LIGHToperatingROOMsystem--Part 1

By Gene McCullagh
October 17, 2010

Lightroom does an excellent job of keeping track of your images. But there are times when things don't seem to go so well. You open your catalog and several images have missing file icons or some folders appear to be missing. You scratch your head and wonder what happened.

The simple answer, in most cases, is that you or another application has moved some files and no one bothered to keep Lightroom in the loop. This can cause some confusion, especially when you try to fix the disconnect. So let's take a closer look at how all this works and interacts.

Lightroom keeps track of your images and their locations via a database (the catalog). Your operating system does pretty much the same thing. Location information is stored in some database-like table. The problem is that your operating system doesn't tell Lightroom about location and name changes. Lightroom, on the other hand, will keep your operating system informed about what it's up to.

We'll start with a basic folder and file structure.

You can see this folder and file structure represented in Lightroom. Go to the Library module's grid view. In the left hand panel find the Folders section.

So far so good. If you restrict your changes to Lightroom you will usually avoid problems. If you change things via the operating system then Lightroom loses track. For example, if we mover the three images files from the folder Group 2 up a level to Parent Folder the operating system will show this.

But when we return to Lightroom our three images now have the missing file icon in the upper right corner.

So how do we solve this problem? Click on the missing file icon and Lightroom will present the following dialog.

Lightroom tells you what's wrong. It also shows you the last known location for this file. You can cancel or go on to locate the missing file. Click locate and you will be brought to the next dialog which is a view to your operating system's file manager.

At the bottom of this dialog is a checkbox Find nearby missing photos. Navigate to the current location for your file. If the checkbox is left unchecked when you click Select you will see that Lightroom now knows where this one file is located.

The remaining files in that folder are still beyond Lightroom knowledge. If we go to locate the next file and check the Find nearby missing photos checkbox we see a different result.

Now Lightroom has found the file we pointed to and checked surrounding files to see if any of those match the other missing files in its database.

Finding missing files is relatively easy in Lightroom. The lesson to be learned here is to make changes in Lightroom instead of the operating system. Is that a hard and fast rule? No. If you have a lot of cleanup or organizational work then by all means use the tools in your OS. Remember, though, that Lightroom will not know what you've been up to. That means there will be some work waiting for you when you get back to Lightroom.

We've examined the problem of missing files. In Part 2 we'll examine the problem of the missing folder. Stay tuned!

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