How to Import from Multiple Memory Cards at Once into Lightroom

If you have a memory card reader that supports it, it is possible to import photos and videos from multiple memory cards at once in Lightroom. Here’s how.

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If you come home from a shoot with multiple memory cards full of photos, it can be tedious to import from each one in succession. But there’s a way to streamline the operation so that you can do it in fewer steps: import from multiple memory cards at once.

If you’re using a memory card reader that is capable of simultaneous importing–something like the Lexar Professional Workflow system, for example, it is possible to import from multiple cards at once using Lightroom.

Some photo software, like Photo Mechanic and Image Ingester have concurrent importing as a prominent feature. It’s also possible with Lightroom, but it’s more of a hidden trick. Here’s how to do it.

You use the same importing dialog that you normally would. If you’re using the micro importing screen, expand it to the full version.

Often, you would use the Devices section at the top. But for this, you don’t want to use that because you can only select one device at a time.

How to Import from Multiple Memory Cards at Once into Lightroom

Instead, find the cards in the list under the files section. Make sure the Include Subfolders often is checked.

And again, you have to get the right bit. If you click on the drive or device label bars, you’ll only be able to select one at a time.

How to Import from Multiple Memory Cards at Once into Lightroom

The trick is that you have to drill down into the folders. For each card, press the small triangles to expand so that you see DCIM for each one. Click on one. Then, holding down the Command key on Mac or CTRL key on Windows, select the next one so that they’re both highlighted–just as you would for selecting multiple non-sequential files in other applications. Add as many as you need. In this rather extreme example I’m using here, I’ve selected files on a compactflash, SDXC card, and three microSD cards all together.

How to Import from Multiple Memory Cards at Once into Lightroom

You’ll see thumbnails from all the cards you’ve selected show up in the consolidated preview screen, and you can sort them or select them individually just as you would if you were importing from a single source.

Then hit import just as you normally would.

Lightroom treats it as a single import operation, so they all get the same treatment when it comes to import presets, metadata presets, and destination. You can’t specify individual settings per card.

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. I've been using Lightroom for years, from back before it was Lightroom (RawShooter). More »

2 thoughts on “How to Import from Multiple Memory Cards at Once into Lightroom”

  1. I have 2 cameras now. I may shoot with both on the same day. One is a 70D and the other a 5D Mark IV. Do i need to worry about the same image numbers from both cameras being overwritten? I usually try to format my card when i have finished uploading them into LR.

    Reply
    • There are various ways you can tackle this. Probably the simplest and most reliable is to set up the ingest filenaming to ensure that the files from each camera are named uniquely. This is part of the import dialog and is applied as the images are copied to your hard drive, so it doesn’t matter what filename the camera has applied. A simple solution would be to add a sequence field to the filename. So the first instance of a filename will be -1 and the next will have -2. A more thorough way would be to use the camera serial number in the filename. And you can take this a step further and use time and date (down to the second), camera serial number, and sequence.

      Something like this, for example.

      Reply

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