I hope you won’t find yourself emailing me to say, “Help! All my photos are GONE from Lightroom CC! How do I get them back?”
Lightroom CC Delete ImagesLightroom CC LogoThe new cloud-based Lightroom CC program has a lot going for it: while it’s still light on features, it’s easier to use than Lightroom Classic (renamed from “Lightroom”), it backs up everything for you (assuming you have an internet connection), and you’ll have all your photos with you and you can work on them everywhere you go. However, if you’re going to use it in its current “version 1.0” state, you need to know this:

If you accidentally delete photos – and it’s EASY to accidentally delete photos – they cannot be recovered!

They will not go to your Trash or Recycle Bin and you will not be able to recover them from the cloud – they will be gone FROM YOUR LIFE.  Adobe does plan to implement some type of trash bin so you can recover them for some period of time, but this is not in version 1.0.

It’s important, therefore that you have a backup. You won’t be able to count on Time Machine or a typical backup program because many of your photos will reside only in the cloud (depending on whether in Preferences you choose to keep a copy locally – but even if you do, they may or may not be recoverable from your backup program.)  When you add photos to Lightroom CC, Lightroom CC makes its own copy of the photos, and then normally you are free to delete the originals (whether they are on memory cards or on one of your hard drives). I would suggest, however, that until this issue is fixed, you not delete the originals – just make a note to yourself of what folders on your hard drive(s) and what memory cards you have added to Lightroom CC so you can go back and delete them after this issue is fixed.

Why It’s So Easy to Delete Photos Accidentally

From my experience teaching Lightroom Classic, people often delete photos accidentally because they think they only have one selected when they go to delete, but in fact they have many selected because clicking on a single photo often doesn’t break apart any prior selection. This situation is even more likely in Lightroom CC because:

1. It can be difficult to see what you have selected.

Lightroom CC - Which Are Selected?

A thin white border around a photo means that the photo is selected. However, I have used the vignette function to add borders to the three dog photos, so it’s impossible to tell which if any of them are selected here. Even without photos that are white around the edges, the white border is too easy to overlook.

2. It’s often surprisingly hard to deselect images.

If you have selected all your images, maybe to add them to an album, the only ways to deselect them are to go down to the very bottom of the grid and click on the empty space there, or type Cmd/Ctl-D to deselect, or go to Edit>Deselect All. Clicking in a single image will not deselect any prior selection you had, and this might prove to be your downfall.

Advice: Read Carefully!

Lightroom CC - Read Delete Dialog Carefully

In this dialog that comes up after you go to Edit>Delete Photos, don’t just hit the Enter/Return key to dismiss it!  Read how many photos you’ll be deleting before you confirm the deletion.  (As far as everything else it says, here’s the translation: the photo(s) will be removed from YOUR ENTIRE LIFE (except from Lightroom Classic if you also have them there.)

Lightroom Classic Users 

Lightroom Classic LogoIf you’re a user of Lightroom Classic (the Lightroom program that has been around for years), it’s easy to delete photos, but they should be in your Trash/Recycle bin. Restore them to where they were,  and then either reimport them into Lightroom (you will have lost your work) or revert to your most recent catalog backup before it happened. Next time you want to select photos to delete, click in the gray border around the image thumbnail – this will break apart any prior selection.

Have you deleted or almost deleted more photos than you intended to? Please tell your story in the comments below.