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Where Has Lightroom Put My Photos?

I hear this all the time — new users import their photos successfully, see the images in Lightroom and  see the name of their imported folder in the Folders panel, but from the Folders panel they cannot figure out  “where Lightroom has put that folder”.  The folder certainly doesn’t seem to be where they told Lightroom to put it during the import process.

This issue is very basic for those who know what’s going on, but for those that don’t, I know that it is driving you crazy.  Your folders seem to be a total mess, with no hierarchy.

Here’s the scoop:  Lightroom has in fact put your folder exactly where you told it to — it is just not telling you where that is.     By default Lightroom lists your imported folder, but not the folder that that folder lives in.  (For example, my imported folders are for each shoot, and they live in year folders, which live  in my Pictures folder.)   To see this folder hierarchy, right-click (ctl-click on a one-button mouse and then go buy a two-button mouse!), and choose Show Parent Folder (Add Parent Folder in LR 3 and earlier).  In my case, this would reveal my year folder (2009).  Then right-click on this folder and choose parent folder again to reveal the next higher-level folder.  Do this as many times as you need to to see where in fact your images live on your hard drive.

2017-08-02T11:28:42+00:00December 3rd, 2009|35 Comments


  1. Jeff Rush December 4, 2009 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    I can find my photo files but I’m confused about how LR puts them in the folders. First I have imported all of my photographs into a folder within My Pictures. I have started to add them into LR and rename them. I notice LR saves them back to the same folder but with the new naming scheme. Is this rifgt

    • Laura Shoe December 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeff, if you choose “Copy (or Move) and Add Images to Catalog”, Lightroom puts the images in whatever folder you specify in the Copy To and Organize sections below this. If you choose “Add to Catalog without Moving”, the images stay where they were.

  2. » Lightroom Has Put My Pictures in Some Wierd Place – Laura Shoe (Digital Daily Dose) Photo News Today: News and Pixelosophy – more than 33,000 posts December 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    […] and Read More: Technorati Tags: Weird […]

  3. Ed Law September 20, 2010 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Thank you for referring me from the Adobe help RSS. I’m sure it is “basic” but .. My HD is set up as EBL Photos/date/custom/custom/custom and is exactly the way i had it in iPhoto before going through the agony of getting correct copies of the originals to my hard drive in one location so I could again get them organized. In the past I have abandoned LR several times on this one issue. I have no difficulty in the other modules, .. in fact, love them and easy to move to PSE * roundtrip if needed. But, as I am putting together a number of separate “Collections” for different purposes.

    I thought when I imported the into LR the Pictures/LR EBL Photos.lrcat would reflect the same hierarchy so I could then just load the Catalog each day, do my thing sorting into Collection Sets for the various projects and not have to bother with the Folders segment at all except when importing from a shoot.

    What is it that I am not able to get that everyone else seems to vey easily? Hmmm .. please be nice 😉 Apology to all for length but I have fought this for several years without success. Laura has the answer I’m sure.

    • Laura Shoe September 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Ed, it is hard to nail in a written forum how your thinking about LR differs from how it actually works (though I must say that many struggle with the Library module and catalog, so you are not alone, for sure, and I will certainly be kind.) In fact you are correct … if you wish, “I could then just load the Catalog each day, do my thing sorting into Collection Sets for the various projects and not have to bother with the Folders segment at all except when importing from a shoot.” When you launch LR, you are in fact loading your catalog. LR for your convenience shows you in the Folders panel your images based on where they live on your hard drive, in the folder structure you organized the images into. I use the Folders panel a lot — because my folders are photos/year/shoot description, so when I want to work on a particular shoot, I click on the appropriate folder to bring up those images in the grid. If you prefer to click on All Photographs in the Catalog panel and find your photos there, it is ok too, but this would presumably take longer.

      I’m not certain that this will help, because I may be off the mark, but try reading this post:

  4. Kimberly November 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    I have this problem too!! It’s driving me crazy!! I am looking for some old photos that I had in Lightroom and all I can see is the newest photos I imported! I don’t know what to right click on. I am not sure if I used keywords when I first imported them. What are the exact steps to try to find these photos in Lightroom 3?

    • Laura Shoe November 28, 2011 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Hi Kimberly, you are most likely seeing just what you most recently imported because on the left side of the Library module, you are on (have selected) the Previous Import line in the Catalog panel. You can instead select any folder in the Folders panel. If you can’t find the Folder, one option is to click on All Photographs in the Catalog panel, scroll down in the grid until you find them, then right-click on one and choose Show Folder in Library. Lightroom will highlight the folder they live in. If you do have keywords or know when you shot them, you can also do a search using the Library Filter Bar. That’s too much to explain in a comment — look for a future post (and of course it’s in my DVD 😉

  5. jessica June 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    I am freaking out, I am using time machine to back up my stuff, and I was looking for some old photos on it today, when all of a sudden my regular lightroom catalog only has my older stuff on it (from back where I was looking in time machine) where could it all have gone and why would time machine mess with current stuff???

