto into Lightroom?

    • @Michele-if you want the all of the originals, navigate to ~\Pictures\ and locate your iPhoto library. Right click on the library and choose Show Package Contents. In the popup screen look for a folder called Masters. Carefully right click on it, choose Copy and copy it to your desktop. Then import this folder with the “include subdirectories” option in Lightroom. Once the pictures have been copied into Lightroom you can delete the desktop copy of Masters (this assumes that you maintain a fixed location for your Lightroom photos and COPY or MOVE photos when you import to Lightroom. If not, then put the Masters folder from your desktop wherever you normally manage/store your Lightroom photos and import them to your Lightroom catalog).

      If you just want a few original files, then select the files, choose export from the file menu and in the box that says KIND, change it from JPEG to Original and follow the export dialog to export the photos to your hard drive, then import them to Lightroom.

      If you want your iPhotos with your iPhoto edits, select the photos you want in Lightroom, export them to a folder on your hard drive and then proceed to import them to Lightroom. If you want all of them with edits, you’ll need to select all of them.

      I would avoid options to do this that use Reveal in Finder–it’s too easy to screw up your library. That’s also why I suggest being very careful when you copy the Masters folder out of the library.

      If you intend on trying to round-trip your photos from iPhoto to Lightroom and then back to iPhoto for some reason–don’t. It would be a fully manual process and at some point you’ll screw up something and maybe damage an important photo. If your goal is to get a more robust photo editor for iPhoto, then your best choice would be Apple Aperture. It can work on the photos while they are in your iPhoto library.

      While I have both Lightroom and Aperture, I vastly prefer Lightroom. This is NOT the place to start a Lightroom versus Aperture discussion, but if you want to “live” in iPhoto and need a more robust editor, then Aperture is your best choice. If you just want to get old photos out of iPhoto and into Lightroom and “live” in Lightroom, then the suggestions above should help you do that.

      Lastly, if you have a BIG iphoto library don’t try and export it all in one batch-do smaller batches or iPhoto may freeze.

  3. You could link all your iDevice to Dropbox and then they will sync to the desktop. Giving you one folder to import from without having to connect your iDevice to the computer!

  4. Very helpful, Laura. So simple but I would never have thought of it. I really appreciate your quick tips.

  5. Very helpful, Laura. Should have thought of this myself, but since I didn’t, thanks again. Beats Dropbox for convenience in my work flow.

  6. The tip for getting images into Lightroom from ur I Phone
    Only works for a PC not a MAC

  7. Hi Laura – Great tip! I have taken some great iphone shots and would have liked to do a wee bit of post on them in LR so I will make good use of the info you shared today. Thanks!

  8. Brilliant tip. I have been sending to mac via wifi then importing. This is much more sensible 🙂

  9. Great article. I wrote a similar one. The ways I mentioned aren’t neatly as fast as this but they are wireless and kind of can run in auto.

  10. Yay! Tonight I finally get these photos off my phone!! Thanks a million for the tip. 🙂

  11. Hi,

    I used to be able to import my iphone pictures into LR this way but it doesn’t work anymore. When I try to import picures The picture tiles has a message saying ‘Preview not available for this file’ and when I go ahead and import them it just hangs!

    Please could someone help me with this problem?

  12. I’m experiencing exactly the same issue as Leana. My photos are both .jpg and .nef.

    • I’m experiencing the same issue as both lean and dennis…..

      can’t import images any more from my iphone6 into lightroom,


  13. I’ve been doing this for years with no problem. Now, when I plug in my new iPhone (OS 9), phone does not show up as a source. Any idea how to fix that? Thanks!

  14. I just returned from a trip to Europe and have a number of iPhone 5 images I want to import into Lightroom 6. Lightroom recognized all but about the first 350 iPhone images. I can not get Lightroom to recognize all of the images on my iPhone. Help!

    • Perhaps they are already in Lightroom, Pam?

