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copy, add or copy as dng


New Member
Aug 5, 2014
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
When I import my photis into lightroom, I can copy , add or copy as dng. What is the difference between them and when should I do which? When I insert my SD into my computer lightroom automatically asks if I wabt to imoort them and and I've been told I should copy as dng to get the photos from thier NEF format to a dng fomat.v I also have photos already on my HDD and I think I just need to Add these.
Its all gone a bit astray and im wondering if I should start again and if so how and where do I build ny lightroom folder structure as I want it to appear on the left hand side of the library module. I just want place of photoshoot names and not dates of shoot to name the folders.
Jun 8, 2012
Brisbane, Australia
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
Hi Olly.

My suggestion is that, for the time being anyway, unless you have a pressing reason to convert your raw's to DNG to ignore this option.
Later on once you really understand the pro's and con's you can easily convert those images to DNG if needed.
As for the other options it is very simple:
Use Add when the images are already exactly where you want them to be;
otherwise use Copy to import the images to the location where you want them to be.

My suggestion for folder names is this: keep the date but add your shoot name afterward like this:
Having the date as the leading part of the folder name will keep the folders listed in chronological order.
In Lightroom's Library module just R-click on the folder name and an option to rename will appear.

For the overall folder structure my suggestion is actually to go with date-based folders.
Personally, I go by year and then by date. If you shoot a lot every month add in the months well and then go by date.
The import dialog can help you to organise yourself but even afterwards is fine in the Library module.
For example R-click on the folder 2014 and an option presents itself to add a folder as a subfolder.
Create it, lets say call it "January".
If you already have shoots from January it is possible to drag-and-drop those folders into the newly created January folder.

Let us know how you go!

Tony Jay
Jun 20, 2009
Houston, TX USA
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Cloud Service
If the images already exist on the HDD, COPY makes little sense to make another copy somewhere else so that LR can manage them on that or any other HDD. In this case the choice is ADD and let LR manage them where they are on the disk drive. You do have another choice - MOVE which will let LR MOVE the images from the present location to a new location managed by LR. These are your two choices when the images are not on a removable drive.
When the images exist on the camera card (removable Media), ADD & MOVE are not options because of the volatile nature of the removable media. You are only left with COPY which makes a fresh copy of the original some where on the Disk Drive so that LR can manage the images. This leaves you with a copy still on the camera card so that you have two copies just in case the HDD decides at that moment to die. Once you have let your system backup software back up the images on the Disk drive, you are free to erase the camera card and use it for new images.

If you've been paying attention up to this point, you notice that I have not mentioned COPY as DNG. The reason is that it does not enter into your decision on how to catalog your images in a location on your disk drive. The choice between COPY as DNG and COPY, MOVE or ADD is a decision as to whether you want LR to manage the original proprietary RAW format or to manage a DNG RAW format. DNGs do not make LR any faster or perform better, In that regard there is no advantage of DNG over NEF. If you decide to convert to DNG, you then have to decide what to do with the master NEF. If you keep it you have nearly doubled your storage requirements. If you let LR manage DNGs, LR won't be managing the matching NEF. So, if later you decide some of the DNGs are crap, you can delete the DNG from LR and the Disk but LR won't be deleting the companion NEF. That you will need to do outside of LR and there is no tool other than your eyeballs that can tell you which NEFs you need to keep and which no longer have a DNG companion being managed by LR.
Some people when they convert to DNG delete the master original NEF. While this is an option, I can't support it. While LR and many other post processing apps can handle DNGs. Proprietary software coming from Nikon will not open or read a DNG. They only work with NEFs. Nikon's proprietary software today is crap. Will it always be? Who can say. Will Nikon develop some fantastic post processing that will create advanced post processing techniques that take advantage of the proprietary data written into the NEF header and ignored by Adobe? I'm not about to burn my bridges, delete my NEFs and wish a few years from now that I had them to process with Nikon's improved software.