Jeffrey’s “Folder Watch” Lightroom Plugin

This plugin is a feature-rich alternative (or supplement) to Lightroom's built-in tethering and Auto Import, and also attempts to make up for Lightroom's lack of an auto-export facility. It allows you to run a continuous scan of select folders on your hard disk in the background, automatically importing new images in place, or first moving/renaming if you like.

It can scan an individual folder, a list of folders, or whole trees of folders.

It also allows for automatic processing of imported images, and also automatic export, creating a fully-automatic end-to-end processing system.

As a special case to enhance Lightroom's built-in tethering, it can apply special processing to images that have been recently added to Lightroom.

This plugin works in Lightroom 6/CC (and older versions as far back as Lightroom 3, though some features depend on the version of Lightroom).

The same download works for both Windows and Mac. See the box to the upper right for the download link (in orange) and installation instructions.

Configuration and Use

The plugin is configured in the Plugin Manager:
The dialog shown is as of version 20140721.82; the current version of the plugin is 20160329.103.

When the Enable Scan checkbox is checked, the scan runs continuously, even after the Plugin Manager has been dismissed.

Scan-Related Configuration Items

Folders to watch  —  A comma-separated list of folders the plugin should scan for new images.

See the Common Scenarios section for guidance here.

Also watch subfolders  —  If checked, the scan also descends into all subfolders of the folders listed.

Frequency to check  —  The scan takes some of your computer's resources, so it's not prudent to have it scanning nonstop, so this indicates how long of a pause should be made between scans.

New images only  —  If checked, images found in the first scan are not imported. This is perhaps useful when tethering and are interested only in new images going forward.

File size to consider  —  A sanity check to avoid too-big or too-small images.

File unmodified for  —  If the plugin were to try to import a file as it was being written to disk, Lightroom would get only a partial file, resulting in errors. To help avoid this, the plugin waits until the image file hasn't been updated for some time, in hopes that doing so will ensure the write has fully completed.

Read-only images only  —  Enabling this has the plugin ignore writeable files, considering only read-only files. The lock image feature on some cameras can result in a read-only file on disk.

Special tether support  —  This special option is explained below.

Move/Rename Configuration Items   

Just before a file is imported, you can have the plugin move it to a target folder, and rename it as well.


If you enable the file-move option, the plugin moves images it finds into the root folder you specify. In specifying the target root folder, you can use preset template tokens that reference the photo's capture time, as well as those tokens which don't refer to a specific photo, such as fields relating to the current time. In writing the target-folder template, sub-folders can be separated by either kind of slash (forward or backward).

Optionally, you can then append the name of the watched folder (test2 in the screenshot example above) to come up with the final target folder.

For example, if you have the plugin watch folders named Main Shooter, Sub Shooter 1, and Sub Shooter 2, enabling this option would have images moved to the appropriate sub-folder (Main Shooter, Sub Shooter 1, or Sub Shooter 2) of the destination folder you specified.

Additionally, you can have the plugin preserve any folder structure found under the watched folder, replicating it within whatever target folder the above steps resulted in.


The rename to field also accepts preset template tokens: as with the move-target template described above, you can use tokens relating to the photo's capture time and those unrelated to the photo itself. Additionally, {Filename} and related tokens are also available.

For example, a rename to value of {YYYY}-{DD}-{MM}/{Filename} has new images moved to a subfolder (of the target folder computed by prior steps) based on the image capture time.

Or, you might use a rename to value of {yyyy}{dd}{mm}-{hh}{min}{ss}-{Filename} to prefix the current date/time to the image filename, and then place it within the move-to folder.

You can use either kind of slash (forward or back) to separate sub-folder names.

The plugin always ensures that the file extension remains the same across any move or rename, so you don't have to worry whether you specify a file extension in the rename to field.

You can specify that filenames should be rewritten to a sequence by including ### in the filename, using as many # as you want digits in the sequence. For example, you might use photo#### to have your files named photo0001.jpg, photo0002.DNG, etc. (the file extension will be maintained from the original file on a per-image basis). It's a pretty smart sequencing system, and always picks up from the filename with the highest number in the # location.

The plugin will never overwrite a previously-existing file; conflicts that arise are resolved via renaming as with photo-2.jpg, photo-3.jpg, etc.

Import-Related Configuration Items   

Show splash dialog  —  If you want to be alerted when an image is auto-imported, enabling this has a small dialog pop up for a few seconds. This can be useful particularly when Switch to photo is enabled and you intend to be using Lightroom interactively, to avoid keystrokes suddenly going to the new photo.

Apply develop preset  —  A develop preset you've previously saved can be automatically applied.

Apply metadata preset  —  Same with a metadata preset.

Add keyword  —  A keyword can be automatically added.

Set star rating  —  You can set the star rating.

Set color label  —  And the color-label text (which can be one of the defaults like red, or anything else you like). Once you've got something typed in the text field, the checkbox can be checked.

Set title  —  The image title can be set. You can use template tokens for dynamic text, e.g. Copyright {YYYY}.

Set caption  —  The image caption can be set, here also with template tokens.

Switch to photo  —  If enabled, upon each import Lightroom will switch to the Library view for the new photo's folder, and the new photo will be selected.

If you happen to be typing something into Lightroom when this suddenly happens, what you type will be taken as keyboard-shortcut commands for Library, which could be very bad, so enable the Show splash dialog option if you'll be using Lightroom interactively while the scan runs in the background. The splash dialog kills the keyboard input, giving you a few free seconds to realize what's happening and to stop typing.

Build Smart Preview  —  The Smart Preview can be made automatically.

Add to standard collection  —  Newly-imported photos can be added to one of your library's collections. This can be useful for many things, including automatically sending imported images to the web or your iPad via Lightroom mobile.

Add to Publish collection  —  Newly-imported photos can be added to a Publish collection.

Publish this collection  —  A specific publish collection can be automatically published with each new import, or, optionally via the also publish other collections in its Publish Service checkbox, all collections within the publish service are published.

This option is distinct from the Add to Publish collection because that option works only with non-Smart publish collections, but you may well have a smart collection that you want to publish automatically.

