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10 More Things I Would Tell a New Lightroom User: #6

#6: Use Lightroom to move photos between folders

In my previous tip I mentioned the occasional need to create a subfolder and move photos into it, and this is the type of fundamental task that many Lightroom users struggle to come to grips with when first starting out. As a new Lightroom user it can seem easier sometimes to resort to old ways of doing things, such as using your operating system’s file browser to move photos managed by Lightroom into new folders. Unfortunately, this often leads to self-inflicted wounds the next time the user opens the Lightroom catalog to find question marks on folders or exclamation marks on thumbnails with the dreaded Photo is missing message.

Photos are missing.

Photos are missing.

Lightroom stores the complete path to where a photo is stored on your drive in the catalog. On Mac, this goes from the volume name, through all the folders and subfolders, right down to the individual file name of each photo. On Windows the concept is the same except it starts from the drive letter. If anything in that path changes outside of Lightroom (such as by using your file browser to move photos around) then the path stored in the catalog is no longer accurate and Lightroom sends up the SOS messages about missing and offline files.

The way to avoid this is to do all of your moving, file renaming, and file deleting from inside of Lightroom itself. This way the task gets completed AND the catalog gets updated accordingly and everything is copacetic. Capisce?

The how of using Lightroom to move folders and photos is simple once you know how. For folders, just click and drag a folder (or selection of folders) to a new destination folder. Use that right-click menu I told you about to create new subfolders if needed. To move photos, start in Grid view of the Library menu and drag and drop the photos into new folders in the Folders panel.

Moving is as easy as drag and drop.

Moving is as easy as drag and drop.

Lightroom will open a prompt to make sure you really want to move those photos, so click Move to continue. There is a Don’t show again checkbox on that dialog, but I recommend leaving that unchecked as it can save you from accidentally moving photos due to a case of fumble-fingers.


If you (intentionally) end up moving (or deleting) all of the photos out of a folder you can remove that folder by, you guessed it, ctrl-clicking / right-clicking the empty folder and choosing Remove from the menu. Everything’s easy once you know how. Find all of my 10 More Things posts.



  1. george 2 January, 2016 at 21:29 Reply

    I will admit it took some doing to wrap my head around moving/arraigning things in Lr rather than using windows OS. Still learning thanks to people like you. Now, if I can get away from this c’puter and get some more shots……..

  2. Joseph K 18 September, 2015 at 17:13 Reply

    One thing to be careful about when moving files is that Lightroom is not a file browser. While LR does OK with small numbers of files, it can fall down when moving large numbers of files. In the case of large numbers of files to be moved, it is better and faster to move the folders using the OS tools Finder/Explorer then in Lightroom do a “relocate” or “find missing” on the top-most folder you moved.

  3. Paul C 10 September, 2015 at 12:47 Reply

    Yep! Fell foul of this trap many times in the beginning. Now I always use this method described as it is so visual.

    Don’t get caught out by the “Show photos in subfolders” confusion that took me a while to figure out when moving pictures into a subfolder they didn’t seem to leave the grid!

    I would follow this by saying… once you’ve put stuff where you want it, close the folder pane & rely on collections, it is so much safer! Thanks Rob

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