The most common questions I get from new Lightroom users are how to organize files on disk drives and how to prevent duplicate files in the Lightroom catalog. Over the last few weeks I’ve received quite a few questions about about how Lightroom works with folders. Here’s a series of questions and answers from one reader who wrote a couple of days ago:
I have been struggling for days with Lightroom 5.7. I am new to LR in that I have had if for quite a while but just in the last two months have downloaded all my photos into a catalog. I have checked in depth online and Adobe forums to get my questions answered but no luck so far. So that brings me to you once again.
I think my question is pretty basic. I just don’t know how to fix the problem other than just dumping the catalog and starting again. LR shows I have 94K photos total in the catalog. However I have really much fewer. Despite having “do not import suspected duplicates” checked upon import, I find I have many, many duplicates (i.e. copy1, copy2), sometimes triplicates of files, the latter being all smart previews. I don’t understand how this happened unless I really didn’t have “do not import suspected duplicates” checked. But even then I don’t know how I would end up with so many, and why 3 smart previews? And when there are two, the first says the “photo is missing” when I select it in the library and the second says “original and smart preview.” And then, some folders imported fine!
Under my folders panel I have my Mac HD with 94K and within that I have my Users with 44K and Volumes (ext HD) with the LR photo library with 49K. So it seems both were imported but I have no idea how I did that. So…here’s my question: is there any way to delete duplicates at this point? I know LR doesn’t have that capability and there is something called “Duplicate Finder” online that has pretty inconsistent and poor reviews.
Should I just delete everything and start over? And if so, can I avoid the same problem again? In other words, can you diagnose my problem? I haven’t done much work on my files with the exception of a recent trip with around 800 images and I’ve spent a lot of time with those adjustments and definitely would like to save those.
Lightroom didn’t import duplicates. Rather, it found all the photos in all the sub folders that you pointed it to. The issue really comes down to making sure your photos are well organized on your hard drive, then letting Lightroom “see” those organized folders. If your photos are unorganized at the outset, then Lightroom will show you that chaos.
In general, I have people start their Lightroom catalogs with a single folder, then add to the catalog from there. For example, let’s say that you have a main folder on your disk drive called “Photos”. Then, under that, you have 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. i.e.
Start by making sure that the 2015 folder is well organized. Something like this:
Once 2015 looks pristine, then import that entire folder into your Lightroom catalog. Now, your catalog is starting off in good shape.
The next step is to go back to the 2014 folder and make sure everything is organized similar to the 2015 folder. Make sure you don’t have duplicate folders, duplicate “backup” subfolder folders or unnecessary images. Then, import the 2014 folder into Lightroom. The catalog now has all your 2014 and 2015 images and everything is organized.
Repeat this process by methodically going back through all your previous years’ folders. This will take a while, but you’ll be far better off in the long run because you’ll know where everything is located and Lightroom will be organized just like your main disk drive.
Thanks so much Mike. I had come to the conclusion that I needed to start over in smaller steps, as you describe. I have looked through some of my folders and can see where & why some of the duplicates came from, but not all. Regardless I shall start from scratch in smaller batches.
The only folder that I have done a lot of Lightroom editing work in was from a recent trip to Cuba and I really don’t want to lose those adjustments. Is there a way to transfer those adjustments from the backup catalog to the new? Or can I transfer those photos w their adjustments directly to the new catalog by dragging them into the new catalog?
Keeping your adjustments for the Cuba photos is easy.
1. Once you have your new catalog all set up, go back to the old catalog and select the Cuba folder(s).
2. Choose File … Export As Catalog.
3. Save the catalog somewhere on your computer (desktop?).
4. Close down the old catalog.
5. Open up new catalog (the one that you’re working on in smaller steps).
6. Choose File … Import From Another Catalog.
7. Find your Cuba catalog from the desktop and click OK or Import
On a related note, I’m frequently asked what kind of disk drives I use for my data storage. At this point, I’m using OWC ThunderBay IV enclosures with Seagate 6TB Disk Drives. Here are the links:
Also, be sure to check out our book on Digital Asset Management here: