Nov 092011

Newer users often don’t realize that the Folders panel in the Lightroom Library module can be used to rearrange your photos and folders.  Below are some tips for using it.  Note that whatever you do with this panel is in fact affecting your hard drive — you are just doing the work from within Lightroom.  If you do this work outside of Lightroom with Finder or Explorer, Lightroom will lose its connection to your photos, and you will end up with question marks everywhere.


Using Lightroom’s Folders Panel:
  • Before you can move things around, you need to be able to see your folder hierarchy.  For example, if you can’t see that your 2011 folder lives within Pictures, right-click on 2011 and choose Add Parent folder, to reveal Pictures.
  • To move a folder into a different folder, drag it and drop it on top of the folder you want to move it into.
  • To rename a folder, right-click and choose Rename.
  • To create a new subfolder, right-click on the folder it will go in, and choose Create Folder Inside…
  • To delete a folder, first right-click on the folder and choose Show in Explorer/Finder.  Verify that the folder is indeed empty (there may be files in it that are not showing in Lightroom), and delete it.  Then go back to Lightroom, right-click on the folder again and choose Remove.
  • To move photos from one folder to another, select them in the Grid, then click and drag from within any of the selected image thumbnails.  (Dragging from the grey border will not work.)
  • To rearrange photos within a folder, click and drag the image thumbnails in the grid.  Note that you must be in a folder with no subfolders for this to work!
  • To see if there are photos out in the folder on your hard drive that are not yet in Lightroom, right-click on the folder, and choose Synchronize Folder.   If Lightroom finds any, it will launch the Import dialog for you, with these photos.
  • If you have folders with question marks:
    •  If the folders still exist out on your hard drive, right-click on the folder and choose Find Missing Folder.  Navigate to where the folder is on your hard drive, and select it.
    • If the folders and the photos no longer exist on your hard drive, right-click and choose Remove.
    • If the folder doesn’t exist, but the photos are elsewhere, click on the question mark on the photo thumbnail in the grid, and choose Locate Missing Photo.  Navigate to where the photo is on your hard drive, and select it.

Of course this and more is covered on my Lightroom Fundamentals and Beyond: A Workshop on DVD.  Do check it out!


Related Posts:

It’s Time for Some Fall Cleaning: 9 Ways to Reduce Lightroom Clutter

More Fall Cleaning: Eliminating Keyword Duplicates and Misspellings

Help! My Photos Are Completely Unorganized and Lightroom is a Mess.  How Can I Just Start All Over?


  15 Responses to “Reorganize Your Photos and Folders Using the Lightroom Folders Panel”

  1. I have used a plugin for LR3 that imported photos based on YYYY/Month format. I already have photos in that format but within each month I have subfolder based on event names, So 2010/December/Christmas at Mom’s might be a subfolder path. The imported photos using the YYYY/Month format only land in the parent folder not in an event sub-folder. How can I find and select these photos so I can move them into a subfolder? When I click on the parent, all photos in the parent folder and subfolders show. But if I select each subfolder it won’t show the photos in the parent folder by itself. What do you suggest?

    • Hi Bruce, to be able to see just the photos in the folder, not including what is in subfolders, in the menu bar go to Library, and uncheck “Show Photos in Subfolders”. I find it useful to have it checked most of the time, but I do uncheck it for circumstances such as yours.

  2. This blog is great! Thanks for the helpful tips! I have been trying to figure out how to delete folders in Lightroom. (I’m trying to reorganize) I have a Mac and from reading your instructions, it sounded more like instructions for a PC. Could you give a little more detail on how to remove unwanted folders from Lightroom on a Mac? Thank you!

    • Hi Katharine, the instructions apply to a Mac too:

      To delete a folder, first right-click on the folder in the Folders panel and choose Show in Explorer/Finder. Verify in the Finder window that pops up that the folder is indeed empty — by double-clicking on it to open it — (there may be files in it that are not showing in Lightroom), and then delete it. Close Finder, then go back to Lightroom, right-click on the folder in the Folders panel again and choose Remove.

  3. I tried this and the one from Dec10, 2008 on moving Lightroom Catalog and have a problem. I am trying to move photo files from my Mac HD to an external drive due to disc space issues. Following the Dec 10 “How to” I got the catalog to show up as a file on the external drive and Lightroom3 points to it, but none of the photos moved. I tried the method above and clicked/dragged the Folder from the Mac HD to the external folder, but again, no photo files moved. I am almost out of disc space on my HD – what do I do now?? How do I get the big photo files to the external drive, delete from the HD, and still keep Lightroom connectivity and ratings/keywords/etc??

  4. Hi
    I have created a subfolder and moved 73 keyworded photos into it by dragging as explained above but they are still visible in the parent folder.
    What can I do to remove them from that folder so they are not visible in both places?..

    Thanks for your excellent blog and Lightroom tutorials :~)


    • Hi Gillie, they are not in fact in both places, they are just in the child. For the parent folder, Lightroom by default shows you everything in it, and in all of its subfolders. If you don’t want it to, you can go to Library in the menu bar and uncheck Show Photos in Subfolders.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog!

  5. How do you move pictures from one folder to another of more than 2 or more?

    I think I may have put some in the wrong labeled folder and want to move 2 or more images to another folder, but still keep the folder that i accidently put them in. thanks, art

    • Hi Art, first, select the photos: if they are next to each other, click on the first, then shift-click on the last; if they are not next to each other, click on the first, then Ctl/Cmd-click on each additional one. Then drag from inside one of the photo thumbnails over into the correct folder in the Folders panel.

  6. Laura,I use Maverick and just installed Lightroom 5.3. How do I set up Lightroom in the finder window with Crystal’s Lightroom photos being the main folder where all my photos wind up and individual sub folders containing groups of photos? E.g., a sub folder called New Zealand,another called Tahiti,etc.

  7. You, ma’am have saved my proverbial bacon. ALL OF THE THANKS.

  8. Hi Laura,
    I just imported my Aperture library into LR5, and all the images are in the collection section. I want to use the folder section, however, to be my overarching organizational structure, and continue with the same org structure that I used in Aperture. How can I get the Aperture images to be in folders? Is there an easy way to move them there? Thanks!

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