Find Missing Photos in Lightroom Classic

Has this happened to you? You select a picture from the Library module in Lightroom Classic and choose the Develop module to edit it. But all the sliders are grayed out and unusable. In addition, Lightroom displays a message that "The file could not be found." This message indicates that the picture is missing from the location Lightroom knows about.

Missing photo message in Lightroom Classic's Develop module

To find the missing photo, return to the Library module. In Grid view you can see an exclamation point (!) displayed in the upper right corner of the thumbnail image. This indicates that the picture is missing.

Exclamation points indicate missing photos

Click on the exclamation point to open the Locate Missing Photo dialog. Lightroom shows the original location it knows about. When you click Locate, Lightroom opens a Windows Explorer or Mac Finder window for you to use to search for the picture.

Lightroom is not going to magically find the missing image for you. You have to search for it yourself using the operating system's search abilities. For Windows users, Lightroom shows the file name in the Explorer window. Mac users won't have this helper. I suggest copying the name in the Locate window dialog (highlight the file name and press Ctrl+C (Windows) or Cmd+C (Mac) to copy) and then pasting into the search box that is available in the Explorer or Finder window. You may need to switch to your operating system in order to use the computer's search feature to locate the image.

When you find the image in its new location and select it, Lightroom reconnects the preview photo with the original file on the hard drive. If there are other missing images nearby, Lightroom reconnects all of them.

Missing image found but a different file name (Windows Explorer)

In my example, the reason Lightroom couldn't find the original photo is because I had renamed the picture outside of Lightroom (a big No-No!). So when I clicked Select to choose the original photo, Lightroom cautioned me that the names were different.

Once I confirmed that this was the same photo with a different name, Lightroom reconnected that single picture. It did not reconnect all the nearby images in that folder because all the names were different from the previews in Lightroom.

Lightroom can help you find all the missing photos in your catalog. From the Library menu, choose Find All Missing Photos. Lightroom displays all the missing pictures in the Grid view from which you can reconnect the photos in batches to Lightroom. There's also a shortcut to all the missing photos in the Catalog panel of the Library module. Making use of this shortcut allows you to work through all the missing photos in your catalog without having to search for missing photos after every time you find some!

Missing Photos shortcut in the Catalog Panel of Lightroom Classic

Learn this and other techniques to Clean up your Lightroom Classic Catalog in my class that begins October 7, 2019, in Missoula, Montana. Click here to register.