You can choose any publish service for each of the last two options. Choosing an uploader service (such as to Flickr, PicasaWeb (G+), or Tumblr, among many others) can allow for automated from-camera-to-the-web processing.

Alternatively, for local output (or to Dropbox, network disk, etc.), perhaps consider my Folder Publisher and Collection Publisher plugins. Publish Services from other developers should work fine too.

Special Tether Support  —  this option is discussed in the next section.

Special Support for Lightroom's Tethering

Tether support was added in version 20140721.82 (July 21, 2014), and should be considered beta.

This plugin main purpose is as a replacement for Lightroom's integrated tethering support, because Lightroom's tethering offers very little in the way of advanced workflow support.

As such, the plugin's main purpose is to find image files that have not yet been added to the current Lightroom catalog, import them into the catalog, then apply the various workflow support features selected by the user, such as setting a develop preset or adding to a publish collection. In this context, it's presumed that one uses some third-party solution to get the image files to appear on your disk, such as third-party tethering software, Dropbox or the like, an FTP server, or even an Eye-Fi memory card.

However, the plugin does offer a way to work with Lightroom's integrated tethering support, to perform the aforementioned apply the various workflow support features selected by the user step on files that found their way into Lightroom apart from the plugin (presumably via tethering) since the plugin started its scan.

To use this special support, have the plugin watch the same folder that Lightroom's tethering support is depositing files, and turn on the

Enable the Upon Import of a New Image processing for all relevant newly-added images

option in the plugin. Then start the plugin scan, and then start your tethering.

When you start the plugin scan, the plugin will first take the time to note what images under the watched folders are already in Lightroom. Since they're in there before the scan and tethering starts, the plugin knows not to touch them later. (If the plugin didn't ignore pre-existing Lightroom photos in this way, it would apply all the after-import processing to all the images, every time, which could lead to disaster.)

Then the plugin will scan the folders as often as you've told it. If you're using Lightroom's tethering, new files that the plugin comes across will likely already be in Lightroom (having been imported by the tethering unit at the same time it created the image file), but it's perhaps important to remember that any time the plugin finds a file that is not already in Lightroom, it'll import it into Lightroom and perform the after-import steps.

Anyway, what'll happen if you're using tethering is that the plugin will find the new file is already in Lightroom. It'll check against the list of photos it made when it started its scan, and realize that indeed the photo is new since the scan started, and because this special tethering-support option has been enabled in the plugin, the plugin will go ahead and apply the after-import selections such as applying a develop preset or adding to a publish collection.

This is the only situation in which the plugin processes an image that it didn't itself import.

In this scenario, an image can exist be added to Lightroom by the tethering unit and sit there for some time before the plugin gets around to the after-import processing. How long depends on the frequency to check setting, how much scanning the plugin has to do (few files or logs?), and the timing of the tethering with respect to the scan.

Common Scenarios

The plugin can scan folders that are not part of your Lightroom catalog, folders that are part of your Lightroom catalog, or both. It can move/rename files or not, as you see fit. People use the features of this plugin in all kinds of crazy combination, but here are there common scenarios to consider:

  1. Using a drop-off folder outside of Lightroom

    If you have a third-party application depositing files to a drop-off folder (or a drop-off folder that's getting new image files somehow, such as a Dropbox folder being fed externally), you can watch that folder with this plugin, and use the plugin's file-moving options to shuffle the files into a folder that Lightroom knows about. The plugin will then add the image to Lightroom.

    In this scenario, the drop-off folder is generally empty except for when a fresh file has been deposited but not yet processed by the plugin. This is the most efficient scenario.

  2. Feeding a Lightroom folder with a third-party application

    This scenario is similar to the one above, except the folder that new image files are deposited into (via the third-party app, Dropbox, etc.) is already a folder that Lightroom knows about. In this case, you'd probably not want to use the plugin's move/rename options, but just have the plugin scan a folder that Lightroom knows about, adding new files to the Lightroom catalog in place.

    In this scenario, the plugin is acting like an automatic (and richly-featured) Synchronize Folder replacement.

    Because files are not shuffled out of the watched folder, this scenario can become inefficient as the number of images in the watched folder becomes large. One does not generally want to apply this scenario to the entire Lightroom folder hierarchy, or any hierarchy with more than a few thousand photos, because the scan time could get inconveniently long.

  3. Feeding a Lightroom folder via Lightroom's tethering or auto-import features

    This scenario is similar to the second one in that the plugin watches a folder that Lightroom already knows about, but it differs from the other scenarios in that it can work with photos that are added to Lightroom via Lightroom's tethering or auto-import features. Normally, this plugin completely ignores any image that it doesn't add to Lightroom itself.

    This special scenario is available only when explicitly enabled via the option described in the section on tethering. In this scenario, files found during the scan to have been added to Lightroom (by something other than the plugin) since the plugin's scan started are not ignored, but instead get the after-import processing configured in the plugin.

    This can be useful with tethering to do additional processing that Lightroom's tethering doesn't allow, such as adding a photo to a collection or exporting via Publish.

    This scenario is more resource-intensive than the scenario above, so you probably don't want to apply it to a folder with more than a few thousand images (though trial and error will show you if/when things begin to bog down).

The three scenarios are not mutually exclusive... it's possible to have them all apply at the same time (though such a need would be quite esoteric, I'd think). Anyway, they're just common use cases; once you learn what the plugin can do, you can apply it to your needs as you see fit.

Note that regardless of the scenario, there's a special case built in to the scanning: any subfolder named picasaoriginals is ignored. Such folders are a byproduct of Google's Picasa software.


This plugin is distributed as “donationware”. I have chosen to make it available for free — everyone can use it forever, without cost of any kind — but unless registered, its functionality is somewhat reduced after six weeks.

Registration is done via PayPal, and if you choose to register, it costs the minimum 1-cent PayPal fee; any amount you'd like to add beyond PayPal's sliding fees as a gift to me is completely optional, and completely appreciated.

Note: a Lightroom major upgrade, such as from Lr5 to Lr6, de-registers the plugin in the upgraded version, so if you want to maintain registration, a new ($0.01 if you like) registration code is needed in the upgraded version. It makes for a hassle every couple of years, I know. Sorry. See this note for details.

