Copying Raw Photos from the Camera to the Computer

Autumn reflection along the Clark Fork River
Missoula, Montana


After you've taken some raw photos with your digital camera, you need to copy them to a computer hard drive and place them in a folder that's part of an organized system. If you don't already have a "filing system" for your digital pictures, read my post called Organizing and Backing Up Digital Photos. I would make one update to that post: Instead of saving your pictures to the computer's internal hard drive, I recommend saving them to an external hard drive. Too many photos on your internal hard drive can cause your whole computer to run slowly.

Note to Mac users: If the Photos app always tries to "grab" your pictures when you attach a memory card, open the Photos app and go to Preferences. Under General>Importing, turn off "copy items to the  Photos library." Then quit the Photos app before continuing.

With those preliminaries out of the way, I'll explain how to copy your pictures from the memory card to the drive where you are saving the pictures using Adobe Bridge and the Photo Downloader. 

Start the Photo Downloader

Turn off the camera and remove the memory card. Insert the memory card in the computer’s card reader or use an external card reader. If any other screens or programs open, click the Cancel button.

Start Bridge and from the File menu choose Get Photos from Camera. The Adobe Bridge - Photo Downloader window appears.

Initial Photo Downloader screen

 In the Source section, choose the name of the memory card from the “Get Photos from” list. Then click on the Advanced Dialog button to see previews of the pictures on the memory card.


Advanced Photo Downloader screen

All the pictures on the card are automatically selected by the check in the box below the photo. To choose only some of the photos, click the “Uncheck All” button below the pictures. Then press the  CTRL key (Windows) or CMD key (Mac) and click on the check boxes of the photos you want to copy. To select all the images again, click the “Check All” button.

Save Options

In the Save Options panel, for Location click the Browse button and choose the “Pictures” folder. If necessary, create a year folder (2021) for the pictures. (The screen shots show the internal hard drive. I recommend copying pictures to an external hard drive instead.)

In the “Create Subfolder(s)” list, choose a naming method. Adobe’s standard folder naming method is the “Shot Date (yyyymmdd)”. This creates a folder named with the 4-digit year, 2-digit month and 2-digit day: for example, 20211023 for October 23, 2021.

Since I don't find dates very helpful for locating pictures, I recommend that you choose Custom Name for the folder. Then type a name that describes the subject of the photos along with a date. (See next screen shot.)

From the Rename Files list, choose “Do not rename files”. The downloader does not provide very helpful naming options.

Using a custom folder name with the location, month and year the pictures were taken

 Advanced Options

In the Advanced Options section, DO NOT check “Delete Original Files.” Always keep the pictures on the memory card until you are sure the copy process was successful and you have created a backup.

Apply Metadata

Under the Apply Metadata section, from the Template to Use list choose “Basic Metadata”. Type your name and copyright information in the boxes provided. Then click the “Get Media” button to transfer the images.


Completed Photo Downloader screen ready to copy raw files to the computer
The Photo Downloader begins copying the pictures from the memory card to the folder and hard drive you specified. When it is finished copying the pictures, they appear in a new Bridge window. 
Raw photos appear in Bridge in the new folder
Eject the Memory Card

The last step is to properly remove the memory card once the copying is complete. In Bridge click on the Favorites tab and choose “Desktop.” Select the memory card. From the File menu, choose “Reveal in Explorer” (Windows) or “Reveal in Finder” (Mac).

A new window opens. On a Windows computer, right-click on the memory card icon and choose “Eject”. On a Macintosh computer, drag the memory card icon to the Trash to eject it.

Remove the memory card from the reader and put it back in the camera. Make a backup of your images on an external hard drive. Then format (erase) the memory card in the camera before shooting more pictures.

This seems like a lot of steps! But after you've gone through the process several times, it will be familiar and quick.

In my next post I'll talk about how to perform basic edits to your raw file and then create a copy to share on social media or by email.

Learn more tips about raw photos in my upcoming online class Shoot, Organize & Edit Raw Photos with Photoshop, beginning March 1, 2022. Click this link for details and registration.