Like so may other photographers, I use Adobe Lightroom to organize and non-destructively edit photos. One of my favorite features is the ability to customize how photos are renamed and organized using the EXIF metadata associated with each photo. However, I don’t want to import every photo I’ve ever taken (or will take) into Lightroom just to achieve this result, nor do I want to be dependent on Lightroom for this capability.

Importpix is a free, cross-platform, open source command-line utility providing similar functionality to how Lightroom copies and organizes photos as part of its import process. It’s targeted at enthusiast and professional photographers who regularly import large volumes of photos into multiple libraries and who use multiple image processing applications such as Lightroom, Capture One, DXO, Iridient, etc.

Instead of Lightroom, I use Importpix to copy photos to from removable to local storage, and then use my software of choice for viewing and editing photos. This ensures all of my photos are organized the same way regardless of software used. I also used Importpix to aggregate old photos that became spread out over time into a centralized library that stays current. This way, every photo I’ve ever taken or will take are organized in a single location according to the same rules.

The Problem with Lightroom Import

The problem I have with using Lightroom import photos is being tied to a specific application for how my photos organized. As of today, Lightroom is still my primary editor but I find myself increasingly using other editors for specialized tasks – and many of these offer their own library management capabilities that I could decide to use instead of Lightroom at a later date. Simply put, I don’t want to take a dependency on Lightroom for how my photos are organized, especially since its move to a subscription model with monthly or annual fees.

There are other problems as well.

I’ve amassed several terabytes of digital photos over years. It sounds like a lot, but RAW file format, higher megapixel cameras, higher frames-per-second, and time lapse are pushing the storage requirements for photography into the realm of videography. I also don’t delete photos unless I’m sure they’re of no value for the future (over exposed, hopelessly out of focus, etc.) As such, my storage requirements are growing at around around 1TB / year – and accelerating. Fortunately storage keeps pace by getting cheaper, faster, and denser so I don’t feel pain in my pocketbook or in terms of how many drives I need to install and manage.

I don’t need or want terabytes of photos imported into Lightroom. Lightroom provides features for tagging and filtering, and supports having multiple catalogs; however, I prefer to keep my Lightroom catalog lean and mean by being selective about what I import. As compared to importing everything under the sun, I find this helps with performance and improves my workflow when scrubbing through photos. I also don’t like multiple Lightroom catalogs because they cannot be open simultaneously. However, I do want all my photos organized the same way and together in once place. Using Lightroom, this means needing to import photos I normally wouldn’t want in Lightroom just to get them copied alongside the rest of my photos. If talking about 4,000 time lapse photos, for example, this can take a long time even with a fast computer. Then I would need to use the Lightroom option to delete these photos from my catalog without deleting them from disk.

Finally, much of the time taken to import photos into Lightroom is spent copying them from removable to local storage. As mentioned, this can take a long time depending how many bytes to transfer and it can effectively render Lightroom useless during this time. On the other hand, if photos can first be copied to their final destination then Lightroom can be offloaded from needing to do this work thereby significantly reducing the time it takes for import to complete. This frees the user up to continue working in Lightroom while files are being copied in the background.

Importpix to the Rescue

If any of these problems resonate with you then Importpix can help. It’s a free, open-source, cross-platform command-line utility that imports photos into user-defined libraries, with the following features and benefits:

  • Organizes photos and images using Exif metadata
  • Handles duplicate detection
  • Handles XMP sidecar files
  • Supports unlimited, user-defined libraries
  • Stateless design with no database or service required
  • Photos and images are not modified
  • Works on Linux, MacOS, and Windows

After configuring your preferences enter a simple command from the terminal or console window to import your photos. In the following example, I’ve configured a default library so I need only specify the path to the SD card:

$ importix /Volumes/Untitled/

That’s it. After the import process has finished running you can use the software of your choice to edit, tag, or whatever.

Using Lightroom with Importpix

Using Importpix with Lightroom is not a problem. The typical scenario for importing photos into Lightroom involves removable source media, such as an SD card. When Lightroom detects removable media, it copies the photos to a predetermined location on your computer. The removable media can then be erased and ejected so it’s free for the next batch of photos. On the other hand, if the files to be imported are already stored on your computer then Lightroom imports them in-place, meaning it does not attempt to copy or rename them. With this in mind, one needs only specify the import location that Importpix copied the photos instead of pointing Lightroom to the removable media from which the photos originated.

More Information and Installation Notes

For Importpix documentation and installation instruction visit the following link:


Leave a Comment