    • Laura Shoe June 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      Jessica, you probably accidentally double-clicked on and opened one of the old catalogs in your TS backup. In Lightroom, go to File>Open Recent, and see if your master one is listed.

  6. raymond April 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    Hi………..I am a beginer and imported most of my photo’s into lightroom and the folder names with number of photo’s showed on the left hand side……………… their gone and its only showig the recent downloads…………………..How can I get them back?……………………………Thankyou !!

  7. Wally Bromberg April 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I can find an image in explorer, and I need to print it through Lightroom. When I try to import it, Lightrooms says it is already imported,but I can’t find it in my library. How can I find it?

    • Laura Shoe April 15, 2015 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      I would look at the file properties in Windows Explorer (right-click), Wally, and find out the date created. Then use the library filter bar in Lightroom at the top of the grid to search based on date captured. For more information, use the search field in the top right on my blog and search for “search for photos”. This should take you to a video tutorial on using the library filter bar.

  8. cat September 6, 2015 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Hi. I have photos in a laptop, and an external drive and now a new computer. I thought I had everything working, but now seem to not have all in one catalogue…. I am going nuts, as I had everything organized the way I liked. Any advice? or should I start all over again (14K pix, not looking foward to that).

    • Laura Shoe September 10, 2015 at 11:57 am - Reply

      If you don’t have all your photos and edits in one catalog, cat, you’ll want to merge them into one. Terry White has a video on YouTube on merging Lightroom catalogs.

  9. Kit Narodick September 30, 2015 at 9:44 am - Reply

    I am a new user. Just loaded Lightroom 6.01. Imported 412 photos from a micro SD card to an external drive. When I go to the Develop Module, all the imported photos are across the bottom of my screen, and if I click on one, it comes up on the screen, with a warning “Cannot find file”. What’s going on?

  10. John Hemphill December 6, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I am trying to clean up my 10+ years of digital images. I mistakenly imported “My Pictures” , everything, into LR CC so I have a folder with 21,000 pictures all together. I’m going through them manually and deleting the culls, which I didn’t do, earlier in my photography life. I have “convert to DNG” as one of my import settings, and thousands of NEF files, also. I think they are duplicative, and to save space, want to delete the NEF’s while I slowing cull and organize my photos. Then I also have some DNG’s that show up in Finder, with no folder name, just DNG’s. I would appreciate any suggestions. I love LR CC and want to do the conversion so I am completely in LR with as little unnecessary or duplicate files as possible. Thank you. JH

    • Laura Shoe December 10, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      Hi John,

      I’m afraid that this isn’t something that I can advise you on here – I would hate to tell you to go ahead and delete files without a complete understanding of what is going on. I’d suggest posting on, where you can get into more of a back-and-forth discussion, and provide screenshots.

  11. Gerald January 26, 2016 at 8:38 am - Reply

    Hi Laura,

    My photos are in my computer somewhere…I would like to move them to dropbox so I dont have to worry about my computer crashing. How can I move my photos to dropbox without messing up where lightroom thinks my photos are?


  12. Bob July 13, 2016 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Suddenly (after updating iTunes ) my 2,000 photos disappeared and i didn’t notice until I dowloaded my next photo shoot now my catalogs only contains the latest down load . I gave been back through my back ups and found the 2000 photos how do I merge the two catalogues ?

    • Laura Shoe July 15, 2016 at 11:50 am - Reply

      You’ll find a video on YouTube by Terry White on merging catalogs, Bob.

  13. Jeff November 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    I am using LR with just enough knowledge to accomplish the basics and today I went a step beyond…. I went through thousands of photos in order to export the ones I want to consider for a project into a new folder I created. So far, so good. What I failed to do, I now realize, is tick the box for Add to Catalogue so I, apparently, was exporting to my folder but not adding to the catalogue. The bottom line is that those photos I transferred are not in the folder I exported them to. Once I calmed down I exported one more with the Add to Catalogue box ticked and, sure enough, it worked fine. So, I know what I did wrong and won’t do it again. What I want to know now is did I just waste five hours of work? What happened to all the files I exported to this specific folder (without adding them to the catalogue)? Surely they went somewhere. It would be a cruel trick if LR let me export for hours knowing that the photos weren’t going anywhere because I hadn’t ticked one box. Personally, I think the box ticking shouldn’t be an option, it should be the default, if that’s what it takes for the photos to go where you want them to go. HELP!

    • Laura Shoe November 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeff,

      Why were you exporting photos? Exporting creates copies, and is usually used when you want to share edited photos with the outside world. It’s uncommon (though not unheard of) to need those copies in Lightroom (with the Add to Catalog option).

      Those you exported without that option are on your hard drive in the specific location that you chose – they just don’t show in Lightroom because they’re not in the catalog.

