Why Can’t Lightroom Import Your Photos? (How To Fix)

Nothing is more frustrating than when you can’t import your photos to Lightroom AND you can’t figure out what the problem is. You might assume it’s Adobe’s secret mission sabotage your workflow, but luckily that’s not the case (I think…). In Lightroom, there are a few common reasons why you can’t import your photos, so let’s start with the basics.

The most common reason Lightroom can’t import your photos is that it believes the files are already imported. When this happens, certain files will appear greyed out and cannot be imported into the catalog. To fix this, go to File Handling and uncheck the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” option.

This is the most common reason people face, but there are other possible culprits. Let’s break down the different reasons why Lightroom won’t import your photos and how to fix them.

Video Tutorial

Why Is Lightroom Not Letting Me Import Photos?

One of the easiest problems to resolve is that you simply can’t find your import button. In Lightroom, the Import button can only be found in the Library Module. If you are in the Develop Module, this option will disappear.

By switching back to the Library Module, you’ll see the import button ready for action.

With that said, it’s worth remembering that you can also import your photos by going File > Import Photos & Video. That way you don’t always need to rely on the import button.

Once you’re inside the import panel, you can choose any files from your computer to import. Until you have selected a folder or files that are compatible for import, the Import button in the bottom right corner will remain greyed out.

After you’ve selected a valid folder or file, the Import option will become clickable, allowing you to import your selected images.

Remember that you need to see a checkmark beside each file to indicate it’s selected for import!

Rather than going through and selecting all of your files manually, selecting the “New Photos” option is a great filter to use. Found at the top of the file preview window, this setting will select any new photos you have yet to import. Any images that are already imported will be left unchecked and remain greyed out.

Once everything is in order, click the Import option to bring your photos into Lightroom. By following the steps outlined above, you’ll be able to fix any common issues with Lightroom not letting you import your images.

3 Possible Reasons Why You Can’t Import Your Photos + How To Fix

If you are still having issues, there are 3 things you can still check to resolve the problem.

1. The Images Are Already Imported

Lightroom tries its best to avoid importing any duplicate files, and for good reason. If you had doubles or even triples of some files, your catalog size would balloon and put more strain on your computer. Not to mention that it would be a complete disaster to organize!

Inside of the Import window, the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” option is checked off by default. This way, Lightroom cannot add duplicate files into your catalog, making it impossible to import them.

If this is your issue, the first plan of attack is to look through your Lightroom Library to locate the file(s) in question. If you can find them, make a note of where they are or move them into a new folder.

If you cannot find your files in the Library, you can uncheck the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” option to allow Lightroom to import doubles. With this option unchecked, you will be able to import your photos once again.

Assuming they were duplicates, of course!

2. The File Type Is Not Supported By Lightroom

A second reason why Lightroom can’t import your photos is that the file type is not currently supported. As Lightroom continues to get improvements and updates, new file types are added every few months. However, some are still not compatible with the program.

Lightroom does not support the following file types:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Nikon scanner NEF
  • Files with dimensions greater than 65,000 pixels per side or larger than 512 megapixels.

If you are trying to import files that meet any of these criteria, you won’t be able to import them to Lightroom. Unfortunately, there is no way around this. To get the latest updates on supported image formats in Lightroom, see this post.

3. You Are Using The Wrong Import Setting

This third reason is commonly overlooked during the import process, especially if you’ve never used it before. At the top of the import window are 4 different options that read:

  • Copy As DNG: Copies files to a new location, imports, then converts files to DNG.
  • Copy: Copies files to a new location, then imports. For example, copy from memory card to computer.
  • Move: Moves from one location to another on your computer then imports. For example, moving files from folder A to folder B.
  • Add: Imports photos directly to Lightroom from their current location.

In most cases, importing with any of these methods will work. That is unless there is an issue with where you are trying to copy or move your files to on import.

To give you an example, let’s say I select the Copy option and the source location is a memory card. This means I will take the photos from the memory card, copy them, and then download them to a hard drive before Lightroom imports them.

Now when I select the new save location, I’ll choose an external hard drive. Once everything is set up, I cannot import my photos for some reason.

Well, as it turns out, the hard drive is actually full and doesn’t have room for these new files I want to import. Therefore Lightroom cannot move or import these files, causing an import error.

To fix this issue, I could select a new save location or select the “Add” option to import the image directly from their source location (the memory card). I could also select a different hard drive with more free space.

Although I do not recommend importing your photos from your memory card (as they aren’t backed up to your computer), this hypothetical example gives you an idea of why things may not work. Changing where you actually save your files via the Copy or Move import options will often solve any import problems.

If you are completely out of space on your computer and external hard drives, cloud storage could be a good option to look into instead.

So now you know the common reason why Lightroom can’t import photos and how to fix them. Luckily there is never a catastrophe going on and it usually comes down to a simple setting that needs changing.

Happy Importing!

– Brendan 🙂

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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