BL Blog

Adobe Lightroom Tips for Beginners: The Island of Lost Files

Tips & Tricks

Seán Duggan is a fine art photographer, author, educator and an Adobe Certified Photoshop Expert with extensive experience in both the traditional and digital darkroom. His Lightroom Viewfinders series provides photographers with the tools they need to effectively take Lightroom on the road with them during their photographic travels. In episode 2, Duggan goes over the basics of finding your missing Lightroom files and why Lightroom loses track of them in the first place.

The Island of Lost Files
by Seán Duggan (reprinted here with permission)

In this episode I pay a visit to the Island of Lost Files to address one of the most common questions from new Lightroom users: “Why are some of my files missing in Lightroom, and how do I get them back?” I explain the reasons why Lightroom sometimes loses track of images, as well as show you how to track down those missing files (even if you have no idea where they are). I also make some organizational and workflow recommendations that will help prevent files from getting lost in the future.

Missed the first episode? Learn how to merge a travel catalog with your main catalog here.
Check out Duggan’s other photo tips over on his blog.

Update Regarding the Lightroom 5 Public Beta:

The Island of Lost Files video featured in this post covers Lightroom 4.x. On April 15, Adobe announced a free public beta of Lightroom 5. The new version offers several very cool new features and improvements. One of these improvements is Smart Previews. A Smart Preview is a lossy DNG file that enables you to apply Develop module adjustments to your images even if the drive where they are stored is not currently connected to your computer. Smart Previews can be created as you import new files, or after-the-fact on a per image basis.

All of the techniques for finding lost files that are covered in this video still apply with the Lightroom 5 public beta. The main difference is that instead of seeing a question mark on an image thumbnail, if a Smart Preview exists, you will now see a black rectangle, indicating the original image is offline. Clicking on this rectangle will bring up the same dialogs shown in the video that enable you to begin a search for the actual file (see below).

If no Smart Preview exists for a file and the original cannot be located, the icon in the upper right corner of a thumbnail will be a small exclamation mark (see below). You can click on this to initiate a search for the missing file. Of course, this is still beta software, so these icons, as well as some functionality, could change by the time the product finally ships. And remember that if you do want to give the Lightroom 5 Beta a try, don’t use it with your main catalog of images. Copy some images to another folder to use as a separate set of files for taking this new version for a test drive.


Thank you for reading this post. Leave a comment or subscribe to the RSS feed and have future articles delivered right to your feed reader. Love BL? Become an affiliate today!
The following two tabs change content below.
Alexandria Huff is a portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Her tutorials can be found here on the BorrowLenses Blog, 500px, Shutterfly, Snapknot, and SmugMug. She specializes in studio lighting. Follow her work on 500px.


  • [...] to see more Lightroom tips? See Duggan’s tips on how to recover lost files, merging catalogs, and [...]

  • [...] to see more Lightroom tips? See Duggan’s tips on how to recover lost files, merging catalogs, [...]

  • […] this Fall in Maine and Iceland. Want to see more Lightroom tips? See Duggan’s tips on how to recover lost files, merging catalogs, sending raw files back and forth, and […]

  • Leave a comment, a question, or show us your work!