Finding missing or moved photos
Question - My thumbnails have a
on the top right corner – what does this mean and how do I remove it?
Short Answer - The ! badge is used to identify a
photo that Lightroom can no longer access. This is probably because
it has been moved outside of Lightroom using one of the operating system tools such as
drag/drop or possibly even the Move command. Alternatively, it may be have been as
a result of the user deliberately moving the photos to an off-line disk
So, what's the long answer and how do I find these
photos and folders?
reasons, not least of which is the fact that Lightroom can be really
slow when moving folders, many users find that it is best done outside of
Lightroom using the tools provided by the operating system (e.g. Move
and Copy). In doing this they will almost always cause Lightroom
to loose track of the moved folders and photos within them. This is denoted by
badge on folders and !
badge on the photo thumbnail (see figure 1 below).
Figure 1 - Library Module
badge on a photo will open a small
navigational dialog (Figure 2). This dialog will provide
information as to where the photo was originally located along with an
option to find (Locate) it again. Clicking on the Locate button
opens a operating system type window from which you can navigate your way to where the
photo is now located. Typically, when all of the missing photos are
located in the same folder you need only locate the one you were
searching for and the rest
will be automatically found. Unfortunately, the same is very often not
case when the missing photos are spread around multiple folders. It's
therefore much easier to locate the missing folders and reconnect them
Figure 2 - Missing Photo Location
actually it's a warning - on the Mac platform you need to be
when using the Move command. I make this point because some users
utilise a keyboard modifier when dragging their folders (i.e. Cmd+drag
folder) rather than a standard Move or Copy operation.
Using the Cmd modifier does move the photos, but it also deletes the
originals. Now, what happens if the moved photos got corrupted during the
process of reconnecting missing folders or subfolders is fairly easy, albeit not that
easily discovered. In figure 3 below you will see a close-up view of the
Folder panel with one subfolder showing the tell-tale sign that it's been
relocated in a way that Lightroom can no longer find it.
Figure 3 - Folder panel indicating missing folder
In figure 4 below I've shown
a situation where all
folders and subfolders are missing.
Figure 4 - Folder indicating all folders
and subfolders are missing
The first step in finding the missing folder
and photos contained within is to open
the Folder "context" menu: Ctrl+click on folder (Mac) or
right mouse button click on folder (Windows). The context menu shown in
figure 5 below will appear - choose Find Missing Folder...
2: Mac users with a multi-button mouse can
use the right button method instead of the Ctrl key
Figure 5 - Folder panel Context menu
open a Finder window (Mac) or Explorer (Windows). You will
need to use the Finder or Explorer to locate the missing folder. In
Figure 6 below I show how I've navigated to the new folder location using
the the Mac Finder. Once the missing folder is located you will need to
select it then click on the Choose button.
Figure 6 - Mac Finder window
Having clicked on the Choose button Lightroom will close
the Finder/Explorer window and return you to the Folder panel. If all has
gone well (i.e. you selected the correct folder and the photos within it
had not been renamed in the interim) the ? badge denoting a missing
folder will have disappeared. Figure 7 below shows that Lightroom is now
reconnected to the folder. Once the missing folder has been reconnected the
! badge will also be removed from the
Figure 7 - Missing folder reconnected
Updating Folder Location
Up to this point I've demonstrated how you can find and
reconnect a missing folder, but there is an alternative, and in my view
much safer approach.
3: Earlier I mentioned that some users, primarily Mac, move folders
around using the Cmd+drag keyboard modifier. They do so because once the
move process is completed the original folder and its contents are
deleted - it's quick, it's easy, and to be blunt it's foolish! It's
foolish because, as mentioned earlier, they have no idea whether the
photos actually transferred without being corrupted. Moving large numbers of photos on
USB drives is particularly susceptible to corruption on all but the most
recent Mac computers.
