Lightroom Tip – What If You Accidentally Delete Your Photos?

Hope you’re having a great Friday so far. I’m slightly ashamed (but not very) to admit that it’s 2:00 am and I just finished playing the new Call of Duty: Black Ops game with a few guys from work (no names mentioned :) ). Anyway, my friend RC showed me a very cool plug-in that I thought could use a quick mention. It’s one of those “last chance” plug-ins and you’ll likely only use it if you accidentally lose some of your photos.

See, if you’ve managed your photos in Lightroom, it builds a fairly hi-res preview for those photos. Well let’s say that you delete (I mean gone for good) some photos or you simply just don’t have access to them (maybe they’re on an external drive that you don’t have with you) and you need to salvage something. There’s a plug-in called LR Viewer that allows you to extract previews as JPEG files. It’s not ideal but it could come in handy in a pinch so tuck this link away in your “just-in-case” folder.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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27 Comments

  1. Thank you Matt! Really good tip! This kind of tips are more appreciated the day the trouble comes. :-) However, it’s good to be prepared. :-)

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  2. Hi there, good morning from Dublin, Ireland….

    So I finally tidied up my many many folders of photos, organising them logically and neatly…. on a windows level. I then opened Lightroom to see that everything was offline. This was expected, but I didn’t expect to have to relink EVERY photo manually. The “find nearby photos” function is not finding nearby photos! I have thousands…..this may take a while.

    Is there a way to keep my current collections intact and create a new catalog file with my neater folder structure? At least they are all there…somewhere, and not deleted I guess.

    Great tips here btw…thank you and keep them coming.

    Steve.

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    • Steve:

      In Scott Kelby’s LR3 book, he suggests putting all your photo folders in one main folder (call it My Lightroom Photos, or somehing like that). Then direct Lightroom to search that one folder for all your photo folders for Import. It works great and keeps everything organized for you. His book is worth it’s weight in gold.

      –John

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      • From a safety standpoint, when files start out in camera memory, I think it’s safer to ingest the files into a directory structure on a harddrive — and THEN import them into Lightroom. It’s also then possible to easily and automatically backup the original files offsite.

        If shooting tethered into Lightroom, then it’s best to one way or another dump a copy of the original (either from camera memory or export from Lightroom) onto the harddrive. Then those can be backed up.

        That way, if you delete a file in Lightroom or its database gets irretrievably corrupted, stuff happens. There’s also the safety copy on the harddrive and a second safety copy saved offsite via the automatic backup of the harddrive.

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    • I’d like to echo Steve’s question. Can LR re-link multiple folders at one time? All my photos are stored in a main Photos folder and subfolders by year/month/date. My photos are backed up to 2 external drives. I recently did some reconfiguring and the drive letters of the external drives changed. I had to manually re-link every folder – folder by folder. For some reason, the first effort at re-linking did not hold, and I had to do it again!

      I have Kelby book, and I see where it addresses relinking folder by folder, but I don’t see anything beyond that.

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      • Try adding a parent folder in your folder list (right click on one of your subfolders) until you get to the main folder that holds all your images. I call mine “PHOTO ARCHIVE”in big bold letters so anyone that might use my computer (including me) sees it as important and doesn’t change anything. Then with that main folder now showing in lightroom, right click on that and go “syncronize folder.” It will open a dialogue box and show you the changes it wants to make. Usually you can just click OK and it will do the work and all your little questions marks should disappear.

        I know what you mean that relinking nearby photos doesn’t always work. The best thing to do is the change your folder names and positions INSIDE lightroom so that it knows what you’ve done.

        Good luck!
        Rob
        The Lesson Shop

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  3. Yes, this plugin saved my life. I deleted a whole wedding shoot by accident! With this plugin and photozoom 3, I was able to deliver pretty decent pictures to my clients!

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  4. +1 to Call of Duty Black Ops…> DO you play online? XbOX or PS3?

    Great tip!

    Happy Friday!

