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How to Migrate (Import) Your Lightroom Classic Catalog into Lightroom CC

In the video tutorial below I cover how to migrate all or part of your Lightroom Classic catalog to the new cloud-based Lightroom CC.  (Lightroom Classic is the new name for the Lightroom program we have used for 10 years.) This video tutorial is applicable whether you’re ready to switch over, or whether you want to experiment with Lightroom CC using photos and work from Lightroom Classic.

While I could tell you to just go, in Lightroom CC, to File > Migrate Lightroom Catalog, I highly recommend doing the preparation work in Lightroom Classic beforehand  that I outline in the video – you’ll need to prepare for the hard drive space that Lightroom CC will require; some of your work in Lightroom Classic won’t migrate over, such as your folder structure, smart collections and snapshots, and you’ll want to develop a strategy for these; and you’ll most likely want to resolve missing files and folders and metadata conflicts first. (For complete instructions on how to resolve missing files and folders, click here and watch the second video tutorial on the page.)

UPDATE FEBRUARY, 2018: Since the migration process will not preserve your folders, if your folder organization is important to you I recommend in this video that you create collections and collection sets that mimic your folder structure, as collections and collection sets are preserved during migration. Starting in Lightroom Classic 7.2, easily create collections and collection sets of your folder hierarchy by right-clicking on the highest level folder that you want to include and choose Create Collection Set.

The Video: How to Migrate Your Lightroom (Classic) Catalog to the New Cloud-Based Lightroom CC

For best quality, after hitting Play, click on the sprocket wheel in the bottom right and choose 720/HD.

Video Contents:

    • Syncing from Lightroom Classic won’t carry over original files – migrate or import
    • Lightroom 5 and earlier version users: you must upgrade your catalog to at least Lightroom 6 first
    • Plan how you will accommodate duplicate files on your hard drive(s).
    • Understand what work you have done will migrate and what will not
    • Translate your folder structure into collections and collection sets
    • Keywords will be flattened
    • Convert smart collections to regular collections
    • Convert snapshots to virtual copies
    • Resolve your missing file and folder issues
    • Resolve metadata conflicts
    • If you want to export just a portion of your catalog
    • Understand what your catalog is named and where it is
    • Migration error message “Something went wrong”
    • Reviewing the results
    • The idea of continuing to work in both programs (most of you shouldn’t)

In this migration lesson, I advise you to create collections and collection sets to mimic your folder structure in Lightroom Classic if you want to preserve access to your photos by these folder names and structure. This older video tutorial will show you how to create collections – ignore the instructions on syncing the collections, though – just create collections and add photos to them. In the video I don’t mention collection sets – to create a collection set, click on the + to the right of Collections, choose Collection Set, and give the set a name and hit Create. Then drag one or more collections into the collection set.  You can also nest/drag collection sets into other collection sets.

Users of Lightroom 5 and Earlier Versions

To use the migration process, you’ll need to first upgrade your Lightroom catalog to at least Lightroom 6. If you don’t own it but you have subscribed to the Creative Cloud Photography Program, download and install Lightroom Classic 7 and upgrade. Here’s a video on how to upgrade to Lightroom Classic 7. If you have subscribed only to Lightroom CC, sign up for a free trial of the CC Photography Program.

If that’s more than you want to take on, there is an alternative: save your work out to the files (“write to XMP”), and then do a straight import (Add Photos) in Lightroom CC. The downside to this, however, is that this XMP process will not save your collections (and in the migration process I recommend using collections to mimic your Lightroom Classic folder structure if that is meaningful to you). You’ll also lose pick and reject flags and virtual copies.  If you decide to use the XMP process, there’s still value in watching the migration video to understand what will carry over and what won’t. (Use keywords instead of collections to capture your folder structure).

To save to XMP:

      • Resolve missing file and folder issues for any photos you want to migrate over (see migration video)
      • Resolve metadata conflicts if you use multiple Lightroom catalogs or another raw editor in addition to Lightroom (see migration video)
      • Select all your files – go to All Photographs in the Catalog panel
      • Go to Metadata>Save Metadata to Files (Cmd/Ctl-S)

To import your photos and work into Lightroom CC, in Lightroom CC click on the + (Add Photos button) and navigate to your folder(s) of photos.

Note that even Lightroom 6 and Classic users can use this alternative “write to XMP” process.

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2019-01-01T14:44:40+00:00October 18th, 2017|17 Comments


  1. Bob Langer October 25, 2017 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I have LR 5.7. If I understand you correctly I cannot go directly to the new LR Classic, correct?

    • Laura Shoe October 26, 2017 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Yes you can, Bob. What I was saying is that if you wanted to migrate your catalog from Lightroom 5.7 over to the new cloud-based Lightroom CC (which is light on features), you’d need to upgrade that catalog to Lightroom Classic and then migrate it to LR CC.

      • Greg February 9, 2018 at 4:47 am - Reply

        Hi Laura, thanks for the tutorial. I am just getting Lightroom for the first time, and would prefer the classic version, but am afraid that all of my future folder cataloging, etc. will be for nothing if it is eventually phased out. Should I just start with CC, or do you think classic will stick around for the long haul? Thank you!

        • Laura Shoe February 11, 2018 at 11:13 am - Reply

          Hi Greg, it’s a tough call – I’d recommend reading my article, “Which Should I Use – Lightroom Classic or Lightroom CC?” Bottom line, if Lightroom CC has enough features for you at this point, and you don’t mind the cloud-based solution (which does have advantages) then I’d go with Lightroom CC, as I do believe that it is the future. On the other hand, if you need more features, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with Lightroom Classic – while I suspect eventually it will go away, I don’t see it being anytime in the near future. Adobe continues to work on it and improve it.

