Finding and Fixing Missing Images in Lightroom

The first step to cleaning up your catalog is to resolve any missing images and folders. It’s much more difficult to organize your images when they’re missing…so it’s best to reconnect them before you get started. Whether you can still see the previews in your Library but just can’t access them in the Develop module, or if those images have completely disappeared from Lightroom altogether…we’ll go over the causes for missing files and the easiest way to bring them back.

Here’s what we’ll discuss in the following lesson:

  • Why images and folders go missing in the first place, and what that means exactly.
  • How to reconnect missing image folders and individual images the right way.
  • How to prevent your source files from going missing in the future.

Why Images Go Missing in Lightroom?

1:02What it Means When an Image is “Missing”
2:45Why a Missing Image is Still Visible in the Library
4:18What Causes an Image to Go Missing
6:11How to Tell That an Image is Actually Missing

Click here to read my guide to backing up your images.

How to Reconnect Missing Image Folders

0:45Check Hard Drives First
2:39Reconnect Image Folders Before Individual Images
4:57Always Reconnect the Top-Most Missing Folder First
6:40Reconnect a Folder That Has Been Moved
9:06How “Auto-Relinking” Works for Folders and Images
10:47The Benefits of a Single Master Folder

How to Reconnect Missing Image Files

0:00Making Sure the Folder is Not Missing
1:24Reconnecting an Image That’s Been Renamed
2:11Reconnecting an Image That’s Been Moved
3:10What to Do When You Rename Many Images Outside of Lightroom
3:48Smart Previews and Missing Images
5:17Restoring Images Removed From the Catalog
7:51Synchronizing the Folder

How to Prevent Missing Images in Lightroom

0:00Properly Delete, Rename, or Move the Source Files
1:25Do Not Re-Import Missing Images


ASSIGNMENT: Find and Fix Your Missing Images

Before you start organizing your catalog, you should find and reconnect all your missing images and image folders. This will make it much easier to move, rename, and gather your images into collections and folders….as well as add keywords to them.

The most common cause for missing images is that the “directions” that Lightroom has to them have been changed somehow without Lightroom aware of that change. Follow the steps below to quickly (1) determine where the disconnect occurred, and (2) relink the previews in Lightroom to their respective source files by updating those directions.

Reconnecting missing images can be a tedious process, so always rename and/or move your folders and images by using the Folders panel so that Lightroom is aware of the change.

Step 1: Reconnect Your Hard Drives

  • If your source files are on an external drive, are they plugged in correctly?
  • Look at them in the Folders panel: is the light green?
  • Is the drive full or otherwise inaccessible?
  • Can you access the drive outside of Lightroom? If so, can you open the image files?

If your hard drives are connected and accessible, continue on to Step 2.

Step 2: Reconnect Missing Folders

Missing images after often due to the folder that contains them being missing. If you relink a missing folder, all images inside of it will be reconnected as well.

  • Are any folders in the Folders panel marked as missing (greyed out with a question mark)? If multiple folders are missing, assign a color label so you can easily identify them.
  • Do you recall renaming, moving, or otherwise manipulating those folders outside of Lightroom?
  • Retrace the folder hierarchy by revealing parent folders in the panel, and reconnect the top-most missing folder. Repeat as necessary.
  • If no folders appear to be missing in the Folders panel, right-click on a missing image and select “Go to Folder in Library” to confirm that the folder is connected properly.

If all your folders are connected properly and you still have missing images, continue on to Step 3.

Step 3: Reconnect Missing Image Files

  • Do you recall renaming, moving, or otherwise manipulating your images outside of Lightroom?
  • Gather all of your missing images by selecting Library > Find All Missing Photos. Right-click on a missing photo and select “Go to Folder in Library” to see which folder the image is missing from. Are all the images missing from this folder, or only some? Depending on what you find, you may only have to reconnect a folder or each image individually.
  • Click on the missing image icon on the thumbnail slide-mount (a solid exclamation point with a dotted line around it). This will reveal the previously-known path to the image.
  • Is this location NOT correct? If it’s been moved and you know where, click Locate and reconnect the image.
  • Is this location correct? Navigate to the folder in your Finder/Explorer window and confirm the image is there. Perhaps it’s been renamed and you can reconnect it.
  • If you can not locate the image at all, copy the file name from the metadata panel and search your hard drive(s) for that image.
  • When you reconnect an image to a new location, Lightroom will make an attempt to automatically reconnect other missing images near it.

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