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Post Production Tips

5 Tips for Managing Files and Folders with the Folders Panel in Lightroom 4

By Pye Jirsa on November 20th 2012

The Library Module’s Folders Panel is the center of the file and folder management system within Lightroom 4. Within the Folder Panel, you can create and control the folders in the Catalog, synchronize the images in the folder, filter the parent folders, and more.

The following tutorial is from the Lightroom 4 A-Z DVD Guide. The full DVD including 130 tutorials and nearly 14 hours of Lightroom 4 training is available in the SLR Lounge Store for only $99.

Watch the Video Tutorial

Five Useful Tips for Lightroom 4’s File and Folder Management System

By understanding how each function works, you can become more productive in organizing the file structure of the Lightroom Catalog. Here are five useful tips for the Folders Panel.

1. Create and Manage Folders within Lightroom

Instead of using Windows Explorer or Finder, you can use Lightroom’s Folders Panel to manage and organize your folders within the Catalog. For instance, the Plus button by the Folders heading allows you to either create a new subfolder or import an existing folder into the Catalog.


If you want to create a subfolder under a specific folder in the Catalog, you can right-click on that folder and select Create Folder Inside “Folder”.

Moving a folder within the Catalog is as simple as dragging the folder to a new parent folder. The reason that moving a folder inside of Lightroom is advantageous to Explorer and Finder is because Lightroom can keep track of the folder’s location change. If you move a folder in Explorer or Finder, Lightroom will think that the folder disappeared.

You can also rename a folder by right-clicking on the folder and selecting Rename.

Finally, if you want to remove the folder from the Catalog, first you select the intended folder. Then, you can click on the Minus button by the Folders heading or you can right-click on the folder and select Remove. Both methods remove the folder from the Catalog, but not erase it. The only instance that Lightroom will erase the folder is if the folder is empty.



2. Fix Missing Folder and Image Links

If Lightroom cannot locate a particular folder that is its Catalog, you can use the Find Missing Folder function. A missing folder will have a question mark next to its icon.

To fix the broken link, right-click on that folder in question and select the Find Missing Folder.


You can then use Explorer or Finder to tell Lightroom where the new location is. Once the new location has been set, Lightroom will update images in that folder as well.

3. Import and Synchronize Images into a Folder

If you have additional images on a memory card that you want to import into a Catalog folder, you can save time by right-clicking on the folder and choosing Import to this Folder. The Import dialog that appears will already have that folder pre-selected as the Destination.

Additionally, if there are new images in the folder that have not been updated in the Catalog, you can also use the Synchronize Folder option in the same context menu to import the new photos.


4. Show or Hide Parent Folders

The Folders Panel also allows you to either show or hide the parent folders for a given folder in the first tier. It is useful when you have several folders under the same parent folder and you want to organize them together. If there are images in the parent folder, they will not be imported automatically. To show the parent folder, you right-click on a first-tier folder and choose Show Parent Folder.


Conversely, you can hide a parent folder and promote its subfolder as the new parent folder by choosing Hide This Parent on the context menu.


5. Export a Folder as a Separate Catalog

Finally, when your Catalog has too many images, it is also useful to break off export a folder and its images into their own separate Catalogs. For instance, if you have 25,000 images from last year, you may want to separate them from this year’s photos and export them to their own Catalog. Having smaller Catalogs can help with maximizing Lightroom 4’s performance.


As we have discussed in our previous tutorial, when you export to a new Catalog, the folder and its images are still in the previous Catalog. You still have to manually remove the folder from the old Catalog.


The Folder Panel contains many options that can help you manage and organize your Catalog’s file structure. Not only is it quicker to use these functions within Lightroom, but they will also prevent broken file links. That is it for this tutorial on Lightroom’s file management system.


Purchase the Lightroom 4 A-Z DVD Guide

The Lightroom 4 A-Z training DVD will turn any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The DVD which can be played on a Mac or Windows PC includes the following:
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– Exercise Files + Final Catalog so you can follow along during the tutorials
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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting

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  3. Nat

    Hi, I have a problem, hope you can help me.
    I have a folder called “2013” and inside it is “01”, “02”, etc for each month. But recently when I tried to sync “2013”, it says that I should “remove missing photos 785” and “import new photos 785”. These 785 photos are actually the same ones but LR4 is registering them as different ones. If I click “synchronize” in the popup window, I’ll lose all my development settings (I think). There’s also no broken links, (?) or when I click Library > Find missing photos, there’s none. What is causing this problem and how could I fix it? I tried clicking “synchronize” but unticking “remove missing photos”. This caused my “2013” folder to duplicate on the sidebar in the library view and I tried merging them back to the old “2013” folder but it says “a folder named 01 already exists at this location”. Now what? Thanks so much for your help.

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  4. Brady

    You have no idea how long I have been frustrated by moving folders between external drives and ending up creating sub-folders upon moving. “Show Parent Folder” is the answer to my frustrations. Thank you so much for this post!

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