Importing Images from iPhoto into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom v3

August 14, 2010 | | Comments 78

Please read Getting Started: What Does “Import” Mean in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom? before proceeding with this tutorial.

Reader Question: “How do I import images from iPhoto into Lightroom 3? For the life of me, I just cannot find out how and I am no newbie…”

Apple iPhoto Export DialogGreat question! Working with both iPhoto and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is tricky because each program creates its own index. iPhoto’s “Library” and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom’s “Catalog” are similar. Both programs are designed to index and organize digital images but they do this in very different ways. Both programs offer similar features and a streamlined editing environment although Lightroom’s tools are far more professional and far more flexible.

Lots of digital photographers get started with iPhoto since it is automatically bundled into the Mac operating system. To its credit, iPhoto is fairly intuitive and it does a fine job indexing consumer grade Jpeg photographs. It’s a good starting point, but it is not designed for the serious digital photographer. For professional grade image management Apple sells Aperture and Adobe sells Lightroom. Apple makes moving from iPhoto to Aperture very easy, but sadly the same cannot be said for photographers looking to move from iPhoto to Lightroom.

I don’t mean to say that moving images from iPhoto to Lightroom is hard or intimidating, but you have to understand that these two programs do not work together. Moving files from one program to the other requires “exporting” a copy of your image from one program and then “importing” that file into the other. To do this right, you have to understand which buttons to push and which file formats to use. This is especially true for digital photographer’s working with Raw files. Doing this right also requires a strong understanding of what the Lightroom Catalog truly is and how it works.

To see my method for moving files from iPhoto over to Lightroom please watch this tutorial video.

Whenever I answer this question in my workshops, I try explain that once you understand the full power of Lightroom that you are unlikely to go back to iPhoto. Again, this is not to say that there are not some great features in iPhoto but moving files back and forth between the two applications is a chore. I think of it as a progression. You can start with iPhoto, and when you outgrow it’s features, you can move onto Lightroom. Once you have moved up the ladder though it’s painful to go back down. It’s like trying to ride a bicycle with training wheels again!

I sure hope this helps and if you need additional assistance we are now offering personal tutoring and tech support via remote desktop software. Please contact us for more details.

*** For an alternative version of the iPhoto to Lightroom transition check out this video tutorial from Matt Kloskowski at


Filed Under: (03) Importing Images Into LightroomAdobe Photoshop Lightroom Tutorials


About the Author: David Marx is a digital photography instructor whose engaging teaching style inspires photographers of all skill levels. David is an Adobe Certified Lightroom Expert. To learn more about David's Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software training seminars and digital photography field workshops please visit or follow David Marx on Google+.