      • No, the images weren’t there. I finally had to put the images into an album in Camera Roll for them to be recognized. I have downloaded iPhone images to Lightroom many times with the images being in My Photo Steam and never had a problem with Lightroom showing all the images. Don’t know if this is a result of Lightroom 6. I have not done any of the further updates. Waiting until I’m sure all the problems have been fixed.

  15. after updating to cc 6.6 on my mac, I havent been able to import my Iphone photos which worked flawless before. I have been for weeks researching a fix and every suggestion from forums wont work. Adobe doesnt answer my requests for answers and I dont know what to do, and Im not alone apparently lots of folks are having this serious problem.
    Can anyone help?

  16. I’m having the exact same issue. Every time I try to import photos from my iPhone to Lightroom, I get error messages or it gets hung up somewhere in the process. Does anyone have any ideas on a solution to this?

    Some workarounds could include importing using Photos and then exporting to Lightroom, or maybe importing using Image Capture and then importing into Lightroom. But I’d love to find a way to go directly from my iPhone to Lightroom.

    A slightly unrelated question – does Lightroom keep track of which Camera Roll have been imported so that it won’t import duplicates?

    • I don’t know what the import issue is, John – I’d recommend posting on lightroomforums.net. Otherwise if you have Lightroom CC you can import into Lightroom mobile and it will automatically sync your iPhone photos to Lightroom on your desktop.

      Regarding your last question, if you check “Don’t import suspected duplicates” in the Import dialog, it won’t import duplicates.

  17. I have been using this method to import iPhone photos to Light Room for years. And it works great… EXCEPT for the “don’t import suspected duplicates” aspect.

    There are some photos that I keep permanently on my phone. I have imported them to Light Room countless times, and still every time I plug in the phone to import new images, *some* of these old images are still being checked for download. I have to either manually go back to uncheck them all, or import everything again, and delete them from LR again. Does anybody know a way to tell LR that EVERY photo on the source has been imported already? So I can start over with the “suspects” thing? I cannot figure out what’s special about the random images on the phone that are never marked as already imported by LR.

  18. What are the way I can transfer Photos to LR from my iPhone. AF

    • I’m afraid I don’t understand your question, Allan – this article provides one way. Another is to use Lightroom mobile (for CC subscribers).

  19. I have been importing my iPhone photos into Lightroom for many years. I have always had a Lightroom iPhone catalog where I store the images along with the catalog, backups etc. Now it’s getting to the point where the catalog is fairly large. I’d like to store the images in their own folder separate from the catalog. Do you recommend this? I’m sure the solution to this is much easier than what my brain is coming up with 🙂 How do I get the iPhone photos into their own folder not stored in the iPhone Lightroom catalog itself? Thanks.

    • Hi Cathy, photos are never stored in the catalog – the catalog only contains information about your photos. That said, it’s possible that (1) your photos are stored in the same folder that your catalog (.lrcat file) is stored in, or (2) if you have been syncing your iPhone photos using Lightroom mobile they might be stored in a database (.lrdata file) within your catalog folder. In either case you can use the Folders panel in Lightroom to drag them to a different location. My video on reorganizing using Lightroom’s Folders panel (the first in this blog post) shows how to reveal your folder structure, create new subfolders, and move photos and folders from one location to another.

      • Yes correct Laura. I didn’t say it correctly. The images aren’t “in” the catalog. They are stored in the same folder as the catalog which is named iPhone master catalog. The photos are in subfolders. So I guess I need to move them to a separate parent folder? Is it necessary to do so…? Here’s why I was considering it…

        Today for the first time I got a message saying the catalog is too large and needs to be compressed…I thought perhaps that’s due to the images being stored in the folder too? My non-phone catalog is HUGE (with images stored elsewhere) but I’ve never gotten that message before…not sure why.

  20. I have just purchased light room and trying to import my photos from iPhone 6 into light room but when I click source-iphone nothing happens as there is no option to import. please could someone help me with getting my photos on to my Mac book pro using light room. thank you in advance for help

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