This tutorial is split into three parts. The first
concentrates on assisting Lightroom Classic users who find themselves in
a position were Lightroom Classic can no longer find individual photos or whole folders
with photos. Part 2 describes a method by which you can
safely and efficiently relocate your photos on to a different
disk drive. The third part
discusses off-line storage and how Smart Previews can be used in lieu of original raw photos
to speed up your workflow.
Part 1 - 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 Classic can no longer find/access. This is probably because
it has been moved or renamed outside of Lightroom Classic using one of the operating system tools such as
drag/drop or possibly the Move command. Alternatively, it may be have been as
a result of you moving the photos to an external
disk drive that is no longer connected to the computer (i.e. off-line).
So, what's the long answer, and more importantly - how do I find these
photos and folders?
reasons, not least of which is the fact that Lightroom Classic can be really
slow when moving folders. As such, many users find that it is easier and faster done outside of
Lightroom Classic using the tools provided by the operating system (e.g. Move
and Copy). Likewise, renaming* photos and / or
folders outside of Lightroom Classic will result in the same issue. In doing
either of these operations, the application will very likely lose track of the moved
or renamed folders and photos. This is denoted by
badge on folders and !
badge on the individual photo thumbnails in the Library module (see figure 1 below).
* fixing the issues arising from
renaming folders and / or photos outside of Lightroom can be much more
difficult to resolve than is the case if they're moved. Therefore, I
recommend that renaming folders and / or photos outside of Lightroom
Classic should be avoided.
actually it's a warning - on the Mac platform you need to be
when using the macOS 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. So, what happens if the moved photos were corrupted or disk
accidentally ejected during the
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 found automatically. Unfortunately, the same is not
case when the missing photos are spread around multiple folders. It's
therefore much easier to locate the missing folders and reconnect
Figure 2 - Missing Photo Location
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
missing or possibly been
relocated in a way that Lightroom Classic 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
Lightroom Classic will
open a Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) type window. From
there you can use the Finder or Explorer to locate the missing folder.
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
Classic 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 Classic 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
Up to this point I have
demonstrated how you can find and reconnect to a missing folder(s).
However, what if you really need to move the folder(s).
Tip 3: Earlier I
mentioned that some users, primarily Mac, move folders from one disk to
another 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, the user has no idea whether the
photos actually transferred without being corrupted. For example, moving large numbers
of photos on older drives based on USB 1 and 2 standards is slow and
particularly susceptible to corruption. Fortunately, USB 3 and the more
recent USB-C/Thunderbolt are vastly superior in both performance and
significantly less likely to result in file corruption when moving large
numbers of files. Nevertheless, using Move instead of Copy is still a
risk not worth taking, in my opinion.
Tip 4: Whether
using Mac or Windows I recommend that you do not Move folders or large
quantities of photos from within Lightroom Classic. 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 too many users on
various forums reporting that they've lost photos (sometimes entire
folders or even their complete collection of photos) after using drag and
drop within the application for moving files/folders. The problem usually
manifests itself if the application crashes or stops responding during such a Move
operation because Lightroom automatically deletes folders/photos after
completing the 'Move photos' operation. Unfortunately, the missing photos
will not be in the trash, so your worst nightmare becomes a reality.
The approach that I
recommend is to copy your photo folders into their new
location using the tools provided by the operating system. Doing so will
mean that you have retained the original copy and structure along with a new copy; the
copy being the version that you want to link with Lightroom Classic. 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 Classic 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
the folders in their new locations. Only delete the old versions when
you're absolutely certain that Lightroom is connected to the correct
described in Part 2 above for moving and updating a folder location is
the method I recommend you employ when intentionally moving photos to a disk drive that
will subsequently be disconnected from your computer. Typically,
this may be because the photos are seldom accessed, they're spread over
multiple disk drives or the user will be working away from their 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 Classic will display the ?
badge on folder name. Figure 9 below shows an example where a Photo
Library folder and its contents have been
moved to an external 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 Classic will
automatically find them when the disk drive is reconnected. However, what
if we want to edit the photos while they are off-line?
With Lightroom 5 and
higher it has been possible to make develop adjustments to off-line
photos using Smart Previews. What are Smart Previews?
Figure 10 - Off-line Photos with Smart
Smart Previews are lightweight files that can be used in place of the
original raw files. They are Lossy DNG
files that are limited to 2560 pixels on the longest side and they reside in the same folder as
the catalog, and are contained
in a 'lrdata' file folder structure similar to normal previews. If available, the original photos are
prioritised (see Lightroom 6.7 update
below) 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 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 Classic 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 relaunch of the
application. To create
smart previews after import - in Library, go to the Library-> Previews
-> Build Smart Previews menu command.
Lightroom 6.7 and higher
Smart Previews for Faster
Astute users of Lightroom 5 and
6 recognised that
using Smart Previews in the Develop module resulted in faster slider
response when their original photos were off-line. With the Lightroom 6.7
update Adobe provided a user Preference in the Performance tab that
enables Lightroom Classic to use Smart Previews even when
the original photos are available.
To use this feature,
Choose Edit > Preferences.
In the Preferences dialog,
select the Performance tab.
In the Develop section,
select 'Use Smart Previews Instead Of Originals' For Image Editing.
Click OK and then restart
Use Smart Preview instead of originals
Note that when zoomed into a
photo at 100% (1:1) Lightroom Classic will automatically display the original file
rather than the Smart Preview. This will allow you to accurately
apply the appropriate amount of sharpening and noise reduction to the