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Help – Lightroom Lost All My Photos!

Lightroom catalog with no photosThis is one of the most common, and certainly the most stress-filled request I get for help. You open up Lightroom, and there is nothing there — all the photos you have imported and worked on are gone. Fortunately, this usually isn’t the disaster that it at first seems to be.

When you are in Lightroom, you are looking at Lightroom’s catalog. You can read more about the relationship between the catalog and your photos in my earlier post, About Your Images and the Lightroom Catalog.  In a nutshell, the catalog contains all the information about your photos, all the work you do on your photos, and some snapshots of your photos, but not the photos (original raw files, jpegs) themselves.  If you open Lightroom and it is blank, you have a catalog with no information about any photos, but your photos are almost certainly still sitting safely on your hard drive as they were before.

Assuming you aren’t just starting out with Lightroom, why would the catalog be blank?  It is usually because for one of various reasons, Lightroom forgot about or couldn’t find the  one you were working with, and therefore opened up a blank new one.  Often, in the menu bar you can go to File>Open Recent, and your “real” one will be in the list — simply select it to relaunch Lightroom with it.  If there are no catalogs in the Recent list other than the one you are in (at the top of the list, with a checkmark next to it), then you will have to tell Lightroom where your catalog is. If you know where it is (perhaps you moved it), go to File>Open Catalog, and navigate to it — it will be an .lrcat file. Once you highlight it and click on Select, Lightroom will relaunch with this catalog.

If you don’t know where your catalog is, first check for it in the Lightroom folder within your Pictures folder.  If it is not there, then out in Windows Explorer or Mac Finder, do a search of your hard drive for .lrcat files.  Find the most recent one (based on the Date Modified) that isn’t in your Backups Folder. (Your search will bring up all of your catalog backups — it is best not to work with one of these unless you can’t find your main one.  If you do have to work with a backup, copy it out of your backups folder first — perhaps into a folder called “Main Lightroom Catalog”.)  Once you find the catalog in Mac Finder or Windows Explorer, a quick way to launch Lightroom with it is to double-click on it.

So that Lightroom always opens with the correct catalog, once you open Lightroom with the correct catalog, go to Lightroom>Preferences (Edit>Preferences on a PC), and on the General tab under When starting up use this catalog, choose your main catalog from the list in the dropdown (rather than load most recent).

The most common scenario that leads to this issue is when users move their Lightroom catalog to an external hard drive.  In this post on moving your Lightroom catalog you will find information on how to to accomplish this so that Lightroom knows to look for the catalog there.  After you set this up, you must remember to plug in your hard drive before you launch Lightroom. If you don’t, and when you get the warning message you click “use default catalog”, Lightroom will open up a catalog in your Pictures folder — and if there there wasn’t one there already, it will be a new one and will be empty.

Where can you turn if you need more help? I do offer private online instruction, which you can read about on this page. For free troubleshooting, I would turn to — a great community of Lightroom users and experts.

2017-06-28T20:52:11+00:00May 11th, 2012|96 Comments


  1. Nora Swann May 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura, I just wanted to tell you how impressed I am with your video tutorial, I am fairly new with Lightroom and was at a loss, overwhelmed and also often disappointed with instructional material I purchased, I almost gave up and was telling myself (maybe just focus on keep taking “better” pictures) then I found your DVD and website!!! Since then I love organizing pictures and editing and can’t wait to put my hands on leaning Lightroom with your DVD everyday! Thank you also for your prompt e-mail reply to my question and also letting me know about today’s blog. I always look forwatd to your new blog!!! Best Regards!!!

    • Laura Shoe May 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the wonderful note, Nora! I am glad you are enjoying the site and DVD.

  2. Don May 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    That is a great tip. Thanks for posting such useful information. This is a great website and I appreciate your hard work.

    • Laura Shoe May 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Don!

  3. Nanet June 18, 2012 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Everything in my lightroom is missing. I went to open recent and there is only one catalogue and it is empy 🙁
    I tried looking for anything else but not getting anywhere. Can you please assist with what to do next??