  2. Hubert Vogl October 25, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Hi, this is a very good tutorial of how to migrate a classic Lightroom catalog to the new Lightroom CC. There is just one thing, I am not sure with:
    If I saved keywords into the metadata, will they be lost after the Migration in Lightroom CC?
    Best Regards

    • Laura Shoe October 26, 2017 at 7:42 pm - Reply

      Yes, Hubert – keywords will migrate, but they will be flattened – hierarchical keywords are not supported in Lightroom CC.

  3. Jonathan October 26, 2017 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Hi – I’ve exported a few photos to test the process (by exporting as a catalog and then importing this), but notice that it creates a duplicate with any photos I’ve previously shared as a collection (and already visible in Lightroom CC). Do I need to delete all of these collections first?


    • Laura Shoe October 26, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      The duplicates are the smart previews synced over from Lightroom Classic. If you turn syncing off in LR Classic this won’t happen. You can delete those that are there in LR CC.

  4. Torben Heikel Vinther October 31, 2017 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Hi Laura. Thank you for an awesome tutorial! I have two questions:

    1) When I export a catalog in LR Classic and import it to LR CC it goes fine at first sight, but when I select an image and click Edit then I get this info:

    “Legacy Setting
    This photo contains settings that need to be updated before it can be edited (…)”

    I can then click on Update and then I can use the new CC editing tools. But I can’t find a way to bulk update the images. Can I do something (in LR Classic before importing) to avoid this legacy thing to happen?

    2) If I import images from Classic with missing capture EXIF-date then LR CC (logically) puts in under “No Date” in the By Date sorting in the My Photos panel. Is there a way to edit capture time in bulk in either LR Classic or LR CC, so I can rid of this annoying “No Date” label?

    • Laura Shoe November 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      This is for the new process version, Torben, that was introduced because of the improvements in auto-mask (which despite the PV, isn’t available in LR CC at this point.) In Classic you can go to Library>Find Previous Process Photos, select all with Ctl/Cmd-A, then go to Photo>Develop Settings>Update Process Version. However I personally don’t plan to do this because it will also update photos that I last edited before Lightroom 4 when the new Basic panel controls were introduced – that update in process version can result in substantial changes in the appearance of images (so I just update one at a time as needed.)

      You can edit Capture Time in Classic under Metadata>Edit Capture Time – but not date. Look for Jeffrey Friedl’s metadata plugins – perhaps he has one that will allow you to edit date in bulk.

  5. Ross Jenkins January 8, 2018 at 9:47 am - Reply

    I have gone from Lightroom Classic (with a CC subscription) to Lightroom 6. It is telling me my catalogue is too new for this version of lightroom. Is there anything I can do?

  6. Lori Rowland March 17, 2018 at 8:25 am - Reply

    Thank you for the tutorial… I guess I am confused about whether or not this is the process I need to follow. I have Lightroom 2015. I did upgrade to Lightroom CC but have not been able to successfully transfer all my work over, for some reason, all I was able to migrate over was a patchwork of work & files and this morning even all that was gone. So I need to redo the migration process and this time, I’d like to do it right.

    What I want to do is migrate my LR 2015 work to the new Lightroom CC but I want nothing to do with the cloud. I don’t want any of my work there mainly because I have very poor internet and I cannot support all the uploading & downloading. (One afternoon out with my camera takes about 2 weeks to upload and totally plugs up my internet service) I was fairly certain that LR CC was doable as a desktop only version. Was I wrong… Should I use the methods in this tutorial to set up my LR CC for desktop only use? Will this method bypass the cloud? If not, can you point me to a more appropriate tutorial? Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Laura Shoe March 21, 2018 at 1:00 pm - Reply

      It’s not ideal to use Lightroom CC if you want nothing to do with the cloud, Lori. You could pause syncing so that it doesn’t upload (click on the cloud icon in the top right and then click on the bottom wording (syncing, synced and backed up, or …), but you won’t be able to use its Search feature or its address lookup feature (returning location information from GPS coordinates), and presumably additional features to be introduced down the road that require access to Adobe servers.

      Why do you want to use Lightroom CC instead of Classic, since you already have experience with the last version of it (CC 2015)?

  7. Marco Macciò May 24, 2018 at 7:15 am - Reply

    Hi Laura, I’m going to migrate to LR CC and I found your tutorial, which is very useful and clear; thank you for it!

    I just have a doubt and I’d like to ask you: in this moment I have all my photos into my LR Classic 7.3.1 catalog and, time by time, I put all of them into “From Lr mobile” collection through LR Classic 7.3.1.

    Opening LR CC I see all my photos because of this collection, but of course they are just smart previews, so my Adobe Cloud is almost empty.

    Now, migrating the calalog, I should upload all my original photos to Adobe Cloud.

    The question is: will the migration process just replace the previews in the Cloud with the full-size files? Or will the files be duplicated after the migration?

    Thank you so much.

    • Laura Shoe May 26, 2018 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      I don’t recall how these get handled, Marco. I bet it would work out fine, but I’d recommend doing a test: in Classic, select a few of those photos, then go to File>Export Catalog, and save it somewhere. Then migrate this catalog and see if the files are duplicated.

      • Marco Macciò May 28, 2018 at 4:15 am - Reply

        I tried as you suggested me and I noticed that my photos were not duplicated by the migration process, so I proceeded with my full catalog and all went well.

        Thanks again!

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