Importing Photos Without Lightroom

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June 08, 2014

Importing Photos Without Lightroom

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, memory card, card bank, Nikon, D800E, dual slot
Nikon D800E Memory Card Slot

I import photos via Lightroom - as much as I can.  But I already have a file structure or folder structure that is free from Lightroom-dependency.  I made it this way so that if the tools I have is not powerful enough to hold Lightroom, I can import photos, organise them properly and navigate the photos easily.  It's a good practice to not depend solely on Lightroom to organise your stuff.

This practice is very useful when travelling and if your monster desktop is not within reach.  If the photos are organised enough, transferring them to your main computer is a breeze.


This is not your RAW vs JPG debate.  It's the RAW + JPG setting on your camera.  If your camera does not support RAW (e.g. NEF, CR2 etc) then skip this.  If you have RAW files, it's best to have RAW + JPG enabled.  If you set this, the camera will create both RAW & JPG files.  If your computer could not understand RAW files, just view it's corresponding JPG and you'd know what photo it is.

Naming Convention

How do you name a file?  Naming a file depends on the user.  Some users like to put in the dates, some would like to put the place / venue while other wants to put the names of the model or family surname.  This really depends on what you want, but any type of concise description will always be the best.

This is my naming convention:


     YYYY.MM.DD - Year.Month.Date in that format
     Main-Description - main description or title of the event or location/place
     Sub-Description-01 - additional words needed to further describe the files and folders

I do make it a point to put dates in so that files can be arranged by date.  I usually end up with one description only.  As long as you put a memorable keyword as the filename, its easy to find it using the OS search function.

My naming convention applies to both my RAW files and folder - just keeping it simple I guess.  All things in one spot.  If a file goes flying around in the wrong folder then I know where to move them.  This is just one way, there might be better, more efficient ways of renaming files.

File Structure / Folder Structure

This is probably the first step to everything.

There are a thousand ways of doing this.  All are correct, but not all are efficient.  Filing is usually dependent on the user.  Each person will have different ways of filing photos so  there is no right or wrong answer to this.  As long as the user can find what is needed, then it's all good.  I have a folder structure like the ones below:

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, folder structure, workflow, naming convention
Overview of Folders and their Naming Convention

2014.03.16_Sunrise-Turimetta-Beach (Main folder)
          Catalog (Sub-folder)
          Movies (Sub-folder)
          Photos (Sub-folder)
          Portfolio (Sub-folder)

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, folder structure, workflow
Folder Structure

I put all RAW photos in 'Photos' folder.  I put movies in 'Movies'.  I don't use the 'Catalog' folder as much.  I use it to backup the Lightroom Catalog for this shoot but I don't use it often.  The 'Portfolio' folder is where I put all edited photos in.  

Please refer to my Naming Convention to understand how I name my folder.

Renaming RAW (NEF) Files

Efficient searching starts with filenames.  If you don't rename your files properly, you can't find them.  The camera usually have DSC-XXX as filename (and also different with each camera manufacturer).  That kind of filename will lead you nowhere as it doesn't say anything.  

My naming convention for photos is similar (as mentioned above).  I included '_XXXX' at the end of the naming convention:
  • 2008.08.29_Lantern-Festival_0938
  • 2012.12.09_Christmas-Party_Office_0025
  • 2012.12.10_Christmas-Party_Friends_0005
  • 2014.02.07_Charlie-Christening_3229
  • 2014.03.16_Sunrise-Turimetta-Beach_0075
Please refer to my Naming Convention to understand how I name my folder.  Below is a screenshot of photos.  There are 2 - '2013.12.26_Sunrise-Collaroy_0001', one is DNG and the other is JPG.  Both are the same photo.

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, naming convention, DNG
Naming Convention for Files

Importing Photos

As mentioned above, I import my photos via Lightroom.  I do this because it's quicker to organise the filename, keywords, Lightroom, metadata, presets, etc in just one screen before uploading.  But in the early days, I do it manually.  This is literally copy-paste.  Even though how much computer progresses, copy-paste never dies!  

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, memory card, memory card reader
Generic Memory Card Reader

I use a generic card reader.  I have it with me always. 

Once they are in my system, I use a program called 'Renamer' (there are plenty of this softwares around), to rename my photos in batch.   If you have JPG only, it's easy to rename files.  If you have both JPG & RAW files, there is a trick to rename the files so that the renamed files will still stick to each other.

I do the following:

  1. I put all JPG & RAW files in one folder
  2. From the renamer software, I select only JPG files
  3. I sort them according to capture time or when a file is created
  4. I rename it from there

Doing the above will sort out your JPGs first according to when they are created (or captured).  The renaming software will rename the first file 'Description_0001' then work all the way down.  Do this to RAW files as well and you'll end up marrying both the JPG & RAW files.

Philip Avellana, Australian Landscape Photographer, memory card, Sandisk
Memory Cards for Nikon D800E

Final Thoughts

With Lightroom and Aperture coming to play, it's easy to migrate photos from your memory card to the computer.  Additionally, Lightroom gives you many options before uploading such as renaming, presets, keywords, metadata, etc.  It's very easy in Lightroom as it takes in all needed information as photos are copied from one location to the next.

But Lightroom and Aperture are heavy on computer resource.  If you don't have your powerful computer or Lightroom is not installed, then you're stuck.  Thus, I use the above steps to copy my photos from one location to the next.  This way, they are organised from the start.+-  

When I travel, I only bring a netbook with me.  It let's me transfer files from memory card to external hard disk.  I organise my folders and files through this netbook.  Once I arrive home, I transfer the whole structure, with photos, to my main computer.  I then use Lightroom to give them metadata, keywords, presets etc.  

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