For details on plugin registration and on how I came into this hobby of Lightroom plugin development, see my Plugin Registration page.

Version History
( Update Log via RSS )


Try to work around an issue when moving files prior to import.


Added recognition for a few more video file extensions that Lightroom seems to now support. Importing video via a plugin could potentially be iffy, though, since I'm not sure that Lightroom's plugin structure supports video import in the same full way that Lightroom itself does. Not sure.

Added Russian-langauge support for the People-Support {People} tag.


Work around a bug in Lightroom on Windows that causes the Library Grid filter to be disabled when Folder Watch imports a photo. The plugin now grabs a copy of the filter settings just before import, then restores them just after.


Added the ability to use the photo-capture time when moving/renaming a file prior to import.


If there's an error in trying to import an image (e.g. because it's corrupt), you now have the option to pause processing and see the error, simply log the error, or ignore all import errors.

Added ChildOf and DescendantOf filters to the {Keywords} and {KeywordsAll} template tokens that my plugins understand.

Fixed how custom {People} formatting works with people keywords that have no birthday associated with them.


Added {SpeedKPH} and {SpeedMPH} to the list of template tokens supported by my plugins.

The {People} token wasn't working properly for some keywords without a registered birthday.


Allow the "Frequency to check" and "File unmodified for" values to be as low as 0.1 seconds. Not recommend for most folks, but might be useful for special needs.


Collections with very long names could cause the dialog to overflow the space Adobe allots for it.


Fixed the "SpecPeople:259: attemt to index al nil value" error.


When moving/renaming image files prior to import, look for sidecar files (e.g. XMP, audio, etc..., anything with the same filename except the extension) and move/rename them in parallel.

Added *.FFF files to the list that the plugin recognizes as image files.

Added the ability to keep a log of moved/imported files.


Allow folders with commas in their names to be watched.

Give the UI some love on Windows.


In the POODLE-vunerability dialog, display a raw URL of a page on my site that discusses the issue, so that folks can be independently sure that the dialog is indeed from me and not malware.


Offer the ability to abort a scan if a file can't be imported.

Fix to the date_diff() function supported by the LUA template token.

Plugin could crash when first launched after a Lightroom upgrade.

20141220.90 Fixed a boo-boo introduced in the previous build
20141219.89 Registration was broken on Lr2
20141019.88 Windows Only: Add a one-time check for the POODLE security vulnerability, and alert the user if it exists.
20140923.87 Added the LrMD5, LrLocalization, LrSystemInfo, and LrMath packages to the {LUA} template token.
20140902.86 New build system
20140731.84 Registration fix for Lr5.6
20140729.83 Previous updates broke support on Lightroom 2

Note: if upgrading from a previous version, you may have to restart Lightroom to enable plugin the first time after the upgrade.

New support to process items already imported into Lightroom, to allow automatic processing/export of images brought in via Lightroom's built-in tethering.

Various bug fixes and lots of UI enhancements.


Add the ability to add to any collection upon import.

More Creative-Cloud support.

20140718.80 Using a {LUA} token in the file-renaming template caused a crash.

When moving an image from a watched folder, you can now preserve the name of the watched folder in the move destination, and also preserve in the move destination any folder structure that had been in the target folder hierarchy.

Plugin wasn't recognizing the existence of a re-created "folders to watch" target if the name didn't change.

Fixed an issue with Creative-Cloud revalidation.


Lr5.5 and later Creative-Cloud installs can now revalidate themselves if needed.

20140710.77 Sigh, had a bug in the Creative-Cloud support.

Now supports Lr5.5+ Creative-Cloud Installs.

20140704.75 Sigh, introduced an error for some folks with the rebuild the other day.
20140630.74 Build-system update

Added date_diff() and raw_time_diff() functions to the special {LUA} token understood by the plugin.


Added new tokens to the template language the plugin understands: LrVersion, LrVersionMajor, LrVersionMinor, LrVersionRevision, LrVersionBuild, Location, CatalogName, CatalogPath, OperatingSystem, OS

Added new token filters: NS and LO

20140423.71 Fix a location-related template-token bug introduced in a recent build.

Fixed a bug in the "smoother revalidation" stuff recently added.


The {Empty} template token wasn't working properly.

Make the revalidation process smoother, especially for folks using Lr5.4 and later.


Enabled the ability to import only files marked readonly in the file system, to target images that have been "locked/saved" in camera.

Enabled the ability to include/exclude specific filename patterns.


Disable the "enable" checkbox if a folder to scan hasn't yet been selected.


Fixed an "invalid option '%_' to 'format'" crash.

Turned off most debug logging if the "enhanced debug logging" option in the Plugin Manager is not enabled.


While writing the docs for the new file move/rename feature, I came up with a great(?) way to automatically do sequences. You can now rename to something like "photo-###" to have a sequence number filled in (in this case, a three-digit sequence number).


Fix a bug that would cause certain folder trees to be ignored in certain situations on OSX(!)

Added a move/rename feature.

Moved the status text next to the "enable" checkbox, and made the status text more clear and verbose. Added a countdown timer for the next scan.

20140121.63 Added more debug logging to track down why some scans don't seem to be happening.

Ignore corrupt develop presets instead of crashing due to them.


On OSX, don't consider files/folders whose name begins with a dot (which is the traditional Unix way to mark certain kinds of system-support files that should normally be hidden).

Wasn't properly skipping the "picasaoriginals" folder; is now.

20131112.60 Bumped up the maximum file size to import to 20 gig.

Fixed that plugin could fail to work when Lightroom started in "Select Catalog" mode.

UI was a bit cramped on Lr4 and earlier.

Add a warning note if a file is skipped because it's too new or dated in the future, just to alert you in case you didn't know. Could be useful if clocks are not synchronized between computers and/or cameras. Adjusted logic for determining these things.

20130926.58 Oops, fix a bug introduced in the previous update

The 'Template Examples' dialog had been broken. Deprecated 'Folder' and 'Path' tokens in preference to 'FolderName' and 'FolderPath' tokens.


