I've been tidying up my external hard drives, which involved merging several Lightroom libraries as well as importing a bunch of stuff that I haven't properly catalogued before. Unfortunately things have gotten extremely messy. Because it's so easy to use catalogues or arbitrary metadata filtering inside Lightroom, I want all the photos to simply be arranged in a YYYY/MM/DD/file.ext sort of fashion in a single place. Right now, everything is sitting in the same master directory, but they're kind of all over the place inside there.

Is there a command like the "consolidate library" function in iTunes, which just moves all the files on disk to a specified location, based on metadata? I really don't want to do this manually because we're talking 30k+ files.

Moving files around needs to happen inside Lightroom. If I use an external tool, Lightroom will not be aware of the files being moved, and I will need to re-locate all the images. I'm using Windows 7, but since the photo archive is on an external drive I could potentially connect it to my Mac and do it there instead.

  • Have you added any keywords/labels/flags in Lightroom? It might just be easier to re-import all the files and move them in the desired folder structure during import. Jul 16, 2014 at 10:39

6 Answers 6


There is no simple "consolidate library" option, nor any plugin I'm aware of that will manage this for you.

As you no doubt know, Lightroom doesn't care where you store your files or what sort of directory hierarchy you might use (if any). In other words, moving these files is for your own satisfaction only. 30k files in one folder could be a performance hit, but otherwise I don't expect you'll see any performance change after moving files, either.

I suggest that the best and easiest way to do this is to bring a little organization at a time: Use the Library filters to find all photos in a given year (the metadata filter makes this easy). Within Lightroom create a new folder for that year, and drag all photos (previously selected) into this new folder. Repeat for each year you have photos.

You've now got a YYYY/file.ext hierarchy. The photos are now much more organized! Personally, I would consider this done (or a task for some lazy time) and not worry about further historical organization. Going forward you can import to a YYYY/MM/DD structure. Remember, Lightroom does not care that your files are only in YYYY folders, so the only benefit to taking this organization further is if you've got a very large number of photos in a single year where performance could, potentially, be impacted.


A couple of software tools can provide this - PFrank and Bulk Rename Utility are two that I use. They can read the EXIF data and create sub-folders based on the data exactly as you requested.

Like anything, read the instructions and practice on some image copies.

  • Sorry, I forgot to mention that file moving needs to happen inside Lightroom itself. Otherwise it will not know where the files are stored. Lightroom uses a database rather than file browsing, so it needs to know where the files are. Jul 16, 2014 at 10:28
  • ok - that's good to know - I use Lightroom and a few other Adobe tools - but I dont rely on them to organize - I simply organize mine as folders of YYYY_MM_DD__Location (or Keyword).
    – B Shaw
    Jul 16, 2014 at 22:59

I see "itunes" and think Mac, so this might not help you, but anyway. It is AT LEAST available for Linux and Windows, I have no idea about Macs.

There is a Linux'y command line tool named "ExifTool" (google it!) - it can read out EXIF data from many files (many formats), and it also has the capability to rename and move about files - setting the filename based on the EXIF data.

It is a bit complex at first, but when you have grasped it - it becomes the answer to (or the basis of) any EXIF or metadata related operation on your images.

  • As mentioned in the comment to B Shaw's answer, it kind of needs to happen inside Lightroom itself. Jul 16, 2014 at 10:28
  • ExifTool is a wonderful tool, and also available on Mac Jul 16, 2014 at 14:28
  • Things like this are mostly missing in any software similar to Lr. The command prompt is your friend. Do it before you import into a database of any kind. I miss the Amiga days, ARexx was omnipresent. Would have been the answer for this. :-)
    – Hannu
    Jul 16, 2014 at 15:53

From within Lightroom, use the Import Photos and Video… command from the File menu. Select the folder containing your images in the left hand column, and use the Move option at the top of the screen. In the right hand column, in the Destination panel, select by date from the organise drop-down menu, and select the date format you want to use in the menu below, then select the folder you want to use as the top level for your date hierarchy. This will then move all the files from your destination folder. Here's a screenshot of how it should look, in this instance moving images from the 'Pictures' folder into a date hierarchy structure inside the folder 'Sorted Photos'

enter image description here

  • I suppose that doesn't work for photos already in the catalogue, though? Jul 16, 2014 at 10:54
  • Ah, apparently it doesn't, sorry. I'll look into it further.
    – user456
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:21
  • According to step 3 at this page: picturecorrect.com/tips/… it would appear not to be possible.
    – user456
    Jul 16, 2014 at 11:26

I can think of two solutions to your problem:

Remove all photographs from the catalogue (or deselect "don't include suspected duplicates" option in Import) and use the Move function in Import to re-add them and sort them by date etc.


  • Only uses Lightroom and so no need to have another program
  • Only need to know one user interface


  • Possibly slower than the other option

Remove all photographs from the catalogue (or deselect "don't include suspected duplicates" option in Import) and use an external program to order them by date and use the Add function in Import to add them to the catalogue.


  • Possibly faster than the other option


  • More software needed
  • Need to learn a new User Interface

I think I've managed to solve this down to any of the following solutions:

  1. Do it manually and half-assedly by moving photos into new folders. Doing it month-by-month won't take that long even with loads of photos, because there are only so many months in a year. Shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes, plus however long it takes to actually move the files.

  2. I didn't realize that you could tell Lightroom to store all edit info in the file metadata/XMP. I thought that importing the files off disk into a new catalogue would mean losing all edits, but evidently that's not the case at all. So I could just write the edits to metadata and import into a new catalogue in a new location. This will be slower, but easier, and it also means trusting that Lightroom actually writes everything correctly... Can anyone confirm that that is indeed the case? Will all my edits survive this process? I will test it on a small sample of images for safety, but if anyone knows for sure that certain edits aren't written, I'll have to resort to method 1.

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