Where are my Lightroom Files?

Where are my Lightroom Files?

If you work in Lightroom a lot at some stage you’ll want to know where your Lightroom files are stored. Lightroom has plenty of pointers to help you find its files but these aren’t always as obvious as they might be. In this post, I’ll tell you where to find things such as your catalog, backups and presets.


Where is your Lightroom catalog?

To find where your currently open Lightroom catalog is stored, in Windows click the Lightroom button in the top left corner of the screen or right click the title bar if the program is not set to full screen view and choose Show Catalog Location. Windows Explorer will open with the current catalog .lrcat file selected for you. On a Mac, Control + click the title bar.


You can also find the location of your currently open catalog by choosing Edit > Catalog Settings (Lightroom > Catalog Settings on the Mac). From the General tab click the Show button and you’ll be taken to the folder that contains your Lightroom catalog. In this case however you will be taken a step higher up the folder hierarchy than you would be if you had used the first technique.


Where are your Presets?

To find where your Lightroom presets are stored, choose Edit > Preferences (Lightroom > Preferences on the Mac) and select the Presets tab. Click the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button to be taken to your Lightroom presets folder. This folder contains subfolders of presets for everything from Color Profiles through Develop Presets to Watermarks and Web Templates each of which is stored in a separate subfolder according to its type.


You can also right click a preset and choose Show in Explorer (Show in Finder on the Mac) to see that preset on disk. This is useful for example when you’ve created your own preset and want to share it with others. You simply need to give them the .lrtemplate file for that particular preset.


So far so good, but what about my Identity Plates?

Identity Plates are treated differently to presets and they are stored in the actual Lightroom catalog file. This means that unlike presets, identity plates you create aren’t available to every catalog if you have multiple catalogs. Presets, on the other hand, if they’re stored outside the catalog (the default setting) will be available regardless of which Lightroom catalog you are using.

Unless you have skills at editing database files – which is more complex a process than most of us really want to do – you’ll need to create separate identity plates for every catalog that you use.

Where are your photos?

Lightroom is a catalog program and it references where your images are stored on disk – it doesn’t actually store your images.

The images that you have imported into Lightroom are located where you asked for them to be placed when you imported them into Lightroom. If you have chosen Copy as DNG, Copy or Move when importing images into Lightroom then those images will be stored on your disk in the folder that you asked for them to be placed in. If you selected Add, then the images do not change location and are added to the Lightroom catalog in the folder in which they are currently stored.


You can see where any image is stored on your disk by right clicking that image (or choose Photo on the menu bar) and then Show in Explorer (Show in Finder on the Mac).

You can also see where any image in a Collection exists inside your Lightroom folder structure by right clicking on that image and choose Go to Folder in Library. This not only shows you the folder that the file is stored in but also switches to Library view.


Where are your backups?

When you backup your Lightroom Catalog, the actual catalog is backed up but not the previews or your photos. By default the backup of your catalog will be stored in the same location as your Lightroom catalog in a folder called Backups. You can check this location when next prompted to backup your catalog by clicking the Show button in the Back Up Catalog dialog.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Frank April 22, 2013 11:40 am

    I found the information helpful, however, I had 13k photos and now am down to 3200? I don't know where the files went? I have "not" clicked on back up and the files were not backed up to the best of my knowlede, however I cannot locate them? Is there a way of looking at what files are in the LR folder, when i click i dont' get any folders that open?

  • Helena December 2, 2012 10:15 am

    I opened up Lightroom after the computer had crashed and the file I was editing had disappeared. I have located a copy of unedited images and have imported that to start again but is it possible to locate it still? It is a week's work, I would be grateful for help.

  • TLP June 19, 2011 12:52 am

    THANK YOU!! For the help with locating my user presets in Lightroom. I just spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out how to save my presets for use on another computer-also I searched the world over and couldn't find what I was looking for until reading here. Huge thank you!!!

  • barbara May 31, 2011 12:46 am

    Helen, i wonder if you can help me. I recently copied an older LR catalog from one computer to another. I also copied all of the images over to the new computer. So when I am in the catalog, I see all of the images in the new computer's drive/folders. But it is also referencing the other older computer's drive with the images and associated virtual copies.

    I always work with virtual copies in collections. So now, if I want to do anything with the images in the collections, they indicate that the original file is missing. If I try to re-associate the virtual copy with the original file on the new computer's drive, it won't let me, says something like it can only be associated with one image at a time. So I am stuck.

    Do I actually have to copy each virtual copy from the older drive and folders to the newer drive and folders? There are thousands of them.

    I have looked through some LR forums but can't find anything.


  • vi May 30, 2011 06:49 am

    Is it possible backup pictures in LR not only catalog?

  • Joy Hudson May 27, 2011 11:54 pm

    Helen, you have saved my life! I am an elderly beginner and have just acquired Lightroom 3 and I need all the help I can get. Your articles are a lifesaver! Very many thanks.

  • Scott May 21, 2011 06:28 pm

    good tipp for those to lazy to read a manual and who ask stupid questions instead in every LR forum.......

  • Stephen May 21, 2011 04:03 am

    Thanks Helen. I just started really getting into Lightroom and this is helpful. I was using Canon's software previous to this.
    Thanks again.