Added the ability to use template tokens when specifying a a title to apply to an imported image, and also added the ability to set the caption in the same way.


Added the ability to add imported photos to a Publish collection.

Added the ability to have a specific keyword added to imported photos. Might be useful for creating smart collections.

Added the ability, upon new import, to launch a Publish operation on a specific publish collection or service.

Rejiggered the UI.

20130901.54 Added the ability to automatically build a Smart Preview upon import.
20130614.53 Added a bunch more debug logging to try to track down a problem
20130613.52 Better support for plugin revalidation.
20130611.51 Yet another Lr5 update
20130524.50 Apparently, a recent change broke things on Lr2, which some folks apparently still use.
20130501.49 Update for Lr5
20130416.48 Watch for PNG as well (Lr5+)
20130412.47 Build system update.
20130328.46 Fix for the registration system.
20130306.45 More tweaks
20130304.44 Tweaks for per-catalog setting handling.
20130303.43 In Lr4, the "restart on launch" setting is saved per catalog.
20130209.42 More build-system maintenance
20130206.41 Tweak for my registration system

Added the ability to apply Develop and Metadata presets upon import.

Now can have imported photos added to an “Imported by jf Folder Watch Plugin” collection.

Dialog was getting crowded, so split the watch control from the plugin info.

20120913.38 Fixed a end-of-scan "bad argument #2" bug.

The plugin normally won't try to import a file that has been modified in the last five seconds, but now that five-second threshold is exposed as a setting. Also, on Windows, it won't try to import a file it can't read (because a file being filled by another process disallows us to read it.)


Added min/max filesize settings, so that files outside that range are simply ignored.


Ignore any folder with "picasaoriginals" in it.

Added the ability (in Lr3+) to switch directly to an image when it's imported.

20120608.34 Fix an "attempt to perform arithmetic on field" error.

Update to handle the Mac App Store version of Lightroom.

Don't try to re-import master images that Lightroom has a problem with (because they are corrupt, for example) unless the file actually changes. Upon error, report the full path along with the error.


Better report fundamental master-image-file errors that Lightroom encounters.

Tweak for Lr4.1RC2.

Enhanced the send-log dialog to hopefully make reports more meaningful to me, yielding, I hope, the ability to respond more sensibly to more reports.

20120330.31 Update to handle 4.1RC
20120309.30 Had broken registrations in Lr2; Update to the debug logging to better track down timing issues that might arise.
20120304.29 More prep for Lr4.
20120216.28 Added some extra debug logging, and more work for Lr4. Also end a current scan early if "watch" is disabled.

More on the march toward Lr4, including upheaval in the code to handle Lightroom APIs being discontinued in Lr4.

20120114.26 More tweaks for Lr4b

Update for Lr4 beta: explain in the plugin manager that the plugin can't be registered in the beta.


Had issues with the registration button sometimes not showing.

When doing a plugin upgrade, offer the ability to flush all the old copies of the plugin.

Added a system-clock check and reports to the user if the system clock is more than a minute out of date. An incorrect system clock can cause problems with various kinds of communication and authentication with some of my plugins, so I've just gone ahead and added this to every plugin.

20111020.23 Now imports video as well (ones that Lightroom supports), and tidied up the list of image file extensions to try to import to better match what Lightroom understands.
20110714.22 The remote-filesystem-time-is-off detection wasn't working when there were multiple folders to scan.
20110525.21 Some windows folders couldn't be scanned... think I've got it fixed now.
20110520.20 You can now select multiple folders to scan.
20101017.19 The whole display was getting cut off at the right sometimes.
20100829.18 Made the revalidation process much simpler, doing away with the silly need for a revalidation file.
20100820.17 Discovered a bug in my plugin build system that caused horribly difficult-to-track-down errors in one plugin, so am pushing out rebuilt versions of all plugins just in case.

Added all kinds of enhanced folder-scan logging when Enhanced Logging is turned on, to try to track down some issues.

The plugin now tries to detect and adjust for a remote file system having a different clock than the host system.

Added code to allow plugin revalidation after having been locked due to a bad Lightroom serial number.

20100625.15 Yikes, shaking out some more build issues.
20100624.14 Discovered a nasty build bug; pushing a new version in case it affects this plugin.

This version can be registered in Lightroom 3. It can run in Lightroom 2 or Lightroom 3; it does not work in the Lr3 betas.

It uses my new registration system when run on Lightroom 3, which avoids some of the silly issues of the old one. Please take care to note the details on the registration page: use of this version (or later) of the plugin in Lightroom 3 requires a new registration code, even if you had registered some older version of the plugin.

20100516.12 Update for the Lr3 beta.

Completely changed how the one-click upgrade applies the newly-downloaded zip file, in the hopes that it'll work for more people. Rather than unzipping over the old copy, it now unzips to a temporary folder, then moves the old folder out of the way and the new folder into place. Prior versions' folders are now maintained (with the version number in the folder) in case you want to revert a version; you may want to clear them out from time to time. Of course, it won't take affect until you try to upgrade after having upgraded to or beyond this version.

Wholesale changes that attempt to honor the user's locale settings for numeric display (e.g. Europeans writing 3,14156 for pi). I've probably missed some spots, so let me know if you find some.

Fixed up some UI confusion that happened sometimes if the plugin was not enabled and there was no valid folder to scan. A few other small UI cleanups, and a fix that caused the plugin to abort sometimes in LR3b

20100111.10 Re-import a scanned file if it has changed (size or create/modification date). Thus, if you move a file out of the scanned tree from within Lightroom and later add another file with the same name, it'll get imported. I also now report only the number of files scanned each time; folders are not included in the scan count.
20091221.9 Added some heuristics to avoid importing a file that's still being written to disk. Modification times reported to the plugin are a bit imprecise, but if an image file seems to be less than a second old, it is not imported.
20091205.8 Minor internal debugging tweaks.
20091022.7 Added a first draft of some rudimentary support for Lightroom 3 Beta. See this important note about plugin support in Lightroom 3 Beta and Lightroom 3, including future plans for features and my registration system.

