Getting the Fuji X-T1 wireless import to work with Lightroom Auto-Import

Fuji X-T1 and Sync'ing with Lightroom Auto-Import

I’ve been using Lightroom for my all my photo browsing and editing since v3 was release in 2010.  Since then, I’ve struggled with how to consolidate all my photos into the single Lightroom catalog since I typically shoot with 3 or more cameras, including my iPhone. Four years later, the good news is that the iPhone problem is now solved due to the great work Adobe did with their recent Lightroom Mobile and new cloud sync.  Every time I fire up the Lightroom Mobile app, it automatically syncs new photos on my camera roll up to the Adobe cloud, which is then available on my PC through the desktop version of Lightroom.  While the workflow is a bit kludgy still, it’s 75% there.

The Fuji X-T1 and Wireless Connectivity

I’ve been shooting with the Fuji X-T1 since mid-February and absolutely been blown away by the camera both in image quality but also the feature set of the camera. On top of that, the Fuji X-Trans sensor truly is magical in its color rendering and deserves all the critical acclaim it’s been getting for the past several years on their X series cameras.

One amazing feature of new cameras is their wireless connectivity, and the X-T1 is no exception.  The ability to wirelessly connect to devices to transfer photos makes it so much easier to share photos, and harness the power of the amazing photo editing apps like VSCO Cam and Lightroom Mobile.   Fuji has apps for both iOS and Android which allow you to get photos easily to your mobile phone, edit and share to your photo community of choice or social media.

One other great feature is to transfer to my desktop PC through their Auto Save feature.  In theory, you should be able to trigger on-demand for new photos to be sent from the camera directly to your desktop PC to a specific folder. Coupled with Lightroom’s “Auto Import” feature, I thought I could get into the nirvana state with a complete end-to-end workflow from camera to Lightroom import with a few button clicks.  Unfortunately, due to limitation with Lightroom and Fuji’s software, this wasn’t possible, but I ultimately found a seamless solution that makes it work.

Adobe and Fuji Don’t Mix

It seems clear that software design is not Fuji’s strong suit.  Both their iOS mobile app and Windows “PC Auto Save” software are absolutely horrendous to use and difficult to set up.  Even worse, each of them lack configuration options to truly customize importing and makes you want to rip your hair out.  2 examples:

  1. In the Fuji iOS app, there’s no way to import all new photos since it saves no state between imports.  It also makes you manually select each photo that you want to import — there’s no “select all”.  Even worse, you can only select a maximum of 30 photos to import at a time.
  2. In the desktop app, there’s no way to configure how the photos are imported in the destination folder is uses.  It always just creates a dated sub-folder for the imports in the format of <YYYY>_<MMDD> (e.g. 2014_0603 for June 30, 2014).

The second issue seems like a minor point, but this behavior is what prevents it from working seamless with Lightroom’s auto import feature.  This isn’t really Fuji’s fault since putting photos into a dated folder seems like a logical choice. Adobe is the real culprit here, since they oddly chose to make the auto import feature ignore all sub-folders in the folder it’s watching.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Even if a subfolder of images appears in the watched folder, Lightroom completely ignores it.  The earliest account of this that I’ve seen is this post from 2007. Since it’s been 6 years and Lightroom still has the same limitation, I’m not holding my breath for them to fix change this.

So this creation of dated sub-folders prevents an end-to-end solution working to get photos from the Fuji X-T1 wireless straight into the Lightroom catalog.

Searching for a solution

The easiest solution I could think of was to periodically manually copying files from the subfolders to the root of the Lightroom watched folder.  Lightroom would automatically import the photos by watching the root.  However, this manual step defeated the purpose of the automation nirvana I was trying to achieve.

Instead, I went looking for a Windows app that would watch a folder for images, then move them to the root of the parent folder so the Lightroom auto import would work.

Enter: Belvedere

After doing a bunch of internet searches, I came across Belvedere, a windows-only tool to help watch folders and kickoff automation for file operations — a perfect fit for what I needed!  It was originally created by Adam Pash, the former Editor-in-Chief of the popular Lifehacker blog.  Belvedere is described as:

“Keep your desktop or any other folder on your hard drive organized and under control with Belvedere, an automated Windows file management tool. Use Belvedere’s friendly interface to create advanced rules to move, copy, delete, rename, or open files based on their name, extension, size, creation date, and more.”

