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New Lightroom users often get into trouble because of a lack of understanding as to how Lightroom works. Unfortunately the result of these misunderstandings is often that their precious photos are lost, either permanently or temporarily. When you are new to Lightroom it can help if you understand some basics about how Lightroom works to ensure that your precious photos are safe.
Here’s a quick five question quiz to see if your photos are safe in your hands.
Lightroom stores a copy of your photos for you. When you delete a photo from Lightroom even if you opt to delete it from disk, the original is still safe.
Lightroom simply keeps an record of where your images are on your hard disk. It does not actually store any images. So, if you remove a photo from Lightroom, and when prompted select Delete from Disk, then then you’re deleting the original of that image. If that was your only copy you’ll have deleted that forever.
You have deleted all the photos from a folder inside Lightroom. This means that there are no photos left in that folder so it’s safe for you to open Finder or Windows Explorer and delete the folder itself.
Lightroom can only handle photo and video file formats. Even if you delete all the photos and videos from a folder in Lightroom there may still be other files in that folder that Lightroom can’t handle, such as PDF files, Microsoft Word, Excel and Quicken files. You cannot know that a folder is empty of files unless you check it by opening it in Finder or Windows Explorer.
Your photos are safe because every time you see a prompt to backup Lightroom you always click to do so.
When you choose to backup upon exiting Lightroom, all you’re doing is backing up the Lightroom catalog, NOT your photos. Your photos are never backed up by Lightroom, so you will need to set up some other routine for backing up your image files. Also note that, in most cases, Lightroom saves the catalog backup on the same drive as the original catalog is stored so, if your drive crashes, you’ll lose the original catalog and all backups – so make sure you change it to save the backup on an external drive. (Note: you can only do this in the dialog box above when it pops up)
When you make changes to a file in Lightroom those changes are written to the file so, if you open the file in Bridge, Photoshop or some other graphics program you will see the image as it was edited in Lightroom
Whether or not the changes that you make to a photo in Lightroom are written to the photo files will depend on how your Lightroom preferences are configured. Choose Lightroom > Catalog Settings (Edit > Catalog Settings, on the PC) and select the Metadata tab. There are two settings of concern here: Include Develop settings in metadata inside JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and PSD files and Automatically write changes into XMP – for the edits you make in Lightroom to be written to the files themselves, both checkboxes should be checked.
You have moved or renamed some folders on your drive which contain photos. When you next open Lightroom you see that Lightroom can’t find those photos any longer. You must now reimport those photos into Lightroom.
When you move or rename folders outside Lightroom it is true that Lightroom will report the images as missing. However, instead of importing the images again, you simply need to tell Lightroom where the images now reside. To do this, click the exclamation mark icon, and choose Locate. Navigate to the folder that you renamed or moved, and select the image that matches the one that was missing (you need to find the exact image that was marked as missing). Click the image, and make sure that the Find nearby missing photos checkbox is checked, then click Select. The Lightroom catalog will be updated with the new location of the image and any other images that are in close proximity to it.
Note: You can also do this by right-clicking on a missing folder in the left panel of the Library module. Then navigate to find the entire folder and relink it to Lightroom.
In future, it is best to move images and folders, as well as rename folders, inside Lightroom. Changes such as this, that you make inside Lightroom, are written to your drive automatically. The benefit is that when Lightroom makes the changes, it always knows where your photos are, and won’t report them as being missing.
If you answered any of these questions incorrectly, your lack of understanding of how Lightroom works might be putting your photos at risk. Spending some time learning how Lightroom operates will help you keep your photos safe.
Now if you got all these questions right and if you are a Lightroom expert – what questions would you ask of a new user to help them keep their photos safe? We invite you to pose these as True/False questions – but remember, to help folks out – you should give them the answer, as well as pointing them in the direction of keeping their photos safe.