Enhanced the one-click upgrade stuff quite a bit, now detecting ahead of time when it will fail because the plugin is installed where Lightroom can't write (if Lightroom can't write to it, it can't update itself). I also added a progress bar, and now download in smaller chunks to avoid 'out of memory' errors on the larger plugins. Do remember that this new functionality becomes available after you upgrade to or past this version, when you then upgrade with it.

20090521.5 Fixed a "loadstring" error some users got.
20090511.4 Now it quietly ignores images that Lightroom can't process. The failure is noted in the plugin log. (It's on the to-do list to expose an "activity log" where this event might be more readily accessible.)
20090510.3 Added a link in the Plugin Manager to the plugin's update-log RSS feed.

Added a "show splash dialog" option to the "upon import of a new image..." configuration, so that you can be informed when the plugin imports a new image in the background for you. You can configure whether the splash is shown, and if so, for how long before it automatically disappears. I've not tested this too much, so I don't know what problems it might cause having a background task (the folder watch plugin) throw up a splash dialog. It seems to work okay, except...

.. if a splash dialog pops up while you're painting local corrections, it'll do bad things to the current brush stroke, such that after dismissing the splash dialog, you'll have to undo the brush stroke you were working on and redo it.

I also realized one other caution: when the plugin imports a photo for you, that import action is added to the undo stack. This happens whether the import is accompanied by a splash dialog, or if it's totally silent in the background. The worry this creates is that if the import happens just before you do a bunch of undos, you may unwittingly undo back past the import and not even notice. The only option I see around this problem is even worse: having the import pop up a warning dialog that it's about to clear the undo stack, and then actually have it clear the undo stack. So, if this is a practical worry for you, enable the splash screen.

I also fixed the home-page url, and the folder-to-watch edit box, which would sometimes show only a partial folder path on a OSX. The report of overall session imports is now red when something's been imported this session.

It also turns out that if you reload the plugin, Lightroom doesn't completely do away with the previous instance, so it was possible to have multiple versions of the plugin running and not even know it. It's a big hairy mess, but I think I've worked around it in this version. The plugin also refuses to scan if it's not enabled.

I also added an option to restart the watch when Lightroom is started, so that you can have it running all the time. Along with that is an option to throw up a splash screen during Launch if the plugin has been set to scan at launch. You can use this to remind yourself that the thing is running.


First public version. Pretty rough at this point. Currently, everything is controlled from the Plugin Manager, which is probably not the best UI. Pick your folder to watch, the frequency with which to check, then click the "watch!" checkbox to turn it on. You can then leave the Plugin Manager and, most likely, open the target folder in Grid Mode (perhaps sorting to most-recent first).

Some random notes:

  • The plugin infrastructure does not allow plugins to do anything with develop or metadata presets, so the imports are plain vanilla.
  • You almost certainly never want to point this at a slow disk, or if you do, have it check very infrequently. Lightroom can seem to lock up momentarily when attempting to access some disks.
  • In the Plugin Manager, while a folder is being watched, keep an eye on the time reported in the "Scan Status". It's okay if the first scan takes a while, but if subsequent scans take a long time, you'll want to scale back the check frequency. How long is "a long time" depends on your overall machine load and personal preferences.
  • Conversion to DNG not yet supported; I hope to add it soon.
  • A Lightroom plugin has only a limited ability to set image metadata, some of which I've incorporated (rating, label, and title). You may want to make use of a Smart Collection that keys off one of these. For example, have the plugin set the title of auto-imported images to "autoloaded", with a Smart Collection of all images with a title of "autoloaded". This way, you can change the title to something else once you've address a particular image. (It would make the most sense to use a special keyword for this, but Lightroom does not allow a plugin to set image keywords.). Note, though, that a Smart Collection can lag behind reality for a few seconds, so if you're interested in seeing the images ASAP, you'll want to leave the target folder open in Grid Mode.
  • The plugin does not yet ensure that an image file is complete before attempting to auto-import it. This means that images that are written slowly by less-than-smart applications may not be properly imported. (They won't be corrupted, just not imported properly the first time.) Please let me know if you run into problems along these lines.

The 30 most-recent comments (out of 94; see all), most recent last...

Firstly great plugins thank you! (picasaweb!)

GOAL:- Import pictures into lightroom with YYYY\YYYY-MM-DD\Name

DATE is from the photos EXIF Data

I did read someone using another tool to pre-create this, but might as well then just use the standard lightroom ‘destination’ | ‘Date Format’ options. Wanted to avoid this manual process and just dump the photos into the watch folder…

Is it possible using the Exif data and not just Todays Date ?


It’s not impossible (I’d have to include a separate program the plugin can call out to to get the date), but it creates a can of worms that (at this point in my work schedule) doesn’t have enough benefit for enough people to justify working on it in lieu of other things. —Jeffrey

— comment by Rob-London on September 16th, 2014 at 3:30am JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink

I’ve been testing this plugin for few days. I have folder (with subfolders) on network drive for collecting pictures. And I set it as watch folder (with subfolders checked). But there is one subfolder (#recycle) where deleted photos are. And I don’t want plugin to check this subfolder. Is it possible to exclude it?

You can specify all children folders you actually want instead of the parent, I suppose. —Jeffrey

— comment by Matjaž on September 19th, 2014 at 3:54pm JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink


I am trying to use the ‘Folder watch’ plugin with LR5.6. A third party software is loader ‘watch folder’ with latest pictures and I would like to apply a preset to these images and export them as jpeg in another folder. Using the plugin, The new images in the watch folder are moved to another folder (as per my settings) but I cannot get LR to apply preset and export the images to another folder.

This is the part I cannot implement. Do I need to download another plugin for this or I am missing something.
“It also allows for automatic processing of imported images, and also automatic export, creating a fully-automatic end-to-end processing system.”

Upon import of new image settings:
1. Apply develop preset – selected one of the available presets
2. All other settings are blank or none including the ‘add to standard collection’, publish collection and publish this collection. – I think this is where I am going wrong. Any suggestion?


