Uploading Phone/ Tablet Images to Lightroom

Hi Folks:

This post arose out of an answer I tapped out on my phone this morning in response to a question from another Twitter user.  When I got to 2800 characters I thought maybe I should post it here as well.  The question was, “What’s the easiest/simplest way to upload images from my phone to Lightroom?”  I should start by saying I have an Android phone and a Windows computer, but I’m reasonably certain Macs work about the same way.

I’ve found the easiest way to move images from my phone to Lightroom is to use a cloud service.  There are several, but the two with which I’m familiar are Copy and Dropbox.  I mostly use Copy; Marcia uses Dropbox.  What you do is this:

1) Go to the company’s website and create a free account.  You will be allocated a certain amount of storage space, and if you need more you can buy a subscription.  While you’re there, download the ‘desktop’ version of the software and install it. Open it and sign into your account. What this will do is create a folder on your computer (either Copy or Dropbox or … you get the idea) that synchronizes with your cloud account.

2) Go to iTunes or the Google Play Store from your phone and download the phone/ tablet version of your software.  Open it and sign into your account, then go to the Settings and check the box that says to automatically upload images from your phone. I’d recommend you also check the box that says to only upload images when connected to wifi or your monthly data service charges might get to be astronomical.

3) When next you make a photograph with your phone the software will automatically synchronize the image with Copy or Dropbox. The next time your phone is connected to wifi the images will be synchronized to the cloud.  If you’re using Copy the images will be in your PhotoCopy folder and if you’re using Dropbox the images will be in the Camera Uploads folder. When you turn on your computer, if you’re signed into your account and the computer is connected to the ‘net the images will be synchronized with the relevant folder on your computer.

4) Start Lightroom and open the import window. Navigate to the Copy or Dropbox folder/image subfolder and your images will be there. Because the images are already in a folder on your hard drive you can Move, Copy or Add them at their current location. If you choose the second or third option make sure to tell LR not to import duplicates. Whether you move, copy or add depends on your file organization and backup strategy. Personally I use Move as I keep all of my images in one main folder and I maintain a separate backup of my LR catalogue and image files but it’s up to you.  Be aware that if you use the Move option you will remove them from the Copy or Dropbox folder on your computer and this will also remove them from the synchronized folders on your phone and the cloud, but it will not remove them from the pictures folder from your phone (DCIM/Camera on Android for example).  To clear up space on your phone you’ll have to go to the gallery and delete them manually.

NB: I’ve had a couple of times where a spotty wifi connection at a coffee shop for example didn’t synchronize images properly so make sure they’re in Lightroom before deleting them from your phone.  I’ve also found that videos aren’t automatically synchronized, only still images.  Again, you can go into the gallery on your phone, select the videos and ‘share’ them to Copy or Dropbox and they’ll be synchronized from there, or you can connect your phone to your computer using the USB connection and copy them over from there.  Since HD videos can get to be several GB in size, this is probably a lot faster than uploading/downloading them.

Update, February 10, 2014.  The person who asked me the original question asked a follow-up question, so I’ve provided that and my answer.

I now have Dropbox on my desktop but what I didn’t want was everything downloaded onto my hard drive which it seems to be doing? I thought it was all stored in a cloud which could be dipped into…

You have to understand how Lightroom works, and then decide what you want to do. Lightroom is essentially a database program, and a database is an organized collection of information.  When you import an image into Lightroom what you’re doing is creating a dynamic link between Lightroom and the location on the drive where the image resides.  Essentially Lightroom adds a line to its catalogue (database) that says, “This image lives here.”  From there it links other information to that first record of each image.  In order to do that, Lightroom needs to be able to access the drive on which the image is stored.  This can be an internal drive, an external drive or even a network-attached drive (although you can’t store your catalogue on a network drive and working in Lightroom on an image stored on a network drive would take forever).  The cloud is not a drive.

What Dropbox does – all Dropbox does – is to synchronize (copy) the information so that what is stored locally is also stored on the cloud.  If you have Dropbox linked to your computer and your phone then the same file is stored in all three locations.  Delete an image from one and you delete it from all three.  If you put an image in your Dropbox from your phone it is uploaded to the cloud and synchronized to your computer, and vice versa.

If you were to uninstall Dropbox from your computer (or unlink it by opening Dropbox on your computer and signing out of your account) then when you upload images from your phone they’ll be stored in the cloud but not on your computer.  Because they’re not on a drive Lightroom can access, however, you wouldn’t be able to import them into Lightroom.  You don’t have to leave the images on your hard drive, however.  If you normally store the images in your Lightroom catalogue on an external drive, when you import them into Lightroom you can use the Move option to move them from the Dropbox/Camera Uploads folder on your hard drive to the external drive and Lightroom will quite happily do that.  Doing so will also remove them from the cloud and from the Dropbox folder on your phone (but not the folder on your phone where the images are normally stored – the images in the Dropbox folder on your phone are copies of those).

I trust that makes sense.

Okay, that’s it.  Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. You can find more of our photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find a list of over 200 sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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