    • Laura Shoe September 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Nanet, I am sorry I missed this note back in June! I trust you have found your catalog?

  4. Steve B July 6, 2012 at 10:50 am - Reply

    I use a windows 7 based laptop as a secondary backup to store my photos with Lightroom with an external hard-drive. For some reason windows 7 occasionally reassigns drive letters and all Lightroom photos disappear. I followed your directions and all my photos reappeared instantly. Thanks Laura you saved me hours of work.

  5. Florence 17 August 15, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

    Hi, thank you for your very clear explanation, I have moved my LR catalog to an external hard drive – and often forget to connect before opening LR – I won’t be making that mistake again!

    My problem today is also due to stupidity! I downloaded the photos on my card into LR but forgot to download them into my Photoshop catalog. And I have now formatted the card. Is there a way to transfer the images – about 30 – from LR to PS without opening each one individually ?

    Thanks again!

    • Laura Shoe August 18, 2012 at 8:53 am - Reply

      Hi Florence, Photoshop doesn’t have a catalog — Photoshop and Bridge simply browse and show you what is on your hard drive. There is therefore no need to do any special import — anytime you use Bridge or go to File>Open in PS, and navigate to where you put your photos when you downloaded them using LR, they will show.

  6. Mike M August 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for these informative posts.I’m new to Lightroom & at some point (not sure how it happened) 1 of my backup catalog became my main catalog & I’ve been using that. Not sure if I should keep doing this or
    is it as simple as moving this backup out of the “Backups” folder & renaming it “Main Lightroom catalog” as you describe above? I have ~1600 images in Lightroom & was hoping to avoid re-importing everything & starting over! Thanks a million

    • Laura Shoe August 27, 2012 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Hi Mike, I would do as you suggest — move it and rename it. Move and rename the previews file/folder as well. I tell users never to go into the individual backup date folders — because it is easy to accidentally double-click on the backup catalog file, launch Lightroom with it, and not realize you are working out of a backup.

  7. Hayley Redfern August 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    OMG, thank you so much for whoever made this page. I was really stressing thinking all my photos had GONE that I had worked on for a Wedding. Followed the above and they appeared again. Thank you. xx.

    • Laura Shoe September 7, 2012 at 10:32 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Hayley!

  8. Kim November 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    HELP! I have read and followed your directions over and over again. I can pull up my backups but not the images themselves. I know this is because we installed an external hard drive on our network (not directly plugged in to the computer). I have been working on fixing this for over a week and am getting no where. Do you have any other instructions for me?

    • Laura Shoe November 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Kim, when you go to Find Missing Folder, why can’t you pull up the images … is it because they are on the external drive, and you do not see the external drive in the dialog that comes up? If this is the case, I wonder if you can see the drive outside of Lightroom using Mac Finder or Windows Explorer … if not, it may be a permissions issue.

  9. Lori December 13, 2012 at 2:26 am - Reply

    I have too many images on my laptop and have copied them to an external hard drive. I am going to delete my photos from my laptop. How do I direct Lightroom 3.6 to find the photos in a new location? and.. do I move the catalog to the external drive with the photos or does it stay on the laptop?

    Once I get this worked out.. I will be installing LR4… but in the meantime I need LR3.6 to remain functional until I am ready to switch to LR4.

    thank you for any help/advice

    • Laura Shoe December 13, 2012 at 11:44 am - Reply

      Hi Lori, to tell LR to look at the versions on the external drive, right-click on the highest level folder that you have copied, and choose Update Folder Location. Choose the folder on the external drive.

      You can leave the catalog on your internal drive (it will most likely run faster from there), or you can move it. Here’s a post on moving a catalog:

      Enjoy Lightroom 4 – it really does have some great enhancements. (And consider my two Lightroom 4 video series, The Fundamentals & Beyond, and Producing Great Output, if you would like training! 🙂

  10. Rachael December 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Hi – I have backed up my lightroom work each week throughout the last month – onto my computer hard drive not my external. Today my external has crashed and I felt relieved I had backed up my files. But when I open the Lightroom back up folders it says there is information there – but I only get grey squares in Lightroom????? I have tried countless things today on the internet forums -and nothing is working to bring up the files. Help??? Please???

