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Here's my basic workflow:

  1. Transfer raw photos to machine
  2. Edit
  3. Publish photos
  4. Move photos to longterm storage (a NAS)

In some cases I don't save the metadata on the photos and it gets lost when I move it to the NAS. I just lost tons of edits to a big project and can't figure out how to get it back. Things I've tried:

  • move the photos back to my machine (I don't know the original folder name)
  • pull my lightroom catalog from backups on a date before step 4

The edits aren't showing up. How can I take care of this? Certainly the metadata exists in the backed-up catalog file, if not the 'current' catalog. How do I get it back? If I figure out the folder name, will putting the photos there bring the metadata back?

The 'NAS' copy has sidecar files, but they don't appear to have edits- they are all about the same size, 2.8k.

"How do I restore photos and metadata" is a similar question, but I don't think it's precisely the same. "Restoring Lightroom photos" is the same, perhaps, but since I already have the photos, sidecars, and restored catalog from that date I don't know why it isn't working.

  • The metadata's in your LR catalog. – user4894 Jul 5 '16 at 20:01
  • sure, @user4894, but where. It's a somewhat-readable file, grepping didn't show anything with that directory prefix. – tedder42 Jul 5 '16 at 20:01
  • Grepping? It's a SqlLite database. Grepping won't help. – user4894 Jul 5 '16 at 20:03
  • Open it in your favorite text editor. Or run 'head'. It starts with the DDL and the data follows. – tedder42 Jul 5 '16 at 20:20
  • This is a old question and maybe my comment will be a useless but I recently had a different problem where the result was more or less the same: I lost the files and the folder structure from the original location but also lost the filenames. Yet, with some Python code and lots of digging I still managed to recover everything but you seem to have an additional BIG problem: you also removed the original library folder inside LR. If you have a backup of the LR DB check this: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/92431/… – Fabricio Oct 18 '17 at 19:18
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I probably don't have the precise answer to your specific case as I do not work with Lightroom myself. However, I work with Darktable which has a similar workflow.

The actual edits you've done to the photos should be contained in the sidecar files. However Lightroom keeps track of the original raw files in its database. When you move the raw files later, you cut this connection and Lightroom will not find your photos again, unless you move them back to the exact path location they were when you edited them.

Possible solutions that might work (I don't know Lightroom that well):

  • point Lightroom to the folder of the photos on your longterm storage. There is a chance that it'll pick up the photos and the sidecar files.
  • rebuild the database. There may be a function or menu option in Lightroom that lets you completely re-build the database. It may be necessary that you point it to the path of your longterm storage. Depending on the number of photos this operation may take a long time.

I suggest you should change your workflow to avoid these problems.

  1. Transfer raw photos to machine
  2. Move photos to longerm storage
  3. Edit
  4. Publish
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You say you don't save the metadata to files from within Lr. Nevertheless, it should still be in the database. But HOW did you move the files to the NAS? If you didn't use Lr to do that, Lr would "lose" the connection to those files and not be able to find them, displaying a "!" in the grid view. You'd then relocate them by using that command in Lr, and it would re-associate all the metadata with the file on the NAS.

If you deleted the images from Lr itself, then you'd have to go back to a backup of the Lr catalog. Not only did you sever the connection with the image, but you deleted the metadata. You might have saved it to the file; check. Just because a sidecar is small doesn't mean it doesn't have that metadata. Some info takes up a mere few bytes.

Lr keeps track of images by path, so you'd need to do something IN Lr to re-find the images if you copy them back, assuming the images are still in Lr. Do you see the lost images? https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/locate-missing-photos.html

  • I didn't use Lr to move them. Just did 'mv'. That (original) directory doesn't show up in my current catalog or the backup I found. I probably did all the changes and the move before the next backup saved it. – tedder42 Jul 5 '16 at 19:53

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