Automatic export is via a publish service, either one of the built in ones or one via a plugin. The Collection Publisher and Folder Publisher on my plugin page are popular choices. Once you’ve got the publish service set up to export how you like, you have Folder Watch add photos to the publish service and then “publish” the publish service. —Jeffrey

— comment by KP on September 26th, 2014 at 5:20am JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink

I’m shooting Nikon RAW files and I currently have the plugin setup to move files from a “New Shot” folder to an “In Process” folder before importing to LR5. It moves the .NEF files but not the sidecar .XMP files. I’m a novice shooting RAW. Do I need to move the .XMP files manually or can I just delete them after import? Not sure how LR handles these. I am exporting DNG and JPEG from LR after editing.

I’m not sure how you’d end up with XMP files right away, but the plugin should indeed handle sidecar files, and as of the version I just released, it does. Thanks for the heads up. —Jeffrey

— comment by Eric on October 11th, 2014 at 5:41am JST (1 year, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

thank you for creating this great plugin, it helps me a lot! One important request for me though: would it be possible to detect updated metadata (e.g. star ratings) in order to automatically re-import these files? I think you already wrote that automatic deletions (so actually syncing) would not be possible, but how about using the Lightroom Mobile interface for that? Or is it not included in the LR API?

I’m not sure what you’re asking for, but I’d think that you wouldn’t want to re-import files, just update their metadata. It sounds like Lightroom’s “Synchronize Folder” is what you want. It doesn’t sound like something this plugin would tackle… —Jeffrey

— comment by Mike on December 14th, 2014 at 9:54am JST (1 year, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey, this is more a question than a comment: Folderwatch unfortunately does not recognize Hasselblad RAW files (.fff) to import automaticaly. Am I doing somthing wrong or is it realy not working?

Thnks in advanced for your answer.


I’ve added FFF files to the list. Unfortunately, I have to keep the list by hand, so can add them only when I hear about them. —Jeffrey

— comment by Kim on February 15th, 2015 at 2:11am JST (1 year, 3 months ago) comment permalink

Hey Jeffrey, Thanks so much for your work on this plugin.

I do have a quick question and apologies if it has been covered.

My current workflow is something along the lines of:

Import into Lightroom, Auto Tone, Auto WB, Export to Folder >>>
Import Auto Toned & Auto WB images, apply user preset.

The reason I export and reimport is that the suser presets reset the auto tones work if I was just Auto Tone/WB then adding user preset however the stage of exporting and reimporting alters this as it seens the newly imported jpg as a zeroed image.

So my question is, is there anyway to use Folder Watch to automate this process? Basically I guess, watching 2 different folders and applying different present based on the folder?

Sorry if im not clear, hope you follow

Kind regards

This not something the plugin would do… that kind of workflow destroys the whole “non-destructive editing” paradigm that’s the center of Lightroom’s greatness. Perhaps consider the Relative Adjustments plugin instead. —Jeffrey

— comment by Tom on April 28th, 2015 at 7:31am JST (1 year, 1 month ago) comment permalink

I’m running the latest version of Lightroom CC (2015) on Windows 7 and the “Automatically restart scan when Lightroom starts” check box doesn’t seem to be working. I enable the Scan and check that box, restart and then scan will be disabled again.

Any thoughts on this?

Otherwise great product! Love it!


It sounds as if your Lightroom Preferences file has started to go corrupt. You might try flushing it (see link here)… &msdash;Jeffrey

— comment by Brian on May 30th, 2015 at 2:00am JST (11 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

Running LR 6.0.1 Standalone with Folder Watch Plugin v20150420.94.

I have it set to watch my Dropbox “Camera Uploads” folder, and with LR5 it worked fine for both photos and videos.

Now I get this when it attempts to scan:

Error processing “/Users/chris/Documents/Cloud/Dropbox/Camera Uploads/2015-05-29”

An unknown error has occurred while reading the video file. Connecting to Dynamic Link server failed.

— comment by Chris on May 31st, 2015 at 12:04am JST (11 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

Just an update to my last comment. It appears that importing Video with LR 6.0.1 natively also fails.

Here are screenshots for both the Folder Watch Error and the LR Native Error. Looks to be a problem with LR6, not this plugin.

Could you report this to Adobe? I don’t even know what a “Dynamic Link server” is… )-: —Jeffrey

— comment by Chris on May 31st, 2015 at 12:10am JST (11 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

I’d like to import objects from different folders into different collections (photos into one collection, videos into another). Is that possible?


Not directly, but you might be able to achieve the same effect with appropriate smart-collection rules. —Jeffrey

— comment by Brian on October 5th, 2015 at 8:30am JST (7 months, 23 days ago) comment permalink

Hello Jeffrey, Is this plugin compatible with Ligthroom 6.2 and its new import dialog ? Thanks in advance ! Etienne

It’s unrelated to Lightroom’s import, so yeah, it’s fine in Lr6.2. —Jeffrey

— comment by Etienne Charlier on October 7th, 2015 at 2:52am JST (7 months, 21 days ago) comment permalink

This one is great, too! Of course I import most of my photos, but when I get a shapshot via mail or facebook, now it’s so much easier to get it into LR! Made a folder, put a link onto my desktop and tadaa… it just works. Thanks a lot for this plugin!

— comment by Birgit Engelhardt on October 17th, 2015 at 12:16am JST (7 months, 12 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

This Plugin is very useful for my application.
However, i found that the File “unmodified for x seconds” have some problem. When the first scan, lightroom found the file in watch folder is too new, then it will not import the file. For the next scan, the unmodified time had passed, but lightroom just skipped that file instead of importing it.

I am using Lightroom CC, is it a compatible issue?


There’s a option to ignore files that are there during the first scan (so that you get only “new” files). Perhaps that’s why it’s getting skipped? You might have to send a log with specific details… —Jeffrey

— comment by Fai Chan on November 5th, 2015 at 10:12am JST (6 months, 23 days ago) comment permalink

I understand that Folder Watch will not rename files or setup folders based on the EXIF data, and I think I understand why. I’m posting this comment simply to (a) note that if Folder Watch *could* look at the EXIF data and create file and folder names accordingly (as the standard Lr import process does), I would be delighted and (b) to follow any further discussion about this plugin.

