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How to import photos on Linux with Shotwell

Do you have a DSLR or digital camera and take lots of pictures? Are you tired of manually importing all of the photos on your camera onto the Linux desktop? If so, you’ll be interested to know about Shotwell: a photo management app for the Linux platform that lets you import photos on Linux from cameras, SD cards and other external mediums refreshingly simple.

Install Shotwell

Many Linux distributions have the Shotwell photo management tool set up by default. However, not everyone uses it, so in this section of the guide, we will be going over how to install Shotwell on Linux.

To get it working on your particular distribution open up a terminal and follow the instructions that correspond with the Linux OS you use.


A relatively recent version of Shotwell is available to Ubuntu users in the primary package archive. To get it going, open up a terminal window and use the Apt package manager.

sudo apt install shotwell


Shotwell is on Debian, and you can install it from the central software repositories very easily. However, keep in mind that due to the way that Debian releases packages, Shotwell is significantly out of date.

To install the app on your Debian Linux PC, open up a terminal and use the Apt-get command.

sudo apt-get install shotwell

Alternatively, if you need the absolute latest, follow our tutorial and learn how to enable Debian Backports.

Arch Linux

Arch Linux is a current, bleeding-edge Linux distribution. For this reason, users should have no issue getting the absolute latest release of Shotwell working. To install it, launch a terminal window and use the Pacman package management tool to get it going.

sudo pacman -S shotwell


As Shotwell is open source, Fedora has no issue including it in their software sources. Better still, Fedora is considered a “current” distribution, so the version of Shotwell it has in its software sources is very recent.

To get the app working on your Fedora Linux PC open up a terminal window and use the DNF install command.

sudo dnf install shotwell -y


Installing the Shotwell photo management tool on OpenSUSE is as simple as it is on most other distributions, given that it’s one of the most used apps out there. To get it working, launch a terminal and use the Zypper package manager.

sudo zypper install shotwell

Generic Linux via Flatpak

Those that can’t install Shotwell on their Linux OS due to no support will be able to use the program via Flatpak. However, before installing the Flatpak version of Shotwell, it’s required that you set up and enable the Flatpak runtime.

Once you’ve got Flatpak up and running, enter the following commands to get Shotwell working.

flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

flatpak install flathub org.gnome.Shotwell

Import pictures with Shotwell

Importing your photographs from an external device into Shotwell works quite well and is very user-friendly, compared to a lot of the other competing photograph management systems on the Linux platform.

It starts by opening the application. As it launches for the first time, you’ll see a message appear. This message will ask if you want to add photos (from the ~/Pictures directory) on your Linux PC into the Shotwell library. Allow it to import. Keep in mind that this process could take a bit of time, depending on how extensive your local photo library is.

When the automatic import process is done, you should see an unsorted wall of photographs in Shotwell. You can then go through and organize them by right-clicking on them.

Import pictures from external devices

One great feature that Shotwell has is that it can make adding external photos from devices like digital cameras, SD cards, flash drives, hard drives, and even smartphones very simple and straightforward.

To import your digital photo library from an external device, start by plugging it in over USB. Then, when it’s plugged in, go to the Shotwell application, and you should see your device appear on the side-bar.

Click on your device on the side to instantly view the photos that are on it. Then, click on individual photos you wish to add to your library.

Note: you can easily select multiple pictures to add to Shotwell by holding down Ctrl while clicking on the mouse.

Once you’re satisfied with your selections, right-click to open up the context menu. Then, choose the “import selection” option.

Import all at once

Aside from allowing users to import individually selected photos from external devices into the Shotwell application, users are also able to import all pictures in one go.

To import all existing pictures from an external device, find your external device in the side-bar and right-click on it. Start importing everything to your Shotwell library by clicking on the “Import All” option.

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