Fstoppers: Hidden Lightroom Script to Recover Lost Photos

Alright, this is one of those posts that you should bookmark and tuck away in your “I hope I don’t ever need, but I’m going to save anyway” folder. I just read an article over on the Fstoppers website by Gary Martin that looked pretty cool. The idea is that if you build full size previews for your image in Lightroom, that preview is stored somewhere. Well, what happens if you ever accidentally lose/delete a photo or your hard drive crashes or something along those lines – but your Lightroom catalog is still intact. Well, that photo is gone but Lightroom may still have the preview it built and this script he wrote about can help you extract it. It won’t be the actual raw photo but it’ll be a darn close replacement for it as opposed to nothing.

Here’s a link to the article over on Fstoppers.com. The only thing I’d add is that he recommends to build 1:1 previews for everything. But for me, I usually build standard previews, and any image I work on (and zoom in to), will get a 1:1 preview built automatically by zooming in to it. So I wouldn’t necessarily build 1:1 for everything – just my selects or really important images. But still, it’s definitely something to keep tucked away in case you need it. Thanks Gary! :)

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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  1. Hi Mat,
    I haven’t read the entire article yet but I got very careless and in a hurry while moving some files to an external hard drive last week and accidentally deleted several hundred photos. So, I extracted previews to recover them and most were large standard previews at first but I had upgraded to LR5 a few months ago and started building minimal previews on import because It was faster and several of them are so small they are almost worthless. Do you think I could try to resize some of them someway and still maintain the quality. Some of them are miniscule! The extractor could only recover a jpeg preview even though 90% of the files were raw and I wondered if I could just tell LR5 to build standard previews and see if that might work. Or, just do a large resize?? But I really can’t imagine much could be done to a tiny jpeg image. So, now, I am building at least standard previews and maybe 1.1 and never discarding them in case it happens again because I was able to recover almost 100 percent of them. I don’t know or think a lot of amateurs or advanced amateurs, like myself, are even aware that you can recover deleted photos by extracting previews from the preview file or catalog like that are not; I’m glad to see you and fstoppers blogging and posting about it so more people will know. I am going to read your post to see how they suggest you recover previews and hopefully there may be another way and I could still recover a few that are larger. I hope you don’t mind if I retweet it and share it with some people because I know there are several who have lost photos and don’t know how to recover the previews. I couldn’t believe it when I first read your post because I do not remember ever seeing anyone else blog or tweet about recovering previews before. I always enjoy visiting your site, reading all your posts and blog because I always learn something new every time I stop in and you have helped me tremendously Thanks again..

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    • I’m terribly sorry that I misspelled your name!

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    • Hi Raden – you could try resizing them. You should get decent results up to 100% or so. Good luck!

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  2. If I extract the previews, will they still show in my lightroom catalog? Right now all of my previews are showing and I would hate to lose them because I need to reorganize everything after a hard drive loss.

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