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What To Do If You See “The File Could Not Be Found” Message in Lightroom Classic

If you see this message (as shown above) when you jump over to the Develop module, it just means Lightroom has lost track of the original high-res image. Lightroom still has the thumbnail preview in its catalog (which is why you see an image on screen at all), but you can’t edit it without the original image (or at the very least, a Smart Preview, but this one doesn’t have either). At some point, you moved the photo – not in Lightroom – on your computer (which is exactly what happened here. I dragged the folder of images from my hard drive onto iCloud, but Lightroom is still looking for it on my computer. Here’s how to fix it fast:

STEP ONE: If you look up at the top of the right side panels, you’ll notice that not only is there no Histogram graph (it’s missing because it can’t find the original), but in the bottom left corner of the panel it literally says, “Photo is missing” (as shown circled in red). To fix this, click directly on “Photo is missing” (as shown here) and it brings up a dialog (seen in the center of the screen above) that tells you where Lightroom last saw the original, and there’s a Locate button so you can tell Lightroom where you moved the photo. Click the Locate button.

STEP TWO: In the Search field (top right corner on a Mac), type in the name of the missing file. In this case, I simply typed in “Location Portrait,” and the search results appeared immediately. All you have to do is click on this original image (at its new location); click on the “Select” button and now Lightroom knows where the original is again. Plus (big bonus here) all the other images in that same folder are now automatically fixed and relinked to the thumbnail previews in Lightroom so you can edit any one of them without having to relink them one by one.

Above: Now when you look at the image in the Develop module, the “File can not be found” warning is gone, and the image is ready to start editing. That’s all there is to it. 🙂

This week marked the 500th Episode of “The Grid”

Thanks to everybody who sent us kind words about reaching the 500th episode of our photography talk show. It really was a fun episode (well, at least for everybody who isn’t a Dallas Cowboys fan). Anyway, I’m embedding the episode below if you get a chance to check it out.

Have a great weekend everybody. Catch you next week! #GoBucs! #TitanUp!




  1. Brian 20 March, 2023 at 16:29 Reply

    Not my issue, for some reason all the photos I import do this and I have to have the SD card Plugged in, in order to view the photos. It never used to do this so I have no idea what import settings changes.

    • Rob Sylvan 21 March, 2023 at 05:31 Reply

      If that is the case, somehow, the photos were added from the memory card instead of copied. In other words, you better manually copy those photos from the memory card to your computer before you format that card.

  2. Pilar 22 February, 2023 at 17:44 Reply

    I have this issue but the problems Is that I moved my photos from one back up drive to another and my pictures are in collections (as Scott recommended ) I am also a Kelby one member. but it cannot find the find folder option from the collection selected… any ideas?

  3. Frank Culemann 6 May, 2022 at 07:36 Reply

    Dear Scott, thanks for your hard work. From one day to the other Lightroom decided to not letting me edit my photos anymore showing me “The File could not be found” message. I’m running Lightroom 11.3.1 and on the top right “Photo is missing” is replaced by “Original Photo” and when I right-click on it, the window that appears does’t help me. All my presets have also disappeared while the Library is working fine. Last but not least I haven’t moved my photos in a couple of years and I’m keeping them in external drives. Can you help? Best, Frank

    • Rob Sylvan 9 May, 2022 at 06:35 Reply

      Hi Frank, Sorry that you are having trouble. Those types of questions are hard to resolve in the comment section of a blog. If you are a KelbyOne member, I would suggest posting in the KelbyOne member forum where it is easier to have a discussion, share screen captures, and have a back and forth conversation.

    • Tiffany 10 June, 2022 at 04:36 Reply

      Hi Frank. I am having the exact same issue. I have found no help anywhere. It’s been happening just this year to me and I have been editing like this for 13 years. I have spent the last 3 hours looking for solutions. upgraded LR Classic tonight and it did not help. I am running on Big Sur 11.3.1, so that is the only thing I have left to think could be the problem. I need 16g on comp to upgrade. But I only have 8g. UGH.

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