  11. Kaitlin March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Hi I have a problem I was hoping you could help me with,
    I was importing photos into lightroom using an sd card reader. Some of the photos uploaded then there was an import error. ALL the photos have been erased from the card and I can’t find the rest on the computer. What happened and are they hiding anywhere? Can I recover them at all?
    Thank you

    • Laura Shoe March 17, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

      Hi Kaitlin, I’d suggest posting this question on Don’t reuse your card in the meantime.

  12. bob brannon March 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm - Reply

    Liked your article on LR. Here’s a question that has me stumped! I backup my LR catalog and photos of course. However, my iMAC recently crashed. I use my mac as a photo dedicated computer. When I went to by external hard disk to reestablish my catalog and photos, all my photos appeared but with quesion marks attacked to each one. I cannot locate the originals because they are gone. Do you think they are still on the hard drive somewhere? If not, what is the point of backing up copies of the originals when they cannot be used.

    • Laura Shoe March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Bob, assuming that the backups of your photos are in the same folder structure as the originals were, in LR, in the Folders panel, right-click on the highest level folder with a ?, and choose Find Missing Folder. Navigate to that same folder on the external drive and select it.

  13. Ivan Boden April 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    This happened to me. Then I realized it was filtering based on flagged images. Go to the bottom right where the filter menu is. Turn off all filters. You’re photos will magically re-appear!

    • Laura Shoe April 8, 2013 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Good point, Ivan – thank you for the comment!

  14. Dave Cummings May 21, 2013 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Thank you. Simple, to the point, and correct! You’re now my “go-to” for all Lightroom.

  15. Randy July 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply


    I am using Lightroom 4
    I completed an import of a ton of pictures
    took my SD card out
    deleted everything on my SD card
    next time i opened Lightroom, it says all the pictures are missing and i cant locate them because they are no longer on my SD card.

    ANy advice is great! thank you

    • Laura Shoe August 1, 2013 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Hi Randy, I am sorry to hear this. Usually with a memory card, Lightroom forces you to choose Copy in the top center of the import dialog, so that your photos are copied to your hard drive. Were you using some type of non-conventional card reader that Lightroom possibly thought was a hard drive? If so, you probably had “Add” chosen in the top center of the import dialog, so Lightroom just referenced the photos were they were on the card.

      If you haven’t already, I would check into software online that allows you to recover lost data from cards. Alternatively, you could at least recover any JPEG previews that Lightroom created during the import. Here’s an article:

  16. Dana August 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    My main hard drive has been full for quite some time, and since I didn’t have time to sort through tens of thousands of files to find things I could delete, I opted to move some to a secondary hard drive. Among the files I chose to move were my Lightroom catalogs and backups. Well, I didn’t realize I would create a big mess for myself. Because my hard drive had been maxed out for quite some time, the most recent backup I had done was November 2012…nearly 9 months ago! I had imported and edited hundreds, if not thousands of pictures, and created a rather important quick collection that seemed to all be lost due to my moving before thinking! Thanks to this post, I was able to find the correct catalog through my Mac finder and have saved myself many, many hours of redoing what I thought was lost! THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

    • Laura Shoe August 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm - Reply

      I’m happy to hear that the article came through for you, Dana!!

  17. Stephanie September 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    PLEASE HELP!!! I am using LR3… NO external HD… I import straight into LR from my CF card, yesterday after importing, my CF card was ejected, I took card out of reader, then place back into my camera. I formatted my card, because I had another event… I went to edit my pics this morning and my pictures from the last import are missing… no backup was done, because I hadn’t closed the LR program. I am on a Mac… Can my pics be found?!? Thanks so much!!

    FYI: I will be buying an external hard drive in the future… how can I save what’s in LR now to it?!?

    Thanks again!!

