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Must-See Lightroom Video Tutorial: Organize and Manage Your Photos and Folders

As you may know at this point, having the understanding and skills to be able to manage your photos and folders in Lightroom is absolutely critical — the absence of these skills and the consequences that result lead many users to consider giving up on Lightroom. I recommend watching this video instead!

In this video I show you how to reveal your folder structure in the Folders panel, move, rename and delete folders; rearrange, move and delete photos; prevent and resolve those frustrating question marks that occur when you do this work outside of Lightroom; and what can go wrong as you attempt these tasks. Finally, I show you how you can have Lightroom check your hard drive for photos you haven’t yet imported.  This video is recorded with Lightroom 4, but is applicable to Lightroom 2, 3, 5, CC and 6 as well. The video is 26 minutes, so feel free to watch part of it, and come back for the rest – these skills are critical.

Update: This video was recorded with Lightroom 4. Note that where I refer to “question marks on photos”, the Lightroom 5 and CC/6 symbol has changed to an exclamation mark.

This video is just one in a series of 55 from my Lightroom 4: The Fundamentals & Beyond Workshop on Video series – do check it out! Update: Here’s the 5, 6 and CC version.

For higher quality, once you hit the Play button, click on the sprocket wheel in the bottom right and choose 720/HD or the highest setting available. (The videos in the series for sale are larger and of much higher quality.)

Related post: Importing Photos and Videos into Lightroom

2017-07-10T12:00:02+00:00August 16th, 2012|20 Comments


  1. timothy August 18, 2012 at 6:46 am - Reply

    Sounds like I should have this tutorial. Just waiting for funds at the moment !

  2. Alan October 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    In looking at my backup workflow, I noticed that I have the catalog on the wrong drive (internal). How do I move the existing backup to another drive (external) or do I just ignore it and reestablish the backup onto the other drive.

  3. Avery October 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    When you found the picture of “Jim Levitt” and imported it into “Pictures” why didn’t the photo also go into “photos go here”? Pictures had 323 photos and Photos go here had 322. When you imported it from the lower right “import” key shouldn’t it have gone into the year the photo was taken?

    • Laura Shoe October 9, 2012 at 9:34 am - Reply

      Hi Avery, in the Import dialog I chose to Add the photo to the Lightroom catalog without copying it or moving it, so it stayed where it previously was on my hard drive — which happened to be somewhere else in Pictures, not in Photos Go Here.

  4. Roger Atkinson November 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    This is the simpleness and understanding video tutorial to reorganize my folders and files.Laura, you have taken the fear from me doing such.Thank so very much….Roger A.

    • Laura Shoe November 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome, Roger — thank you for the note!

  5. Eimir November 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Laura, I have some pictures with ? sign but I can not find them any where. I try all the methods I know plus the one you showed, I even search file by file in my pictures files and I can’t find them. Any advice.

    Thanks for the videos they are excellent, 250 in the scale of 10.

  6. Sue Be March 17, 2013 at 6:39 am - Reply


    I’ve done the tutorial last night and reorganized my folders. Now my parent folder shows 0 pictures yet the subfolders have pictures in them…I cant figure out why.

    • Laura Shoe March 24, 2013 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Sue, in the menu bar, go to Library> Show Photos in Subfolders.

  7. TC January 3, 2014 at 7:30 am - Reply

    Another very informative and well-produced video Ms. Laura.

  8. skoville September 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    This can’t be as hard as I’m making it. I’m trying to copy images from one folder to another. I ended up moving the images but not as a copy. Can you help?

    • Laura Shoe September 10, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      skoville, Lightroom doesn’t allow you to copy files. This is because there’s no need to have multiple copies. If you are trying to pull together photos for a particular project, use a collection instead. This is a “virtual grouping” – the photos stay in their folders and there is no duplication, but you can focus on that group.

      • skoville September 10, 2014 at 11:50 am - Reply

        Hello Laura, thank you for replying. I think I just need to get used to rating, keywords, and like you said, collections. I have a bunch of landscape images, some have animals in them. So instead of trying to have a separate folder for the “landscape with animals”, using keywords would be a good way to go. I haven’t found out about collections, yet.
        Thanks again for the tutorials.

  9. susan welch April 17, 2015 at 11:57 am - Reply

    What would the folder structure look like if I imported from iphoto? On my mac, all of the file information is hidden under the iphoto or photo icon.
    Thank you,
    Susan Welch

    • Laura Shoe April 21, 2015 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Susan, here’s an article on importing from iPhoto. When you choose to copy to a new location, you can have Lightroom organize them by date.

  10. Mati January 24, 2016 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Thank you for your informative tutorial on organising files. I imported photos in Lightroom 5 and have been using the process you describe. However two of my years are showing empty (0) including sub folders. But the photos are in my LR masters folder in Finder. When I tried to import them, I get a message saying LR has already imported them. How can I make them visible in LR?

    • Laura Shoe January 26, 2016 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Sounds like you have another copy of these files, Mati, and these other copies are already in Lightroom (in different folders.) Note down a few of the file names of the ones grayed out in the Import dialog and in Lightroom, search for these file names.

      If you want to import all the duplicates, in the Import dialog, top right, uncheck “Don’t import duplicate files”.

  11. pat keenan August 20, 2016 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Hi, I’ve just imported many images after watching your excellent tutorial. I see a small black tag on the bottom right of the image.

    What does this tag mean? Many thanks, Pat, Australia.

    • Laura Shoe September 10, 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

      This means that the photo has keywords, Pat.

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