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  5. Matt:

    I just read Scott’s blog for today and he spilled the beans on who was playing. I’m not surprised at the names, but I am surprised that you got a blog post up at 2:00 AM! Do you guys ever sleep? :D

    Did anybody think to bring a camera and take some pictures of you guys playing videogames? :)

    BTW, thanks for the tip today!

    –John

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  6. Matt–
    2 questions unrelated to your current post, but I didnt know where else to sneak them in—
    What is the most efficient way to get LR photos which say *offline* back to online.
    And secondly, does your new Layers book have new photos or are you re-cycling–and what % is new material. BTW-I thought your first Layers book is one of the very best Photoshop books out there, and didnt get nearly enough publicity.
    As usual, thanks a lot. You enhance my reitrement years.
    Gerry

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  7. Why do you need a plugin to do what you can very easily do manually?

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  8. It’s ok, Scott already released the names of who was playing on his blog. :)

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  9. Nice third level safety, but seriously, if you delete your photo and you don’t have a backup, well, you deserve it. First, for anything important including family photos you should be using the secondary destination available in LR. Second, don’t delete the photos from you memory card with LR. When all is done, your photos are in LR, you have a backup (either secondary destination or other), then format the card with your camera. It’s a much better method then deleting the photo any other way. You could even use multiple memory card so that the photos are sitting on your card for a few days/week/month…

    We all make mistakes and this is certainly something worth mentioning. Thanks…

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  10. Thanks for this Matt. I have the opposite problem. I accidentally imported photos into 2 catalogs and lightroom isn’t smart enough to see the photo exists in the destination and has duped the cr2, one fir each catalog. Sigh. Anyone know of a cross catalogue fix? I see a plugin that works in one cat and I could just look fir ….-2.cr2 but I’m bound to delete the wrong raw knowing me.

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  11. I’m not sure the difference between using this plugin and checking the Draft button in Print To File.

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  12. Another great piece of kit to help ease my ‘Backing Up’ paranoia :)

    Cheers,
    Glyn

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  13. On Windows 7, the FastPictureViewer Codec Pack can display the LR previews directly in the Windows Explorer like the RAW files of a lot of cameras.

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  14. I’m with Gino up above.. why do we need this (plug-in) when we can do it manually -

    from either our CF card, (On a mac, Time Machine or hopefully some other backup up backup up like Carbonite, etc.).

    My problem if I accidentally delete say an entire shoot, IS NOT RETRIEVING THE PHOTOS – but I need the associated LR adjustments – the history… (snapshots, presets, etc, that have been applied)..

    If I could have a PLUG IN That not only restored my photos AND also their related history – now that would be the plug in to have!!

    Or am I missing something here???

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    • I agree. I’m a little disheartened by the lack of standards and even real “best practices”, which currently are not good enough, when it comes to near and long term data integrity for Lightroom and for digital imaging in general. Maybe it’s not as sexy as HDR, but to me it’s a core issue in the critical path. In case anybody is interested, the Library of Congress has a website on the topic of digital preservation:
      http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/

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  15. Thank you Matt!!!

    i’ve had a problem w/ my external and a bunch of my photos lately (a result from MS’s checkdisk function that it started automatically. and that ruined ton of my files…) and now i m seeing some hopes!!! to find my pictures BACK!!!

    i hope this program can support LR3 catalog soon!

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  16. Don’t be ashamed. I was up till 2am with my buddies as well. Sort of a Call of Duty/Poker night.

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  17. Ok.. so let me get this straight… I lost a hard drive but alot of what i lost I can still see in lightroom but can export because it says original file not found or something to that effect. If I use this plugin i can get them back as jpegs???? GOD i hope so cuz it was my dads funneral that I want the most..

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  18. Hey Matt,
    I tried this, but I have Lightroom 3 and it keeps going unresponsive when the first picture from the first folder is opened? and suggestions? I tried emailing Marc, but have only gotten one response…help
    Jim

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  19. I needed this very thing a few years back.

    I ended up alt-printscreening each image individually!

    Low resolution = not ideal, but better than nothing.

    (Note – it wasn’t my mistake the images needed restoring!)

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