      • Jeff November 16, 2016 at 3:18 pm - Reply

        I am stumbling my way through the LR world and the new-to-me Apple world, after 30 years with PCs and a decade using ACDSee for file management. I miss the simplicity of File, Save As and Copy to Folder, etc. LR approaches the same problem from a different direction and I’m like a tourist from a foreign culture. I was told to export my photos after I had edited them in order to save them in the same folder in their new, edited, jpeg version so, when I wanted to set certain photos aside today in a new folder I assumed, wrongly, I guess, that I should use the same method. Except, instead of putting them in the same folder I exported to a specific folder. All I can say in my defense is that the Export method is the closest thing I’ve found to File, Save As method so that’s what I use. All my photos are on an external hard drive and I’m exporting a couple photos from each of hundreds of folders on that hard drive to this new folder on that hard drive. Again, it comes back to culture: instead of just files in folders LR has this catalogue business….. I know, I should take your course and learn how to operate this non-intuitive (to me) software instead of trying to feel my way through these myriad passages in the dark. (I did get told how to bring my missing photos into my new folder – I right clicked on the new folder and clicked on Synchronize Folder and all my lost photos came rushing home!)

  14. Carlos October 23, 2017 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Look down at the bottom where there is a left and right arrow, beside it it will say “previous import” click on that and select “all photographs”

  15. MJ Salopek November 1, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    How can I find photos in Lightroom that have been imported once but now when I look at the catalog the photos are not there and the folder is missing. However, if I try to import again, they are greyed out and it says these photos are suspected duplicates. Should I reimport what LR thinks are suspected duplicates? Is there another way to find them?

    • Laura Shoe November 1, 2017 at 5:27 pm - Reply

      They are there in the catalog somewhere, MJ. Click on All Photographs in the Catalog panel, and then below the grid set the sort order to Capture Time, and scroll through the grid to find them. When you do, right-click on one and choose Go to Folder in Library – LR will highlight the folder in the Folders panel that it is expecting them to be in. If the folder has a question mark or the photo has an exclamation mark, use the Find Missing Folder / Locate File process to tell LR where they now are on your hard drive. Definitely don’t them import again.

  16. Michael February 14, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply


    There is more to it than this. I have done or tried everything you talk about above. I can find all photographs, and it even says there are 548, which is about right. But it will only open 66 of them in the grid. The rest are….??? And I can find folders and the tree and it will either show me NONE of the photos in them, or list 78 and only show me ONE of them. When try to import from that folder (again) it shows me a darkened version, saying already imported and I can do nothing with them, can’t check and import again, can’t uncheck, nothing. I have even gone as far as to uncheck the box prohibiting importing suspected duplicates. Every “fix” I read about here, or anywhere else, or directions to right click and choose parent, etc fail. My program does none of what it is supposed to. This is Lightroom Classic CC. Is there something different here?

    • Laura Shoe February 14, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      This article doesn’t deal with missing files, Michael. Watch the second video tutorial on this page for how to resolve missing file/folder issues. Watch the first article for how to reorganize your files and folders without causing this issue.

      • Laura Shoe February 14, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

        Actually on reading your comment again, perhaps I misunderstood – when you said the rest are ???, I assumed that you had question marks on folders or exclamation marks on thumbnails.

        I would suggest posting your specific issue on or the Adobe Lightroom forum so that you can post screenshots of what you are seeing and people can assist you based on those.

    • Laura Shoe February 15, 2018 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Hi Michael, I wasn’t very awake last night. You most likely have applied a filter. Click on None in the Library Filter bar above the grid (where it says Text Attribute Metadata None.) If you don’t see this, go to View>Show Filter Bar.

  17. Stephanie May 21, 2018 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Odd, I have used LR for a while, but have not come across this. I did a session yesterday, 60 photos on one camera, about 20 on another- 2 different cameras so I didn’t have to change lenses.
    I imported the 60 as usual, and they were there. I imported the 20 from the other camera, and now they are the only ones I see.
    I looked a previous import, all I see are the newer 20.. I searched for all photos, I see the 60 images there, but they are grayed out, with ALREADY IMPORTED. I am searching by date, etc.

    I can’t re-import them, because there is no longer an option to import duplicates. (Which I understand, because WHY would someone want to import photos they already imported—except in this case, where I can’t find them!
    I even tried to fool light room, by putting the SD card for the first set of 60, into the other camera, so it would THINK they were new pictures-Lightroom can not be fooled.
    So, here I am expecting 80 photos, and only able to access 20 HELP!

    • Laura Shoe May 22, 2018 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Since you say that they are grayed out, Stephanie, that means you’re looking for them in the Import dialog. Close that and look for them in the Library module. Easiest way is probably to select All Photographs in the Catalog panel (top left), set the sort order below the grid to capture time, then scroll to the bottom. Once you find them you can see what folder they are in by right-clicking on one and choosing Go to Folder in Library.

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