Belvedere doesn’t appear to be actively maintained anymore and the UI doesn’t handle high-dpi mode on Windows very well, but it’s still usable.  After some trial-and-error, I finally got a configuration that works and got me to my “nirvana” state: I can trigger a wireless file transfer from my X-T1 to my Windows 8 PC, and the photos automagically show up in my catalog under the “Auto Imported Photos” folder.  Since I’m using Lightroom’s built-in Auto Import feature, file renaming, presets and develop settings are all automatically applied on import!  I’ll show you how I got it setup.

Folder Setup

Setup the Fuji PC Auto Save to save photos to a specific directory (mine was “e:\pictures\_01 incoming photos”).

Next, create a second directory (I called it “_02 Photos to be imported”) that Belvedere will move the photos to.  I use a second folder to avoid any race conditions that might occur with Lightroom’s auto import and Belvedere clashing on the same folder (although in theory it should work to use on folder).

Setting up Belvedere

After you create the 2 folders, download Belvedere and install it.  When you first start Belvedere, you’ll see a fairly sparse window.   Click on the “+” sign under the “Folders” list to add the folder that the PC Auto Save tool is saving to (e.g. “e:\pictures\_01 incoming photos”).

After you add that folder, you’ll see it listed:Belvedere02

Now we want to add a rule to apply to that watched folder.  Left click on the folder, then click on the “+” sign to the left of “Edit Rule” to add your first rule.

Belvedere02bA dialog will pop-up.  You’ll want to give it a descriptive name (e.g. “Move incoming photos for LR import”) then do this:

  • Add a condition, that specifies the file extensions you care about watching for by choose the condition of “extension” then “matches one of” in the criteria drop down.  Next, specify a comma-separated list of file extensions (e.g. “jpg,jpeg,arf,raf,dng“) to watch for.  Theoretically, we could omit this and just look at all files, but I wanted to avoid copying non-image photos in case a file ever ends up being copied there.
  • For the action under “Do the following” specify that it should “move file” to the second directory you created (e.g. “e:\pictures\_02 photos to be imported”).
  • Under “Rule Options”, you must put a checkmark next to “Recursive“, otherwise it will only look in the root of the folder, and not in all sub-folders.  Since the Fuji PC Auto Save uses dated folders for all imported photos, this is required.
  • Also put a checkmark next to “Enabled“, otherwise the rule won’t be enabled 🙂

Do NOT hit “OK” yet as you want to test this before the rule just starts running!  Your configuration should look like this:

Belvedere03

Go to the import folder and copy a photo there (e.g. “foo.jpg”) then go back to Belvedere and click on the “Test” button in the lower right. This will run the rule, and let you know if it found matching files per your conditions.   If it finds a match, it will look like this:

Belvedere04

You can also test it by putting the foo.jpg file into a sub-folder in that same directory then run the test again.  You should get the same test match screen above if it also finds a match (Belvedere doesn’t show you the folder names that it finds a match in).

Next, hit “OK” to save it.  Your rule is now running and ready for photos to start being copied.

Setup Lightroom Auto-Import

The last step is to setup Lightroom to watch the second folder and auto-import.  Fire up Lightroom, then click on File in the menu bar, then hover over Auto Import then click on Auto Import Settings.  You should configure your settings to watch the second folder, and whatever other configuration you want applied to imported photos.  For me, I apply my custom Copyright metadata and apply custom filenames.  I don’t apply any keywords since I have no idea what the photos will be when they are imported.

Lightroom 5 Auto Import settings

Hit OK to save your settings.

Test your setup

You can test the full end-to-end by putting manually copying an image into the folder, and watch Belvedere move the file to your second folder (“e:\pictures\_02 Photos to be imported”) and then Lightroom will see the file and import it into your catalog with any of the configuration options you applied like keywords, metadata and filenaming.

Optional: Delete empty folders

The current Belvedere configuration will leave empty folders in the incoming photos folder.  you can create a second rule in Belvedere to delete those folders by looking for empty files (size=0MB):Belvedere05

Optional: Configure Belveder to check less aggressively

By default, Belvedere checks folders every 3 seconds.  My fear may be unfounded, but I have nightmares about a service running in the background checking this often, all the time.  I changed it to 60 seconds:belvedere06

That’s it!

Now you’re all setup to have a complete end-to-end wireless photo import from your Fuji X-T1 (or any Fuji X series camera that has wireless photo transfer), and have the photos show up in Lightroom.

It should be completely obvious to you that none of this would be necessary if one of these 2 things happened:

  1. Adobe changes Lightroom to allow it to watch sub-folders within the “watched folder”
  2. Fuji changes the PC Auto Save tool to not put photos into sub-folders

Until then, enjoy your shiny wireless workflow.

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