How to get your images into Luminar

​When you’re working with Luminar as a standalone application, the first time you start it up you will see a blank catalog. Before you can get any work done, you need to import the images you want to work on into your catalog. There are a couple of ways to do this, depending on the situation and we’ll cover them in this article.

Before you can start to work on your images with the many tools that Luminar offers, you need to get images into it. Luminar has three options for that.

Are your images already where you want them to be?

Then use the Add Folder option. If your images are already where you want them to be, in a folder on your internal hard drive or an external hard drive, then you can simply add that folder to your Luminar catalog. If you still want to make some rearrangements to your folder structure on your hard drive, you can do this before importing the folder. This is the simplest way of getting images into Luminar, as it will just make a reference in your Luminar library as to where the images are, and they won’t get moved or copied around. They stay precisely in the same place as they already were. Luminar simply records its location in the library. As such, this is also the quickest way of importing images.

Although it’s technically not necessary, I do recommend putting your images or image folders in one main parent folder (Master folder in Luminar speak) before you import them into Luminar. This might come in handy later if ever you want to move your images to a larger hard drive once they’ve been imported.

To add a folder with images, you have no less than three options.

I clicked on the +-sign in the Sidebar, which triggered this dialog box.

Adding from the Library Sidebar

The first way to add a folder of images is by clicking the +-icon in the Folders section of the Sidebar. In the ensuing dialog box, you navigate to the folder that you want to add. Note that any subfolders of that folder will also be imported, and they will show up in the Folders section of the Library Sidebar.

As you can see, I like to put the images that I import into Luminar in a Master folder called LuminarFotos plus the name of the drive. Having a parent folder makes it easier to move files afterward if the drive fills up.

The menu command File > Add Folder with Images is another way of getting image folders into Luminar.

Adding via the Menu

The second way of adding a folder with images is via the menu File > Add Folder with Images or the shortcut Option-Shift-N (Mac) / Alt-Shift-N (Windows). This leads you to the same dialog box of the previous option.

The third way of adding folders with images is via the big Open button in the top left corner of the interface.

Adding via the Open Button Menu

The Open Button is the big + sign that you see in the top right corner of the Luminar Library interface. Clicking it will reveal a flyout menu with two options: Add Folder with Images and Edit Single Image. Choose the first option. The workflow is the same as the other two options.

After import, the main folder and any subfolders appear in the Folders section in the Sidebar. Note that, in this case, I had my images already in date-based folders. When adding folders, Luminar adds the images to its Catalog in whatever folder structure they already are.

A couple of recommendations for working with folders on external drives

This way of adding folders where they are located on your hard drive works regardless of whether the images are on an internal or an external folder. However, if the images are on an external folder, you’ll need to have that folder connected to your computer when importing them — obviously — but also when you want to work on them. Otherwise, the drive will be considered ‘offline,’ and the name of the folder will be greyed out. Because Luminar creates thumbnails for your images, you’ll be able to rate and flag them and even organize them into Albums. Still, you won’t be able to edit them using Luminar’s tools until the drive is reconnected.

When your images are on an external drive, and that drive is disconnected, warning triangles will appear in the Folders panel and on the images. You won’t be able to edit them, but you can still add them to Albums or assign star ratings or color labels to them.

Additionally, on Windows computers, it’s a good idea to assign a fixed drive letter to that external drive because, depending on which other hard drives or thumb drive you have connected to your computer (and in which order you connected them) at a given moment, the drive letter of the drive containing your photos might change over time. Luminar might not recognize the drive, even if it was attached. Assigning a fixed drive letter to a drive isn’t difficult, but as it differs slightly between Windows versions, you might want to Google the instructions for your specific Windows version.

You want to import images that are on a memory card

The first scenario, adding folders where they are, is typically the scenario you use when you first start to work with Luminar. You want to populate your library with your existing images. But obviously, you’ll continue to make new photographs that your camera stores on media such as MicroSD, SD, QXD, or CompactFlash cards. The ‘Add’ workflow I described above would not make much sense, because it would imply that you have to permanently leave your images on your memory card and have that memory card permanently attached to your computer. That would be one very expensive way of working! Luckily, for new images on a memory card, Luminar has a second option, which is the Import Images to a Folder option.