    • Laura Shoe September 23, 2013 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Stephanie, if your photos are missing (meaning they have question marks on them (LR 4) or exclamation points (!) (LR 5), and if in the Folders panel it shows them as being on the memory card rather than on your Mac HD, then in fact it sounds like they are gone.

      This would be very unusual, however — normally in the Import dialog, with a memory card LR defaults to Copy in the top center, and forces you to copy them to your HD, rather than allowing you to choose Add and leave them on the memory card. I wonder instead if when you mean “missing” there is really something else going on. Perhaps you can provide more info on what you mean by missing.

      • Stephanie September 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

        I am using LR 3… I can’t find them on my Mac HD… I have no clue where to look for them… I guess they are gone 🙁 When I click on image, I get this message…

        “DSC_8715.NEF” could not be used because the original file could not be found. Would you like to locate it?
        Previous location: /Volumes/NIKON D700/DCIM/103ND700/DSC_8715.NEF

        • Laura Shoe September 28, 2013 at 2:21 pm - Reply

          This is a different issue, Stephanie. If they are not on your hard drive, you must have deleted them. If they are still there and Lightroom is displaying that message, then check out this post on finding missing photos.

  18. Kayla Wiley November 18, 2013 at 11:25 am - Reply

    So I was working on my pictures in LR, it shut down and when I tried to get back in, it said there was a catalog error and that I need to make a new folder so it could open. One click here and there, don’t know what happened but it finally re-opened LR and all my photos were gone. I have followed the instructions and still can’t find my photos on my external or on my laptop. I am totally freaking out!

    • Kayla Wiley November 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm - Reply

      My husband recovered my images. Thank you!

  19. Maureen J May 4, 2014 at 8:02 am - Reply

    What a GEM your site is! I found it while searching for an answer to where my pictures went (I found them right where you said they’d be) and am here to stay. As a LR5 newbie all I can say is thank you!!!

    • Laura Shoe May 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the note, Maureen – I’m glad you are enjoying it!

  20. Allison McLean July 13, 2014 at 1:09 am - Reply

    Hi, Laura! THIS WORKED!!! My old PC died and I guess that on the new PC that Lightroom wasn’t pointing at the lrcat. O.M.G. You rock! 🙂

    • Laura Shoe July 15, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Awesome, Allison! 🙂

  21. Jeri September 3, 2014 at 10:31 am - Reply

    This is so timely for me as I just dealt with a catalog problem. I too love your DVD Fundamentals and Beyond. I’m new to LR and have so much to learn. I think it will take patience and progress and for me to learn it, but I am committed to doing so with the help of great teachers such as yourself.

    • Laura Shoe September 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      I’m happy to hear it, Jeri!

  22. Dan Villeneuve September 7, 2014 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    I have LR4.. I accidently opened an old backup.. I was working on a bunch of pictures for the last few days and had not saved them.. Ever since, in the catalog “All Photographs” i don’t have all the last pictures.. Yesterday I had 2200 pics and ever since i have 1900 pictures.. What can I do to have them back?.. Thank you for your help..

    • Laura Shoe September 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm - Reply

      I’m sorry I missed your question, Dan. Hopefully you have resolved this by finding your main .lrcat file and double-clicking on it to launch Lightroom with it. In Lightroom it will usually show under File>Open Recent.

  23. alberto November 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Laura, you are life safer, as I was going bonkers as I bought an external hd and all hell broke loose. Your advice was solid, well written and most appreciated……


  24. Craig Holtz January 10, 2015 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Woke up this morning. Booted up my iMac, opened LR, and no photos. Talk about freaking out; I’m glad no on was home. I Googled a fix, saw your post, and found my photos. I have now signed up for your e-mails. Thank you very much for bringing my blood pressure down.

    • Laura Shoe January 17, 2015 at 8:54 am - Reply

      I’m glad to hear it, Craig!

  25. Gala February 27, 2015 at 6:40 am - Reply

    I found my catalog but photos are gone, what now?

