I had to reinstall my OS, backing up and moving folders around, and now my library has thousands of missing items.

lightroom missing pictures

How can I automate the location process for all of them? The software will locate nearby files when locating manually, but is it possible to make a global hard drives search?


Recreating the old structure back is not really an option right now. At the moment, Lightroom is finding its way through the backups. But at some point I'd like to re-organize the pictures folder, and the issue would arise again.

I think the real issue comes down to "Locate missing pictures in batch without restoring the original folder structure".

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    I once wrote a similar tool for iTunes. I used iTunes' Applescript capabilities for that. I wonder if the same could work for Lightroom. Not a solution for your immediate needs, though, thus only a comment. Apr 23 '13 at 14:55
  • I just checked LR's Applescript capabilities. Sadly, it doesn't provide any access to its photos database, so that's not an option. Apr 23 '13 at 15:33
  • Okay, there's one possibility to solve this with a program, it seems: The database file that contains the references to the original files is a standard sqlite DB. In that, I can find the file and folder references. It remains to be seen if changing them would work without upsetting LR. This could be an opportunity for a tool. I just wonder how many would buy it, i.e. if the effort would justify it, from a viewpoint of a software developer. Apr 23 '13 at 15:47
  • If you like to work this out with me, email me directly and I'll see if I can spend a few hours on a quick app for this tomorrow. Apr 23 '13 at 15:53
  • @ThomasTempelmann, thanks for the kind offer. I won't tackle the issue right now as I have to re-think my library organization. It seems that direct DB modification or internal LB re-arrangement are the possible solutions. With some research I could handle the former. If you develop a tool, paid or free, please share the link here with the community :)
    – brasofilo
    Apr 23 '13 at 16:04

If you moved entire folders around, but left the folders themselves intact (i.e. same structure they had before), you can simply right-click (In MacOS X, it might be something like Command-Click, I am not sure) the folder in the Library module's left-hand panel, and select "Find missing folder..." Simply browse to the folder's new location, and you're done.

If you did a radical reorganization, where the contents of folders or even original folders themselves are NOT intact, then you don't really have any option. If you intend to make that kind of reorganization, it is actually best to use Lightroom to do it, rather than the operating system. Lightroom is a little slower, but it will automatically keep track of everything. Additionally, Lightroom is capable of moving information with multiple threads, so you can have half a dozen move operations going on simultaneously and it does not seem to slow it down (I've had at least 10 simultaneous moves occurring at once in the past, and LR never skipped a beat...each move operated at the same speed, and they were only marginally slower than moving via the OS.)

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    IMO, this is your money quote [...] it is actually best to use Lightroom to do it [...]
    – brasofilo
    Apr 23 '13 at 15:51
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    I did not know about the multi threading, I always stopped at 1 just to be safe, but this is good to know. thank you.
    – dpollitt
    Apr 23 '13 at 16:51

As long as your pictures exist still in a similar folder structure, why not move them back into their original place? Then LR should be able to find them all again. Have you tried that?

Besides, how did you re-install your system? Didn't you have a Time Machine backup? If you did, then, after the OSX install, you should have been asked if you wanted to transfer the data from a previous backup or computer, and then you'd choose the TM backup to get all back in place. If not, you'll have to do that manually, but that should still be fairly simple to accomplish.

As your picture shows, you can see where LR expects to find the files. So, just find your backup of your photos folder and move it back where LR expects it.

  • Hi, Thomas, thanks for the feedback. And I realize that a bit more of context was needed in the Question, just updated it.
    – brasofilo
    Apr 23 '13 at 15:21
  • Alright, but "how can I reorganize my pictures into different folder structures with LR keeping their refs" is a totally different question. Apr 23 '13 at 15:34
  • I think your feedback helped me to narrow down the Q to its essence, updated again.
    – brasofilo
    Apr 23 '13 at 15:46

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