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You may run into a situation from time to time where the link between your catalog and some of the files or folders that you have imported into the Lightroom catalog breaks. In that case, you'll see a question mark on the affected thumbnails out here in the Image window and sometimes on folders in the Folders panels as well. In this movie I want to show you why that happens, how you can avoid it, and in the event that it does happen, how tofix it so you really don't have to worry about it, it is a fixable issue. Here's how it happens. You remember that Lightroom is a database which means that it doesn't really contain any photos, it just has records of photos with links out to those photos wherever they live.
That maybe on your computer or on an external drive. If you move files from where Lightroom thinks they live then the link will be broken so if you go out to your operating system and either move or rename a file then that would break the link. Or if you keep your files on an external hard drive, which I think is a good idea, and you unplug that external hard drive then we look at the previews of the files here in Lightroom's library which is still be able to see because those are in the catalog then you'll see a question mark because Lightroom won't know where the original files went.
There are on an unplugged hard drive. Well in that case the solution is easy. All you have to do is reconnect your hard drive and the question marks will go away. But let's see what happens if you inadvertently move or rename a file in the first situation, out on your operating system. Here I have two files. One is in this subfolder called horizontal. It's a horizontal photo and it's named O2O7H for horizontal and in the vertical subfolder I have 2O7V, a vertical photo.
So, as much as Lightroom knows, this file resides inside the vertical sub-folder out on my hard drive. If I move it from that sub-folder, Lightroom won't know where to find it unless I tell Lightroom where it's gone so let's do that. I'm going to go out to my operating system. Here in my Mac finder, I'm going to navigate to my desktop into my Exercise files and down on this 0207 sub-folder and into the vertical sub-folder there. There is the actual file. I'm going to click on it and I'm going to drag it someplace else.
I'll put it in the horizontal subfolder instead. Now let's go back to Lightroom and see what that caused. Notice that on the thumbnail here in the image window there is now a question mark. If I click on that question mark, Lightroom tells me that it can't find the original file. It doesn't know where it is. Now, there's no way that I can force Lightroom to go out and find it. But if I know where it is or if I can find it out of my Operating System then I can re-point Lightroom to the new location of the file, and everything will be fine. So, I do happen to know where it is. I'll click Locate.
That takes me out of my operating system to find it and here I am in that Vertical sub-folder where there no longer is a file. I'll navigate through my operating system to the place that I know that, that file is which is inside of the O2O7 horizontal subfolder and I'll select that vertical file right there and click select and that fixed the problem. Now Lightroom recognizes that there is nothing in the vertical subfolder. But when I click on the horizontal subfolder it recognizes that I have moved that file there and there's no question mark on the file, everything is fine.
So what is a better way to move files around if you need to? Well the answer is to do it from inside of Lightroom's library module like this. Let's say I want to move this vertical file. I want to put it back say in the vertical subfolder. I'll click on its thumbnail here in the Image window in the library and I'll drag over to the Folders panel and I'll drop on top of that subfolder where I want to move the file to. And Lightroom gives me this warning that I'm not just making a change inside Lightroom. This is going to cause the actual physical file on the disk to be moved where it says this cannot be undone, that's not exactly true so don't worry about that.
I'll just click move. And now the file has been moved on my hard drive and Lightroom is happy with that move. It no longer shows the vertical photo here in the horizontal folder. But if I click in the Vertical folder, I can see my vertical file there and the link is fine, there is no question mark. And if I go out to my Operating System again, There is the file inside the vertical folder. So, that's how to really go about moving files. And what about renaming files? Well if, instead of moving files that are in my Operating System, I changed the name of the file, the same thing will happen.
I would get a question mark here and if I click on the question mark, Lightroom would say, I don't know where the file is. If I knew where it was, I would go out, find it. And that would fix things. But so how should you rename photos if you need to? Well again, the answer is to do it from the inside of the Library module and to do it like this. So if I want to change the name of this file I'll select it's thumbnail. I'll go up to the library menu at the top of the screen and choose Rename Photo and you can do this with one or more photos. I'll give this photo a new name. I'll call it O2-O-7V and I'll add renamed at the end.
I don't have to worry about the format suffix. That would be added automatically and I'll click okay. And that worked fine so now I have a file with a new name O2-O7-V-renamed.JPG. And that change is taking place out in my operating system, too, on the actual file. I want to show you a couple of more things before this movie is over. One of those is, if you are moving files around, doing it the right away from inside of Lightroom, you may want to move it to a folder that you can't see here. For example, I know that my Exercise Files are on my desktop but I don't have a folder for my desktop here.
So if I wanted to put a file out on my desktop, how would I do that? Lightroom is trying to help you by limiting the number of folders that appear here by default to just those folders that contain files that you have imported into the program. So, if you want to see files higher up in the file structure, here's what you do. I'll click on my Exercise Files folder. I'm actually going to right click now and that brings up this menu from which I'll choose Show Parent Folder. And that added the Desktop folder here in this hierarchy of folders in the Folders panel in Lightroom and I can click this arrows to navigate back down to where I was a moment ago.
Now one more thing, what if you brought a file into Lightroom that you really don't want there? And you want to delete it from Lightroom but you're afraid to delete it because you think that might also delete it from your hard drive permanently? Well the answer is it doesn't. Let me show you how to do it in a way that will save the original file. I'm going to go back to the horizontal folder this time and say that I no longer want this horizontal photo in my Lightroom catalog. I'll right click on its thumbnail and I'll come down here and click delete photo. Now don't worry that's not going to delete the photo from my hard drive unless I tell Lightroom that, that's what I want to do so I'll click delete photo and here.
If I just click remove, Lightroom will remove the record from its catalog or its database but it will not delete the photo from my hard drive. That will only happen if I click this button Delete From Disk. So, I'll click remove, the photo no longer exist as far as Lightroom is concerned. There is nothing in the Horizontal folder in Lightroom's eyes, but in fact, that photo is still out there and it is still in the Horizontal folder on my hard drive. I'll show you that by again, going out to my Operating System. And there is that file still in the Horizontal folder.
But Lightroom just doesn't know about it so it's not part of my catalog. If I wanted to bring it back, I can even do that. I could go through to the regular import files process that I showed you earlier or, because I know that it's in this folder, I could just go to this folder in the Folders panel, the Horizontal folder, right-click on it and choose Synchronize Folder. And then click Synchronize. And that will synchronize the actual folder out on my hard drive with the folder, as Lightroom sees it, here in the catalog. So if you're not used to using a database system like Lightroom's catalogs, all of this can be confusing. But now that you understand what's happening under the hood and how it works, I hope it will be easier for you to handle any broken links that you may find in your own catalog.
- What is Lightroom used for?
- Importing photos and videos
- Organizing your library with collections
- Adding keywords and ratings to photos
- Cropping and straightening photos
- Adjusting color and white balance
- Reducing digital noise
- Working with video
- Making changes with the Adjustment Brush and Graduated Filter tools
- Sharing photos on Facebook
- Printing photos