The File > Import Images to a Folder command triggers this dialog box, in which you can specify where and in what folder structure images will be copied to.

Step 1: Choose File > Import Images to a Folder

Step 2: In the ensuing dialog, navigate to the folder that you want to import and select the images or the entire folder. Make sure you see the bottom part of the dialog. Click on Options if you don’t.

Step 3: Now let’s have a look at those options:

  • Next to Import to, choose one of the Folders that are already in your Luminar Catalog. If you want to import images to a new folder, you should create that first in your Luminar Library before starting your import procedure.
  • Next to Action, choose whether you want to Copy or Move the images. If you choose to Copy them, only the copied versions are relevant for Luminar. Note that if you choose Move and your images are on a card, they will physically be moved from that card, unless the card is write-protected. Generally, I choose the Copy option with cards, and I wait to reformat my card until my backup system has also made a copy of the drive I have copied the images to. Then I find it safe to reformat the memory card.
  • Next, to Organize, you can choose to put all images, regardless of the original folder structure, into one folder, maintain the original folder structure, or you can opt for a couple of date-based structures. Note that Luminars shortcuts in the Library Sidebar already allow you to view your images in a date-based structure, even if you decide to keep the original folder structure.
  • An important checkbox is Include Subfolders. If you check this, all subfolders of the selected folder will also be imported. If not, only the images that are directly in the folder you selected will be imported, not the ones in any subfolders.

Edit a Single Image

This third and last option of bringing images into Luminar is slightly different than the previous two. Those were meant for images that you want Luminar to manage permanently. Sometimes though, you may have images that you just want to edit quickly or crop (a screenshot, for example), or someone else may ask you to edit one of their images.

For those situations, there’s the Edit Single Image command.

Photos that were edited via Edit Single Image always stay in the same location as they were when you import them (that way, Edit Single Image resembles the first option we discussed, Add Images to Folder) but on top of that, they also are tracked in a special Shortcut collection in the Library Panel called Single Image Edits. Below is a step-by-step approach on how to work with Single Image Edits.

This image was on a different external drive. I added it by dragging it onto the Luminar icon in my Mac OS dock. This is one of four ways to initiate a Single Image Edit. Note that the Single Image Edits Shortcuts count in the top right corner is now at one. Also note that, although this image is physically still on that particular hard drive, the hard drive itself does not show up in the Folders panel, to keep it clutter-free.

Step 1: There are no less than four ways to trigger the Edit Single Image workflow: click the Open Button Menu and choose Edit Single Image, choose File > Edit Single Image, use the shortcut Cmd-O (Mac) or Ctrl-O (Win) or finally, the one that I like to do: drag an image or images onto Luminar icon in your dock or taskbar.

Step 2: Regardless of which way you choose, you will see a dialog box that lets you select the image(s) you want to work on in Single Edit mode.

Step 3: The images will appear in Luminar’s Filmstrip and also in the Single Image Edits Shortcut to the right of the interface.

Step 4: If you’ve edited an image for someone else, once you’ve finished your edit, you can export it in Luminar and then remove it from your Luminar library. You can do so by right-clicking on the image while you’re in the Single Image Edits collection and choose Remove from Single Image Edits from the contextual menu. The original file will remain on disk, but any reference to it in your Luminar Library will be gone.

Step 5: Alternatively, if an image is growing on you and you decide you want to keep it permanently, you can drag it from the Single Image Edits Collection to any of your Luminar folders.

If you want to keep a Single Image Edits photo in your Library, all you have to do is drag it in any one of the folders in your Library Sidebar. The photo will be moved on your hard drive as well, but since it originated as a Single Image Edit, it will still show up in the Singe Image Edits Shortcut, until you remove it there. Don’t worry; it will remain in the folder you just moved it to.

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