Importing Photos in Windows 8

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Microsoft in developing Windows 8 has not heeded this advise and attempted to make it simpler still. As least concerning importing photos from a camera to a Windows 8 PC this over-simplification has resulted in at best a toy. A toy, to borrow a phrase from Consumer Reports, “not suitable for a child that is being punished.”

For many years Microsoft has provided an outstanding tool for managing, enhancing, and sharing photos, Photo Gallery, formerly known as Windows Photo Gallery. This is still a member of the Windows Essentials suite that is available as a free download and already installed on many new Windows 8 computers.

imageSo what happens when you plug your camera into your PC?

You get a little popup in the upper right corner. imageIf you notice it and are quick enough to “tap” it – that is “click” for PC users without a touchscreen – an option dialog shows up there.

In the illustrations here the title is “D60” – that is my camera. The options are rather surprising. I have Photo Gallery installed on this PC and also Picasa. Picasa shows up but Photo Gallery does not.

Why Microsoft would show a competitor’s application but not their own will not be explored in this article, but that is an interesting question.

The problem is, Photo Gallery is not available as an import option. So what does the “Photos” option do? It searches the camera and then presents all the photos that it finds on the camera.


You can select all or none with a command at the top. You can select one by one the photos you want to import. No grouping as with Photo Gallery, no automatic naming of folders, no option to add tags. You can see that I had 561 photos in my camera. Most people have a lot of photos in their cameras. This app is clearly a cheap toy. Don’t bother with it, it will only make you mad.

There is a way to use Photo Gallery, but it is not as simple and easy as in Windows 7.

Go to the desktop and start Photo Gallery. Then plug in and turn on your camera. Ignore the inane “tap” option. (You can set the AutoPlay defaults to “Take no action” so these will not come up in the future.)


The camera will be recognized and shown in the Devices section of the Photo Gallery navigation pane. Note the screen tip. It advises that you can click the devise icon to start the import process. You can also get there with the “Import” option in the upper left on the ribbon.

The Photo Gallery importer – that fine utility that has served users for so many years – will now run normally, providing all the options that make the use of Photo Gallery such a joy and so convenient.



© 2012 Ludwig Keck


About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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19 Responses to Importing Photos in Windows 8

  1. Technogran says:

    Brilliant post Ludwig, highlighting one of the many shortfalls of the apps in Windows 8. None of them, and I repeat, none of them are a patch on Windows Live Essentials, which they are intended to replace, the Mail app for example is sadly lacking in all but the basics, trouble is that all the poor owners of Windows 8 RT can’t even make use of Windows Live Essentials programs because they won’t run on it! I feel so sorry for them. Nice that you note that Picasa works there……

  2. InLionSk8r says:

    Excellent tutorial! (I had to go through a lot of trial-and-error a couple of months ago to get the same result.) Four additions that may also help some folks:
    1) The code writers of Windows 8 seem to have forgotten one of the basic lessons learned from mistakes in previous versions of Windows… like the fact that dialog boxes must ALWAYS take the focus when opening, so that users aren’t waiting indefinitely to see one that’s actually already opened… BEHIND a window. And you can bet this one WILL assuredly do just that to you, if you don’t minimize any open windows before plugging your device or memory card into your computer.
    2) Once you’ve followed Ludwig’s tutorial, you’ll find that a new option will have appeared in Control Panel/AutoPlay choices for each item: “Import pictures and videos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)” If you choose that for the default action of your selected devices, the dialog box will appear moments after you connect or insert it.
    3) Be sure to click on “More options” in the lower left corner of the dialog box, as you will want to select the location for the imported files to be copied to, (most people want pix & vids put into new folders created automatically, based on dates they were taken) and you may want to change the other default actions listed, too.
    4) Finally, if you normally want to choose which files to import, leave the default on the upper radio button, then click the “Next” button to select which ones. But if you normally just import ALL of the items, click the second radio button. This will become your default selection and the “Next” button will be replaced by an “Import” button instead. This allows you to give final confirmation of action (in case you want to change your mind during any future imports).

    The final two items represent an improvement over previous versions of Windows, which made it difficult or impossible to control some of these options in a straightforward way.

    • userdww says:

      I installed Photo Gallery but do no see any “Import pictures and videos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)” in the control panel autoplay options. Also, note that the menu of autoplay options for “devices” is different than those presented for “camera storage”. For example, I could choose “View photos (Photo Gallery)” for an item under “camera storage” but cannot for an item under “devices” (e.g. an iphone).

      Windows 8 is for weenies.

      Another current gripe is: Are you used to clicking the start menu, then “all applications” then “accessories” … not so easy in W8.

  3. I agree that the Windows 8 Photo app is sadly lacking for importing images from a camera. Not a problem, though, because I will keep using Photo Gallery! One thing I am missing when I am importing, though, (and which led me to your page during my search) is the option of right clicking my SD Card in the explorer and selecting Photo Gallery as an import option from there. I used to be able to do that on my Windows 7 laptop. Also, I’m still looking for a way to add Photo Gallery as an Auto Play option. ARGH! Why did they take that away!?

  4. Rebecca McCollum says:

    Just purchased Windows 8 (gag) on a Gateway. Old computer hard drive died, but files (including pix and videos) were copied by Geek Squad. But how can I get them onto the “photos” and “video” tabs of the damnable Start menu????

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you Rebecca for asking. The Windows 8 Photos and Videos tiles display the contents of your “Pictures” library and “Videos” library – and some others. So the easiest way is to include the folder where your old photos are stored in the Pictures library, and the folder where your old videos are stored in the Videos library. Since this is a fairly infrequent procedure many folks don’t know or remember how, so I will put together a post over at “Ask Ludwig” – watch for “How do I include items in my Windows 8 Photos library?” Can you tell me where your old photos are on your new PC? (You may send me a private message. Click “Ask Ludwig” on the tab at the top and there click “Send Message” near the top in the right sidebar).

  5. I am trying to move recently imported photos to new files so I can organize them. Help! I can’t figure out how to do this

    • Ludwig says:

      Ha, you fell for the Microsoft Photos app! It is garbage, as you discovered. Go to your desktop, click the File Explorer icon on the taskbar. Proceed to Pictures – you will find your photos, and you can organize them from here. I recommend downloading Microsoft Photo Gallery and use it to organize, enhance, and share your photos [if you need help get a hold of my book or drop me a message].

      • Julie says:

        Just purchased a Sony laptop with Windows 8.1. I too would like to import pics from my SD card and have them organized in date taken folders. We do not have windows live gallery or “photo gallery”. What options to I have to complete this task?

      • Ludwig says:

        Julie, you can install Photo Gallery (Movie Maker will come with it) from – Good luck!

      • Julie says:

        Thank you! What will I do after I download that?

      • Ludwig says:

        The download also does the install. There might be a message that you need to install Silverlight first. Let that proceed, then do the download-install again. Import photos by starting Photo Gallery then clicking Import in the upper left. See the other instructions in the accompanying post.

      • Julie says:

        I was able to install everything just fine. And it seems everything is working and was able to get them into date order. Now I just need to figure out how to get the import box to come up when I put my SD card in rather than the photo gallery viewer.

      • Ludwig says:

        There is a way to get AutoPlay to connect the import tool to an SD card in Windows 8. I don’t recommend it. The most useful way is to open Photo Gallery. Plug in your SD card. Click Import in Photo Gallery (upper left). The SD card should show as a device. Click it and proceed. Hope that helps.

      • Julie says:

        That’s what I was able to do. Will work as a solution for now! Thanks 🙂

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