    • Laura Shoe April 15, 2015 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      That means you are in the wrong catalog, Gala. Follow the instructions in this article to find the one that has your photos.

  26. Andea July 25, 2015 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Thank you! This was very helpful!!

  27. Jessica September 9, 2015 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura, my computer froze up on me while using LR5 and after restarting my computer, Lightroom will not show my catalog, in fact it is welcoming me with a startup wizard and asking me to put my country, my license #, and to register it… I tried deleting my preview cache with no luck. I recently did a plethora of work on photos for a new website and do not have a recent back up of this work. Really hoping there is a way to get LR to recognize my catalog, it seems like it is a problem that can be fixed but I am unsure of what to do next.. Any suggestions?

    • Laura Shoe September 10, 2015 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Hi Jessica,

      You’ll need to go to File>Open, and navigate to where your catalog is (the .lrcat file), and select it. It may also show up under File>Open Recent. Your catalog is most likely in a Lightroom folder in your Pictures folder, unless you have moved it.

      • Jessica September 11, 2015 at 9:00 am - Reply

        Hi Laura, Thank you so much for the quick response, I really appreciate it. I keep my catalog in an external drive and I could see that it was there and not empty due to its size. When I opened it from that location it still brought me to the initial start up wizard. So I went ahead and filled out my country and license# which was already listed in the window and then I skipped registration for now (plus I already thought I registered when I first installed LR). Once these 3 steps were complete, it opened up my catalog with no issue, everything in its place. Just ran a back up to put my mind at ease, but very relieved that my recent work is not lost. I did not come across this scenario in my googling and so glad it was a very simple fix. Thanks again. I enjoy your videos and articles, they have taught me a great deal and will continue to as there is no end to the learning when it comes to photography and post-work. 🙂

  28. Mary fenton November 13, 2015 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Hi Laura
    It 4:30am and I have been up all night fretting. I lost the catalog found it and one year of pics were missing. I went to the backups and found a backup folder located on a second external hard drive OMG I did what you said and copied it to my desktop in a folder named main catalog and doubled clicked on it and voila all my work from 2015 is there and pics are back now I am not sure what to do with this should I back it up to the last catalog I had open with the missing 2015 pics? You are a savior . I was so upset at losing all my hard work now I don,t want to screw up. I am going to bed finally. Thanks for any advice you can offer me.

    • Laura Shoe November 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Mary, continue using your restored backup, and when you get the backup prompt, you’ll back up this one.

  29. Mark Davies November 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm - Reply


    Just to echo the comments made already – you are my hero!
    I thought I ‘lost’ all my photos after upgrading the latest CC LR, but with one click, all is well with the world.

    Thank you so much.


  30. Debbie Maerker May 8, 2016 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Whew! Lifesaver…thank you!!!

  31. Amy June 21, 2016 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Hi Laura

    I was cleaning up my hard drive (mac) but i’m sure i didn’t delete my lightroom catalogue. All of my pictures (lightroom imports, backups and processed pics) are all safe on an external so no worries there. But when i open lightroom now it’s completely blank – not even pics with ‘?’ showing that the link has broken just nothing at all. I have found my catalogue .lrcat file and used ‘open catalogue’ to locate it in lightroom but it’s completely blank still. All the stuff i deleted from my hard drive has gone because i emptied the trash. I have a hard drive backup from before i did this that also has a version of the catalogue on. I tried opening that instead, but still blank.

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated!



    • Laura Shoe June 21, 2016 at 10:52 am - Reply

      A blank Lightroom means you are not in the right catalog, Amy. I’d search your hard drive for .lrcat files and find the most recent one that is large (you’ll see that the blank ones are very small.) If you have been backing up your catalog it will be the most recent one in the Backups folder that is not a backup of the empty one. If you have cleaned these out then you’ll need to restore from your backup of your drive.

      • Amy June 21, 2016 at 11:06 am - Reply

        Thanks Laura. I looked but can only find the small backups, and the old ones on the backup of my harddrive seem to be really small too – i don’t know what’s happened.

