UPDATE: I’m very sad to say that the latest Lightroom update has rendered this post useless. If you haven’t tried the new (and better in my opinion) Import dialog, you never will. My “New Import Lovers” club that I speak of below is now closed and not accepting new members. Enjoy the new (I mean old) Import dialog 😉

Last month Adobe released an update to Lightroom that changed the way the Import dialog looked (and worked in some ways). Personally I thought it was a great idea. The Lightroom team doesn’t communicate with me anymore, but if I did have a line in to them, I would have said Well Done! But… (there’s always a but right?), there was a huge outcry from Lightroom users to bring back the old Import dialog. For me, I couldn’t understand it, but I was going to leave it alone. But this past week was a tipping point for me. I was talking to a group that were all Lightroom users, and they were bashing the new Import dialog. I totally snapped! I broke! I started swearing and throwing things at them. We got in to fist fights, car chases ensued and all mayhem broke out over this. Several of us were eventually taken to jail. And while in my jail cell, rather than calling home to get bailed out, I broke down and wrote this post (pretty nice of them to let me bring my laptop in with me huh?). Here’s why 😉

Import Needs To Change

Here’s what I can tell you about the Import process in Lightroom. It needs to change. How do I know? I honestly don’t say this in an arrogant way, so please don’t take it that way – just trying to help frame things. I’m probably among the top 3 in the world in numbers of face-to-face and online training of Lightroom. I taught Lightroom one-day seminars for nearly 7 years that regularly had 400-500 people attend, so I saw first hand every day what issues in Lightroom held people up. Plus, I ran a Lightroom-centered website for 8 years and I personally read each and every comment that came across. I can tell you without hesitation, the absolute top #1 issue in Lightroom, is Import. Newcomers to Lightroom just had a hard time understanding it. Now, luckily, most of them did get it when they left the seminar, but it took them an hour + long class to get there. It shouldn’t be that hard to get photos from a camera’s memory card, to your computer and in to Lightroom.

If Lightroom is going to get out to the masses, it needs to change. The Import process doesn’t make sense to a new person. It didn’t make sense to me when I started either. I didn’t get what was going on. I didn’t know what was happening to my photos. And I wasn’t sure where I should put them and what Lightroom was doing with them.


The Old Import Dialog

So here’s a screen capture of the old import dialog.
Side Note: If you go under the Lightroom Preferences dialog, there’s an option in the General section called “Show Add Photos Screen”. If you turn that off, you get a very similar experience to the old import. Not exactly, but close.

It was a breeding ground for questions and confusion. Select a source? What’s a source? I just want to import photos from my camera!! Copy As DNG? Add? Move? Copy? First off, what the heck is DNG? My mom is getting in to photography. Lightroom is definitely the place for her but do you think she knows what DNG is? Hide that crap! Make it available in an advanced dialog for those that need it. And don’t get me started on Copy/Move/Add. And then the Destination area on the right side was even worse. Seemingly innocent checkboxes could totally mess up your folder structure, add weird dates to them, and move your photos to a place that you had no idea was happening. And the “To My Catalog” at the top right, introduces a whole new area of confusion because catalogs get confusing.

The New Import Dialog

Here’s why I like the new Import dialog.

For starters, I had a really cool moment a couple of weeks ago when I was showing a few people how to get started with Lightroom. I opened the new Import dialog, showed them to select photos and just click Import – and guess what? Without any further instruction, they did it themselves. They got it! No questions? Know what? That may be the first time in history I’d ever seen a group of people get Import immediately without any more instruction.

To me at least, the very basis of the dialog tells you exactly what you want to do – Add Photos. It’s right in the middle at the top of everything. You can’t miss it. Then right below it, you simple select the photos you want to add. That’s it. Simple. No Copy/Move/DNG and destination crap. You’re not presented with a ton of options and checkboxes. You simply get an option to select photos by browsing your computer or other hard drives, or your card reader.