Many thanks, Jeffrey, for this and all of your other work.

Okay, as of version 20160119.100 you can now reference the image capture time during the move/rename phase. —Jeffrey

— comment by Peter on November 12th, 2015 at 11:53pm JST (6 months, 16 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,

This sounds like the plugin I’m searching, so I’ll try later this week. Is it possible to add a special Keyword/Title, depending on which folder a picture is imported from? I would like to organize my Ingame screenshots from different games with Lightroom, so it would be helpful, if I wouldn’t have to tag it each with the game the screenshot is from.

Thank you, Greetings from Germany,

Unfortunately I didn’t build dynamic keyword-adding in, so I’ll add that to the todo list, but until then perhaps you could make do with adding the folder name to the title or caption, which do support my plugin template tokens. —Jeffrey

— comment by fabian on November 25th, 2015 at 7:12pm JST (6 months, 3 days ago) comment permalink

Plugin quit working, it imported 98 of the 1900 files, now it just has a green notice under the “enable scan” checkbox that says ” Checking 1858 entires under [file path]” This on a MacPro running 10.10 trying to import a dropbox uploads folder.

I’ve tried uninstalling and reinstalling the plugin and restarting Lightroom to no avail.

After it seems to be stuck for a while, please send a log and I’ll take a look. —Jeffery

— comment by Mike on December 4th, 2015 at 5:44am JST (5 months, 24 days ago) comment permalink


My simple question is if there’s a way to have the plugin run in ‘silent’ mode. Now it gets interrupted with an error message every time it runs and for example a damaged jpg is trying to be imported. Sometimes it even takes the ‘enable scan’ checkbox. I’m looking for a way to automatically neglect ALL errors, and have it ALWAYS running. I will check logfiles afterrwards, missing damaged files are not very important during background imports.

Thanks in advance!

I’ve just pushed out a new version (20151217.99) that allows you to log/ignore import-related errors. —Jeffrey

— comment by Mike on December 5th, 2015 at 10:54pm JST (5 months, 23 days ago) comment permalink

Here is the workflow I would like to setup.
1. Take pictures on several mobile devices that all sync to same Dropbox folder;
2. auto import photos into LR into folders using YYYY/MM/DD folder structure;
3. Backup photos from LR automatically to backup service (e.g., Google Photos)

For this to work, I need “auto import” to actually act more like the “import” function in LR6. I thought the JF Folder Watch plugin might solve the issue, but I can’t seem to find it. When you import photos manually, LR6 gives the option to choose the destination folder dynamically. In my case, I have re-organized all my photos by Year/Month/Day. With a manual import, this means that the files are put in different folders, as appropriate for the date they were taken (and the folder is created if one for that day doesn’t yet exist).

Sadly, there is no option to dynamically import folders in the auto import dialog (I’m once again baffled by LR including functionality in one part of their programming, but omitting it in a seemingly parallel part). When I am setting up the Folder Watch plugin, I thought I’d be able to do this with the “Before Importing a New Image:”…”Move file to:” option, but it seems that this largely works the same way as auto import (except that it allows possible sub-folders, so long as they exist).

Is there a way to dynamically move images into different folders? (without having to know the folder structure ahead of time from the import source)

The move/rename stuff was somewhat dynamic before, but as of version 20160119.100 you can now reference the image capture time, which seems to be the key thing you were missing. Yes, sadly Lightroom doesn’t provide these tools (to the user or to plugins), so I had to build it from scratch.—Jeffrey

— comment by Peter on December 8th, 2015 at 11:04am JST (5 months, 20 days ago) comment permalink

When I delete a watched subfolder from Windows Explorer, this plugin does not remove the folder from LR. Is there a way to do that? LR just shades it out and puts a “?” there. Thanks for Australia 🙂

You have to right-click on the Folder as it appears in Lightroom and “remove”. The plugin is certainly not going to start deleting whole folder trees from Lightroom just because a folder disappears, as everyone with a removable or network disk would kill me. —Jeffrey

— comment by John D. on December 25th, 2015 at 8:05pm JST (5 months, 3 days ago) comment permalink

After reading more about this plugin it sounds like my use case is not the intended functionality of this plugin. I keep all of my pictures in separate folders under My Pictures. I wanted this plugin to work like Picasa, that is, when new pictures are added/removed from anything under My Pictures that Adobe LR refreshes and I do not have to hit “Synchronize”. I have thousands (probably 10s of thousands) of photos under My Pictures. Do you recommend that I uninstall this plugin if this is how I am going to use it?

Thanks again and great work developing this plugin!

It looks like the Lightroom “Synchronize” is indeed what you want. The root problem with this workflow is that it’s not Lightroom-centric… Lightroom is designed to be the hub where you do maintenance like removing and organizing, so its “Synchronize” feature is sort of an extra “just in case” thing. You’re wanting to use it as a matter of course, and so it’ll not be as convenient a workflow as if you did the maintenance within Lightroom. You can still use the plugin to automatically bring in new images, but it (the plugin nor Lightroom) is not really designed to be used this way, and if you have 10s of thousands of photos already there, it’ll be a stress on your system for it to be scanned all the time by the plugin. —Jeffrey

— comment by John D on December 26th, 2015 at 9:05am JST (5 months, 2 days ago) comment permalink

Hello Jeffrey, would you consider to add functionality to watch currently selected folder in Lightroom? This means the watcher process would have to change directories as user travels through the folders.

This would be beneficial in case, for example, I am editing a file in Photoshop and want to save a separate version of it. The new file is saved, but doesn’t show up in Lightroom – the folder needs to be synchronized first. I don’t need to watch the entire directory structure with all of my photos (more than 100,000), just one changing folder would do. Rob Cole has plug-in with exactly this functionality, but since he disappeared, it is no longer up-to-date.

Thanks for considering this 🙂 Vit

I worry that it would drain system resources to be launching a check every time you changed folders in Library. I also worry about conflicts with what Lightroom is doing naturally, such as the edit-in-Photoshop case you mention: there is a mode where it creates the target file in the folder before the Photoshop edit session, but doesn’t add it to the library until after the Photoshop edit session, and so the feature you propose might get in the way. —Jeffrey

— comment by Vit on January 22nd, 2016 at 7:19pm JST (4 months, 6 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey,
thanks a lot for this great import tool and all the others, Lr wouldn’t be the same w/o your plugins !