        At least i’ve got the processed pics 🙁

  32. Connie Smiley July 5, 2016 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this life saver!

  33. Amy July 29, 2016 at 12:17 am - Reply

    Thanks so much – this article was a definite lifesaver!

  34. Annie January 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much!!! Such a life saver!!!

    • Laura Shoe February 6, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Annie!

  35. Melanie Blair January 18, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Laura,
    I store my image files on an external drive and work on them in Lightroom 6 on my Desktop. This morning I came to my computer to discover my son had pulled the plug on my drive with LR on and when I plugged it back in continued to have the ? symbol on my images with the drive recognized. Well, I panicked as this hasn’t happened to me in years and the only thing I could remember was to retrieve my most recent lrcat file which was from 12/12/16. The images were fine on the external drive just not showing in LR. I tried to relaunch with the restored backup but suddenly I no longer had even the thumbnails showing, it was all blank with the image files greyed out. Eek! I read thru your piece above since you had helped me set up lightroom years ago and went back to Open recent and found the previous proper catalogue and relaunched. hooray at least I had my images showing up but still with ?’s. So I discovered that I could match them up with their files in the hard drive and the entire file would come back under “folders” everything a-okay. Phew..Or is it? I am just double checking that there isn’t anything else I should be doing since I don’t remember the image folders showing up there before and I hope I haven’t made the problem worse. I am afraid to restart LR until I hear from you. Thank you!!

    • Laura Shoe February 1, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Yes, using the Find Missing Folder process is all you need to do, Melanie.

  36. Chelsey January 29, 2017 at 12:52 am - Reply

    I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for this very helpful article… I went from thinking I’d lost all my edits to having everything back in 2 minutes thanks to you and this being so easy to understand xxx

    • Laura Shoe February 1, 2017 at 11:00 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Chelsey – thank you for your note!

  37. Andrea March 7, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you ever so much for this article! It has helped me solve my Lightroom problem in just a couple minutes and I have learnt something new too! 🙂

    • Laura Shoe March 7, 2017 at 8:21 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Andrea – I’m glad it was helpful to you, and thank you for your note!

  38. Katharine April 26, 2017 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    Excellent and clear advice for restoring my photos, thanks.

    • Laura Shoe May 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Katharine!

  39. Christina Devitt June 25, 2017 at 2:48 am - Reply

    OMG you just saved me! All my pictures were gone this morning when I woke up. I am currently editing a wedding and Ive worked hours, this helped me get all my pictures back up, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

    • Laura Shoe June 28, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      I’m happy to hear it, Christina – thank you for your note!

  40. Suzanne Bonanno June 27, 2017 at 6:49 am - Reply

    I lost everything in lightroom! Please help! All my presets and my history is gone…

    • Laura Shoe June 28, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Suzanne, if this article doesn’t help you resolve your issue, then I’d recommend posting your issue on (after creating an account and signing in).

  41. Sarah July 2, 2017 at 8:32 am - Reply

    Thanks! Saved!!

    • Laura Shoe July 3, 2017 at 9:27 am - Reply

      You’re welcome, Sarah!

  42. Leslie Burnside October 10, 2017 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Great article – yesterday all my photos disappeared from their subfolders and the only catalog I had on my hard drive was the current one. Before I tried restoring fro a backup I investigated several menu items.

    I clicked on Library – Show Photos in Subfolders and they all came nicely back into their folders! Whew!

    • Laura Shoe October 18, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Good to hear, Leslie!

  43. Janet Oldham December 15, 2017 at 3:44 pm - Reply

    l work on my images on a laptop with limited space. I house my editing program (Light Room) on an external drive…
    The past year and a half no longer show evidence of images. Are they gone forever?

    • Laura Shoe December 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      I expect that you’re in the wrong catalog, Janet. While you’re not in an empty catalog as this article addresses, this article is otherwise relevant to resolving it.

  44. Amanda January 21, 2018 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    THANK YOU!! I just had a freak out moment thinking all my photos were gone but it was a simple fix after reading this article.