When I used to teach those seminars I used to tell the audience up front, I was going to simplify Import for them in to a fool proof system. The system?

  1. Put your photos where you want them
  2. Open Lightroom and Click Import
  3. Choose the photos and click Add at the top.

And they loved it! I’d have people coming up to me all day telling them that they finally understand what to do now. So what’s the difference in Adobe’s new Import dialog? It’s virtually the same, except that it just looks better now. Heck, it’s even smart enough to know that if you’re taking photos from a card reader or other non-drive device that you probably do want to “Copy” the photos and it pre-selects it for you. Otherwise, it assumes that if you’re photos are on a hard drive, that you want to leave them there and just have Lightroom reference them right there. That way, it cuts down on the confusion and you don’t accidentally move your photos somewhere else.

But Isn’t Adobe Dumbing Down the App?

That’s been the common theme among the new Import-haters. Dumbing down the app. But I just don’t see it. You can do just about everything you used to be able to do. Your workflow didn’t change. They didn’t make it harder for you to Import photos if you were a long-term Lightroom die hard. They just made it more accessible for some one new to Lightroom. But I get it – you’re advanced and you don’t want to risk anyone dumbing down your apps, so the masses can use them. Maybe you’re a pro – or maybe you’re just an advanced amateur who likes buttons, dials and knobs. Photography is geeky and I get it. And maybe you don’t want my mom using Lightroom if she’s a beginner and just getting started with photography. But I do think that the future of photography is people like my mom – people who just love taking photos and want uploading, storing and editing their photos to be easier. And Lightroom is a great place for that, whether you’re a pro, or your my mom.
But if you are indeed my mom… well… I love you mom! (sorry, just had to sneak that in there) 😉

The Danger Of Bringing Back the Old Dialog

From what I understand Adobe will bring back the old dialog in an upcoming update. Again, since I have zero communication to the Lightroom team anymore, I have no idea if they plan to bring it back as an option or just revert to the old dialog – so don’t hold me to anything. My guess is that they’d give you an option to use the old one if you want, but still keep the new as well. Hopefully that’ll make people happier, but there’s a danger there. There’s a reason that, as photographers, we’ve grown to love Lightroom more than we ever loved Photoshop. I think part of that reason is its simplicity. While there are some people that don’t consider Lightroom simple, you have to admire that what you see is what you get. There are very few things in Lightroom that you have to know the “secret handshake” to get to. It’s all out in front of you for the most part.

But Photoshop on the other hand, has grown in to a huge monster of an app. It can do everything. Old workflows, new workflows, you name it. But one of the ways it got there was because people got used to something working one way. When a better way came up to do that task, Adobe realized they couldn’t remove the old way because now people were accustomed to it. So they added something new. Now something old did a task, and something new did the nearly same task but just in a different way. The old stuff was there for the way people used to do it so they stayed happy, and the new stuff was there for the new people. Great! But this just kept happening over and over again until Photoshop grew to this huge program. Now most common question I get when I show something in Photoshop is “Well, can’t you also do it this way (insert their method) too?”.

I worry about that happening with Lightroom. Lightroom has been pretty good over the years, about not adding duplicate ways to do the same thing. But you can bet the next time the LR team looks to make a big change to make things better for the future, they’re going to look twice at it now and probably leave the old way, as well as incorporate the new. That’s great and all, but I’d just hate to see Lightroom grow in to as complex of a app as Photoshop has.

I’m Starting a New Club…

I’m gonna start a new club called “New Import Dialog Lovers”. I may be the only one it it, but hey, it’ll be fun anyway 🙂

Seriously though, I thought the LR team did great on this one. When they did solicit feedback and talk to me about future releases, my feedback was always the same… fix the Import process. I may have suggested they don’t remove the (barely used) features that they did remove. Maybe just throw ’em under the “Advanced” section in the new dialog to keep people happy, but that’s about it. I really like the way it works and I hope it doesn’t change too much going forward.

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend! 🙂


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