I recently purchased a new camera to start my photography hobby. I have an SD card that I put into my Macbook Pro, and was able to easily import pictures from it into Lightroom.

This didn't work, however, because the pictures remained on the SD card and upon removing it the photo links were all broken in Lightroom.

I decided to, instead, import them to the new Photos app with the intent to then import them from there to Lightroom, but there seems to be no option to do this and I can't find the pictures from within Lightroom.

The images are visible in the Photos app, however, so they're definitely on the Mac.

I'm new to Lightroom and new to the Macbook, so I'm convinced that this is user error but I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I just want to get the pictures off my SD card, onto the Macbook and editable within Lightroom. How do I do that?


I'm using Lightroom CC. I read something once about installing an addon within Lightroom but the option wasn't there because Creative Cloud is apparently slightly different from the older versions?


3 Answers 3


cmason's answer has covered how to get the photos out of Photos.

However, here's where you first went wrong. When you import images to Lightroom, Lightroom gives you four different ways to do this, and they're all at the top of the Import window. You select which one you want by clicking on it. From left to right, the options are:

  1. Copy as DNG. This converts your RAW images to DNG (Adobe's digital negative) file format as the files are imported. The RAW files are left on the card. This has the tradeoff of not requiring sidecar .xmp files to store the edit history of the file, but can lose you proprietary metadata of the specific RAW format you're using.

  2. Copy. This copies the photo files from where they are into wherever you tell Lightroom to put them as you import. This will leave all the files on the card alone, which can be useful if there's a problem with the import, you want to keep the card for backup, etc.

  3. Move. This moves the photos from where they are into wherever you tell Lightroom to put them as you import, which will automatically remove the files from the card.

  4. Add. This just adds the photos to the Lightroom catalog where they're resident. This can be handy if you like to copy the files from the card to where you want them to live on your OSX box by hand before doing the import.

I think you accidentally did 4) when you meant to do 2) or 3), which is why Lightroom cataloged the photos on the card, rather than those same files moved/copied on your hard drive.

Which one is right for you depends on your personal work habits. Once you've established how you like to import files, you can then save everything as an "Import preset" at the bottom middle of the Import window, and use the arrow on the lower left corner to minimize what the window shows to just what your preset is concerned with.

See also this youtube video with Julieanne Kost walking you through ways to import files in Lightroom from the camera. And while it's for Lightroom 5, not CC, you may want to take a spin through her tv.adobe.com series, Getting Started with Adobe Lightroom. I'm not affiliated with Kost or Adobe in any way, I just found this series of videos to be the easiest way for me to learn the basics of using Lr.


I don't know of any import plugin for Lightroom to Photos app. However, it is possible to import from the Photos repository, just not that simple.

Photos.app copies all the photos it manages into a separate repository, called "Photos Library". You will need to use the Finder context method command "Show Package Contents" to see inside the library; in there the folder called "Masters" contains all the originally imported files off your camera / card, organized by year and then by import session number.

Method 1: Drag the folder

This is the simplest method:

  1. Open Lightroom, and click "Import".
  2. Switch to Finder.
  3. Right-click on your Photos library and select "Show Package Contents"
  4. Drag the "Masters" folder from the Finder to the Lightroom window, dropping it in the big central area of the window (ie, not in or above the folder treeon the left).
  5. Select which photos you want to import

Of course, with this method you can drag a specific year (or specific import session) over instead of everything if you want to be more selective.

Method 2: Use an Alias

The above method is the simplest, but not most intuitive from the Lightroom interface. In that interface, you see a large folder tree on the left from which you are asked to select a folder. However, navigating to your "Pictures" folder it doesn't allow you to select the Photo Library. This is because OS X stores the Photo Library as a "package", and Lightroom was not coded to be able to look into packages (which is the better default, from a development perspective, unless Lightroom was to look inside only certain types of packages, like the Photos package).

However, like any good OS X denizen, Lightroom will treat an "alias" to a folder just like the folder itself. So, we can get it to see folders inside that package by making aliases outside the package.

  1. On your Mac, go to your Pictures folder, and look for something called Photos Library.
  2. Right click on it and choose 'Show Package Contents'. This will open up the repository into a folder view, showing lots of files, and a folder called "Masters". This folder contains all the unedited versions of your Photos in the Photos app. (because Photos is non-destructive, edits are stored outside of the image, just like Lightroom).

Sub-Method 2a: All Masters

  1. Open a second Finder window (Cmd-N), and navigate in that window to your "Pictures" folder
  2. Click and drag the "Masters" folder from the one window to the "Pictures" folder window, but do not drop it yet.
  3. Hold both the "alt/option" key and the "command" key down, so that a little curved arrow appears over the Masters folder you are dragging, and while that overlay icon is showing, release the mouse button. This will create an alias to "Masters" that you can directly import into Lightroom.

Sub-Method 2b: Selecting Specific Years (or import sessions)

  1. Right-click a folder, say "2014", choose 'Make Alias'. A folder with an arrow will be created just below the "2014" folder.
  2. Drag this alias folder to your desktop (or some other location), because this alias was created within the hidden Photos repository.
  3. Do this for every folder you want to import photos from.

To complete Method 2...

  1. Open Lightroom, and click 'Import'. Navigate to the location where you put all the alias's. These will show as folders to Lightroom, containing all the photos from that year within Photos.app.
  2. Import away!
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I find that Method 2 works great. I've made an alias to Masters called Photos Library Masters and saved it under my home folder. When I Import, I don't have to select the whole library, I use the Files source, and click the triangle twisties to open up the specific month or day I want. eg. Macintosh HD:Users:<username>:Photos Library Masters:2016:10 gets me all of my October shots. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 16:52

FYI, you can "SELECT" the "Photos Library.photoslibrary" in lieu of the default" iPhotos Library.photoslibrary and the import works just fine. No need to go thru the process outlined by cmason unless you want to selectively convert.

In the Lightroom File Menu select "Plug In Extras", then, in the dialogue, you can SELECT a different source than "iPhoto Library" ... Choose the "Photos Library" instead ... it may give you a warning about iPhoto 9.5.1 or some such. but go ahead anyway. It imported all my Photos Library pictures without issue. Looks like "unnamed events" in Photos use an obscure naming/numbering in the form _1[_2[_3[_4 ....]]]]]] though so you'll have to rename.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I tried using this solution with the iPhoto plug-in (I have v6.5 standalone, not CC) and it comes up with a warning: " Your selection does not appear to be an iPhoto library. (The importer plug-in expects v9.5.1 or newer)" When I pressed OK, the 'Import from iPhoto' dialogue box still indicated that no iPhoto library had been selected (<none selected>). Did this happen with you? If so, I'd be interested to know how you overcame it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ferret51
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:30

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