    • Laura Shoe January 27, 2018 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Amanda!

  45. Sarah June 5, 2018 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Oh my gosh, you just saved my life!! Well, maybe not literally, but when I opened up LR and didn’t see ANY of my photos, I just about had a meltdown. It was the easy fix of file-open recent. I am so grateful I found this article with any easy explanation online! I could kiss you!! lol

    • Laura Shoe June 11, 2018 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      I’m happy to hear it, Sarah!

  46. Ian August 4, 2018 at 4:16 am - Reply

    Hi, I backed up LR last night for the first time. I had some problems recently, so thought it was a good idea. No I don’t have any of the previous photo adjustments! In my LR files…cant see “Lightroom” folder. I do have a number of .lrdata folders. There is a LR backup folder in Explorer file tree. What do I do? thanks.

    • Laura Shoe August 12, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Ian, this wouldn’t have anything to do with backing up – so do keep doing that. You need to find your main catalog – go to File>Open Recent or search for an .lrcat file – the most recent one (that is large – not a 1.5 MB one, for example). If you can’t find it then you can open the backup you created and use that – copy it out of the backups folder and rename it, double-click on it to launch, then to always open that go to Preferences and under default catalog choose that specific one rather than “Load most recent”.

  47. Dorothea M Pirolli August 12, 2018 at 11:33 am - Reply

    OMG…..I am freaking out because I opened my Lightroom 4 and all my pictures are gone and I have tried everything you said above and nothing is working. What do I do now????? There were over 30,000 pictures in there!!!

    • Laura Shoe August 12, 2018 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Dorothea, first, there’s no need to freak out, though I definitely understand the tendency. Lightroom doesn’t store your pictures in its catalog, so even though your catalog is empty, you haven’t lost your photos. They are on your hard drive where they have always been. Second, I am 99% sure that you’re just in the wrong catalog and that you just have to find the right one. Please post your issue on the forum on, where you can engage in a back-and-forth discussion, post screenshots if requested, etc. – that’s not possible here. (Don’t just search there for an answer on the forum, post your own question. You’ll need to create an account and sign in first, but it will be worthwhile.) I am confident that this will work out!

  48. Adrian Neville December 11, 2018 at 9:40 am - Reply

    Hello Laura,

    The time you take to deal with individuals is remarkable and even more gratefully received if you can help me with this one.

    My catalogue is OK but a series of day folders are completely mysteriously missing. All of June this year including half of an Italian wedding family holiday. I checked earlier backups but the files are not there either. I have, for sure, downloaded these pictures and played with them.I haven’t done an external drive or cloud back up. They really should be sitting in this desktop mac with all the other shots before and since.

    Any ideas? It’s the weirdest thing.

    Many thanks and best wishes

    • Laura Shoe December 11, 2018 at 8:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Adrian,

      There are two issues here – where are the photos, and where is the work in the catalog. If the photos are on your hard drive but they just don’t show in Lightroom, then I suspect that you were working in another catalog, such as a backup, when you imported and worked on those photos. Then you reverted to your main catalog. Look for a catalog backup that has a Previews.lrdata file in the dated backup folder along with the .lrcat file. Or, they are in LR, but just not where you thought they were – try going to All Photographs in the Catalog panel, sort the grid by date, and look for them (or use the Library filter to search for them).

      If on the other hand they are missing from LR and the files don’t exist on your hard drive, that suggests something different – that they got deleted (removed from LR and deleted from disk.)

      That’s what comes to mind for me, anyway!

  49. Adrian Neville December 12, 2018 at 3:42 am - Reply

    Much appreciated Laura. I fear your second idea is the correct one. The only Previews.Irdata file is in the backup catalog that I reopened to try to find the missing files. And the pictures are not in All Photographs by date, tag or on the hard drive, as far as I can see.

    That’s it really isn’t it? It just so odd that I could have absent mindedly deleted so many files. Never happened before and I can’t even imagine how it would happen. …

    If you have any further ideas I’d appreciate them, otherwise I will get back to you if somehow I find them.

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