I wanted to use folder-watch with a workflow that seems very basic to me, but it doesn’t seems to be supported, or more probably I can’t understand how to set it up

– I take a pic with my phone. It’s uploaded through googlePhotos to a gdrive folder, and then synced back to a ‘phonePhotos’ folder on my mac
– I want to import all new photos in LR, and store photos on my NAS where all my photos stay

I don’t want to move them (because folder is synced back to my phone), but I want to copy them to the Nas while importing, like I do with the native import function.

As there isn’t any “copy” option, it seems impossible to do that ?

Here’s the issue that crops up with that: when you start the scan, which photos should be copied and imported? You’d like to say “just the new ones”, but the plugin has no easy way of knowing what’s been done already. I suppose it could try to keep track, but that seems fragile (easy to break), and the workflow, though it makes complete sense as you describe it, I don’t think is all that common. —Jeffrey

— comment by Arno on January 29th, 2016 at 7:02am JST (3 months, 30 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeffrey. Greetings from Seattle, WA. I’m wondering if this plugin will help with a situation, or maybe I’m doing something wrong in Lightroom. If files are coming into a Watched Folder or via tether, but I’m working on something else, can I keep focus on the work I’m doing? For example, on location shooting in a photo booth with files coming in via tether. My assistant is trying to select, crop, and print images, but when I take another photo it comes into LR and takes the focus away from his work. Similarly, I’m editing one session in the studio while I have other images flowing in via a watched folder. If I’m in the Library with filters on, the new image comes in, takes focus, switches to the import folder, and resets my filter to Filters Off. Is this the sort of thing “switch to photo” or “show splash dialog” would help with? Thanks!

Yeah, if you turn off those things, it should just happen in the background. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the various things the plugin does (import photo, assign keywords, etc.) are added to Lightroom’s undo stack as they happen, so if you’re doing something (say, updating the crop on some image) and then try to undo it, if your timing is unlucky you’ll actually undo whatever the plugin had just done in the background. Unfortunately, Lightroom doesn’t give a way around this. )-: —Jeffrey

— comment by JohnC on February 9th, 2016 at 2:55am JST (3 months, 19 days ago) comment permalink


I have a question regarding the Folder Watch plugin. I cannot enter multiple folder names which are separated with a comma. As soon as I enter a comma into the “Folders to watch” field I get an error message in red right under te field saying “Enter a valid folder path (or comma-separated list of paths). Th error message doesn’t disappear until I delete the comma.

I’m obviously doing something wrong. My path names have spaces in them, but that should not matter I guess.

I’m using the latest version, 20160120.101, and it’s not restricted.


Continue typing after the comma… once you type the full folder path, the warning message should go away. —Jeffrey

— comment by Kent on February 23rd, 2016 at 5:19pm JST (3 months, 5 days ago) comment permalink

Hi Jeff,

I’ve been using the plugin for a while and it’s worked well (I posted way back about preserving hierarchy and suppressing errors–thanks for adding those features). There’s only one thing that has never worked and that’s video. For some reason, Folder Watch doesn’t import .mts files (these are standard AVCHD video format files which Lightroom is able to play when importing through the standard way). I’ve also tried mov files and those don’t import either. Any chance this could be fixed?

It seems that Lightroom now supports a few more video file extensions than the last time I checked, so I just pushed out a new version of the plugin that includes them. But I worry that Lightroom’s video import via plugin is not really complete, since some cameras separate the video stream and the video metadata into separate files, something that Lightroom’s plugin infrastructure (designed prior to Lightroom’s video support) may not support. But give it a try. If the new version doesn’t work, send a plugin log with details about which file wasn’t imported. —Jeffrey

— comment by Sputnik on March 17th, 2016 at 2:40pm JST (2 months, 11 days ago) comment permalink

Hey Jeffrey,

What’s the best way for me to select develop presets for Folder Watch? If I’m working on panoramas I use 1 develop preset, and if I’m working on stills I use 1 develop preset.

Is there a way to install 2 Folder Watch plugins by renaming the plugin folder name, and only use one at a time?

This way I could make sure I use the right preset, and have the right folder path selected for each type of file (still photo vs. panorama).

I’m hoping there’s a less “hacky” way 🙂

Take it easy and thanks for your cool tools!

I’m afraid that I don’t have a good solution for you. What you want to do is way beyond what Folder Watch is intended for. —Jeffrey

— comment by Shawn on March 29th, 2016 at 7:05am JST (1 month, 30 days ago) comment permalink

I saw a comment above about running preset 1 and a preset 2. I also saw it wasn’t available. Is it possible to make a copy of this folder watch, on your end or mine, and simply call it folder watch 2. All of the same set up but one can watch Folder A and use Folder A presets and the other can watch for Folder B and Folder B presets. Is there anything causing two instances of the pulgin to run? Thank you for this app. If I can configure it right I might get two more machines to batch blast my work flow.

South Carolina, USA

Sorry, this is not currently possible. —Jeffrey

— comment by Dan on April 28th, 2016 at 7:32am JST (1 month ago) comment permalink

Here is what I’d like to do: when I add an edited photo to a Zenfolio collection (via your Zenfolio publish plugin), I want it to be automatically exported and published to Zenfolio. Is that possible?

If by “automatically” you mean “after I click the Publish button”, then yes. —Jeffrey

— comment by Nassos on May 8th, 2016 at 11:32pm JST (2 weeks, 6 days ago) comment permalink

I use latest version fo watch folder and LR5 and windows 10 pro.
I set scan to active and auto restart on start lightroom. But the scan is not going to activ after starting LR.
After manual start folder watch all works fine.

Greetings and you have great tools !

I’d think it should work… perhaps send a plugin log after you think it should have scanned but didn’t…. —Jeffrey

— comment by Andreas on May 15th, 2016 at 6:26pm JST (1 week, 6 days ago) comment permalink
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