How to Automatically Import Phone Photos to Lightroom

Jennifer Wilson

I’m your guide here at Simple Scrapper. Our community helps people find what fills you up and fits your life in memory keeping.

January 21, 2014

What if you could take a photo on vacation and have it be waiting for you in Lightroom when you returned home?

I’m excited to share a two-step automation process that makes this a fantastic reality.

How to Automatically Important Phone Photos to Lightroom via Simple Scrapper

Last year Lisa Corbin-Polak wrote about using the Dropbox Camera Upload feature to automatically sync photos from iOS and Android devices to your computer.

I was hesitant at first to try this, because I like to have control over my photos everything. As I considered the small ways I could save time and create more space in my day, I changed my mind.

I now have my Dropbox account set up on my iPhone and my husband’s Android phone. Each photo (and video) gets automatically copied to a Camera Uploads folder in my Dropbox account.

This step doesn’t affect the photos on your phone at all. Learn more about Dropbox Camera Upload.

Once in Dropbox, the photos are synced to any computer you use Dropbox with. But I wanted to take it a step further and complete the import process, automatically.

Next I enabled Lightroom’s Auto Import feature and set up the Camera Uploads folder in Dropbox as my watched folder. I also created a special holding place folder inside of Lightroom for these automatic imports.

It was quite a brilliant sight to have my husband take a photo of me with his phone and have it pop up inside of Lightroom seconds later! And as a bonus treat, this import procedure moves each photo so you don’t have to worry about duplicate copies filling up your Dropbox account.

Note: While I’m not covering how I handle my regular camera images in this post, it is worth noting that Lightroom can only auto-import from one watched folder. This is something to consider if you use multiple cameras. However, Dropbox Camera Upload also works for regular cameras attached to your computer via USB and may solve this problem for some users.

With all of our phone photos up-to-date in Lightroom, it’s much easier to manage this part of the library and helps these images get one step closer to being scrapbooked!

If you’re not yet using this free cloud storage service, you can click here to sign up for Dropbox.

Don’t use Lightroom? You can definitely still use the Dropbox option and your preferred photo management software may do have similar import features. Look in the support information for “auto import” or “watched folders”.

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27 Comments

  1. Christine N

    I just did this very thing this week! Great minds think alike, hee hee! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Melissa Shanhun

    I was so hoping this would work for me as I constantly fight with Lightroom having to manually synchronize my folders.

    I really wish this would work *without* moving the files. I use EyeFi, so my photos are in Monthly folder, already where I want them to be.

    I can’t see a way to put them into subfolders at all.

    Thanks for writing up the post, hopefully it will help some people (who aren’t as fussy as me on the subfolders!)

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      Can you explain more what part isn’t working for you?

      Reply
      • Melissa Shanhun

        Since I have an Eye-fi card, my photos import directly to my hard drive and are already in monthly folders, so I don’t want LR moving/renaming them.

        My March 2014 is not empty, so it won’t allow me to do it. So I guess I’m like Francine below! Even when I did import straight from the SD card I had issues with LR using the import date for videos rather than the date taken. (Possibly fixed in LR5, but since I’m using Eye-fi it’s a moot point)

        I’m actually using the Synchronized folders in LR, but I have to remember to manually click synchronize every time.

        1
        Reply
  3. Francine

    Hmm, I just trired this, and I get a message saying that I can only specify an empty folder as the watched folder. My Camera Uploads folder is certainly not empty. Any tips on how to get around this?

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      I went ahead and manually imported everything already in Camera Uploads into Lightroom and then set it up as the watched folder.

      Reply
      • Francine

        Aha, that makes sense. I want to keep all my photos in Dropbox though, so I think what I will do is move the photos already there into another Dropbox folder first. Let’s see if that will work! lol

        Reply
        • Jennifer Wilson

          Assuming I understand that you want LR to catalog your photos living in Dropbox…here’s how I think it would work:

          1. Set up temporary folder (anywhere, really) for the current photos. Move photos there.
          2. Set up auto import in LR with Camera Uploads as watched folder and a new “home” folder in Dropbox as the destination.
          3. Move current photos into that destination folder and they will go there automatically in the future

          Let me know how it goes!