4: Whether using Mac or Windows I recommend that you do not move
photos or folders from within Lightroom. This is contrary to advice you'll
read in the Help documents or given by many Lightroom experts. So, why do
I contradict conventional wisdom? Well, for as long as Lightroom has been
around I've noticed way too many users reporting on various forums that
they've lost photos (sometimes entire folders or even their complete
collection of photos) after using Lightroom's drag and drop feature for
moving files/folders. The problem usually manifests itself after
Lightroom crashes during such a move operation because Lightroom
automatically deletes photos/folders after completing the move photos
Unfortunately, the missing photos will not be in the trash, so your worst nightmare
becomes a reality.
approach that I recommend is to reorganise your folders into their new
locations using the tools provided by the operating system. Doing so will
mean that you have retained the original and also have a new copy; the copy
being the version that you want to link with Lightroom. Once the folders
are all organised you can relaunch Lightroom. You'll immediately notice that none of
the folders have a ? badge. This tells you that Lightroom still
knows where all of your photos are located (i.e. it's still linked to the
original photos/folders). Next, open the folder
context menu (figure 8 below). You'll see that the menu has a lot more options than the
version shown at Step 1 above. Choose Update Folder Location... In
this example I'm going to update the location of the folder named 'DNG
Edited Photos' along with all of its content folders.
Figure 8 - Update Folder Location...
(Mac) or Explorer (Windows) window will open (see figure 6 above). Now, follow Step 2 above to connect Lightroom with
the folders in their new locations. Only delete the old versions when
you're absolutely sure that Lightroom is connected to the correct
described above for moving and updating a folder location is the method
you should employ when intentionally moving photos off-line. Typically,
this may be because the photos are seldom accessed, they're spread over
multiple disk drives or you will be working away from your desktop
computer. Whatever the reason for moving the photos to another disk drive they all have one thing in common - when the disk drives are
disconnected Lightroom will display the ?
badge on folder name. Figure 9 below shows an example where my Photo
Library folder and its contents have been
moved to an external LaCie disk drive, which is shown in its off-line
state. Notice that like above, the off-line photos are denoted by
the ! badge on top right corner of
Figure 9 - Off-line
the off-line photos is fairly straight forward in that Lightroom will
automatically find them when the disk drive is reconnected. However, what
if I wanted to edit the photos while they are off-line?
Prior to Lightroom 5 it wasn't
possible to make develop adjustments to an off-line photos, but with
the introduction of Smart Previews this has changed. What
are Smart Previews?
Previews is an
all new feature in Lightroom 5 designed to help users with large
numbers of photos that they may wish to edit whilst the photos are
off-line. Prior to Lightroom 5 this meant that the user had to reconnect
the off-line photos.
Figure 10 - Off-line Photos with Smart
Smart Previews are lightweight files that can be used in place of the
original raw files throughout the application, including the Develop
Module. They are Lossy DNG
files that are currently limited to 2560 pixels on the long side and they reside in the same folder as the catalog and are contained
in a 'lrdata' file folder structure. This is similar to the
existing Preview file structure. If available, the original photos are
prioritised above Smart Previews and will always be used when
available. An important difference in how missing photos are denoted
when smart previews are available is the presence of the
on top right corner of photo rather than the ! badge. If
original photos are not available any edits applied to the Smart Preview
and will at same time be saved to the Lightroom
catalog. When the original photos are reconnected the edits will be
automatically applied to the original.
Figure 11 - Smart Preview Badge on Photo
Smart Previews can be created
during or after import, and files having an original and smart preview
can be recognised by a note under the histogram (Library and Develop
Figure 12 - Smart Preview on Histogram
create the smart previews during import - check the "Build Smart
Previews" field in the Import dialog File Handling panel. This checkbox is off by
default and is persistent between Import sessions. The checkbox should
revert to off in between Lightroom sessions. Within Preferences, check
the "Build Smart Previews during Import" option. When enabled, this
will make the "Build Smart Previews" checkbox enabled by default within
the Import dialog. You can still uncheck this on a per session basis,
but it will revert back to the default on Lightroom restart. To create
smart previews after import - in Library, go to the Library-> Previews
-> Build Smart Previews menu command.