          Reply
  4. Terri-Lynn Torrez

    I just set mine up. I can’t believe I never knew about this; it’s right there on the menu.

    I already had an Inbox folder on my desktop where I auto-uploaded from Eye-Fi and Photosync (iOS) but I was importing them manually. I imported everything that was in the folder and then set it as my watch folder.

    As for the destination – I store my photos on a server in folders by year and month. When I manually imported I would just reset my import Preset when the month changed. I plan to just do that now with the Auto Import setting. Yes, it means changing the folder every month but if I forget, it’s easy enough to move photos to a new destination within Lightroom.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      Since Lightroom will move files for you when you drag and drop them, I just created a folder where everything gets imported. Then I use the metadata filter to display each month at a time, so I can drag the images into their respective destination folders by month.

      In this approach, you don’t have to remember to do anything on a schedule, which would be hard for me!

      Reply
      • Sam

        Could you explain how to do the metadata part in a little more detail? I’d like to know how you do the filter do you add it on your auto import settings? I wasn’t sure how to do that.

        Thanks in advance

        Reply
  5. Terri-Lynn Torrez

    Question – will it just ignore files it can’t import like screenshot pngs?

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      It will pop up with an error Terri. I think it will take PNG now though, at least in LR5.

      Reply
      • Terri-Lynn Torrez

        I actually have LR5; I just haven’t installed it yet. Guess I should get on that. 🙂 Thanks.

        Reply
  6. Terri-Lynn Torrez

    I’ve been using this for a week. Best tip ever!

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks Terri, I totally agree it’s a big game-changer for my workflow.

      Reply
  7. Melissa

    I really needed this.
    So once you’ve set it up – when/how do you delete the pics from Dropbox ? Or do you just buy more storage?

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      I have it set up so that the destination folder is outside of Dropbox. So the photos actually get moved and not just copied. This means I’m not filling up Dropbox with my photos.

      Reply
  8. Stephanie Medley-Rath

    Stupid question: How do I change the destination folder to be outside of dropbox?

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      You mean the destination for the iPhone to Dropbox “leg”? You cannot change the destination folder nor the name of it. Let me know if I’m not understanding.

      Reply
  9. Kathleen D

    Jennifer I am playing around with this and right now have DB set to automatically upload photos from my phone. Then I have a watched folder in LR that takes these DB uploads and moves them to an folder on an EHD titled LR Photostream Import. This shows up nicely in LR. My question is, since these are moved from the DB Camera Upload folder and still remain in my camera photostream then the next time my camera is within reach of my mac to upload automatically won’t it think it has to reupload all the photos again since the watched folder moves them from DB to my EHD? Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      No, Dropbox knows which photos have been copied.

      Reply
  10. dom

    if you have a folder you sync to, when lr auto imports those images and moves them elsewhere, the next time you sync, the sync software sees an empty folder and re sends all images again. you would have 2 copies of each file. worse lr seemed quite happy to import the duplicates as well, thus moving them again, meaning an extra set every time you sync. am I missing something? I would want lr to auto import via add without moving.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Wilson

      Auto Import can only move photos. It’s meant for getting new images into Lightroom easily.

      It sounds like your sync software is set up for two-way sync, meaning both locations are always kept up-to-date. If you’re using the software to get photos from one place to another, you can change the settings to make the sync one way only.

      So you’d have Location A > Location B > Lightroom.

      If you’re trying to keep two folders always synced, then the local folder in that pair should not be used for Lightroom Auto Import.

      Reply
      • dom

        it’s really not like that, sync is set one way, otherwise it would delete the originals when it sees the empty folder. it works fine the first time. if you only tried it once you might think it is a good idea, but it doesn’t work.
        to do this you need Lightroom mobile and a creative cloud subscription.

        Reply
        • dom

          oh, and lr 6. it can’t work with sync software. but could with something that automatically uploaded new files once.

          Reply

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