One of the most used management and editing software for digital images is Adobe Lightroom. Surpassing Apple’s Aperture, ACDSee Pro and PaintShop Pro competitive products, it gained popularity for its easy to use interface, intuitive controls and features rich capabilities. Some even consider it, Photoshop trimmed and affordable version.
Lightroom allows professional photographers and almost everyone to import, catalog, edit, print and share their digital images. For the purpose of this article, I will focus just one capability of Lightroom: cataloging and organizing of digital images. Lightroom catalog contains an index of all digital files imported and organized into the catalog by adding tags, flags or collections.
One of the problems when working with Lightroom catalogs is that when files are deleted from the catalog, they might not always be deleted from the hard drives or disk storage. In other words, the RAW files already imported into Lightroom catalog can remain on your hard drives and only the Lightroom catalog (think of it as index or a pointer to the files) can be updated. This leads to wasted space and digital images hard to determine if they are part of the live catalog and therefore should be archives and retained.
Sounds like a thing we should be aware and fix. But before I give you the solution to the problem, let’s first understand the problem so we can prevent it in the future.
So, how all this happens:
It all starts with the delete images dialog in Lightroom. When you select images in Lightroom and hit the Backspace buttona dialog window would pop up with two options:
- Delete from Disk
- Remove from Lightroom
The first option would remove the photos from your computer hard drive and also would remove them from your Lightroom catalog. This is the best and preferred method to remove photos from Lightroom. However this is not the default option in the delete dialog and many times when a hurry, one can chose the second default option.
The second option, simply removed the pointers for the photos from Ligthroom catalog while leaving on the files untouched on your hard drive. It is the safest option and it is default because it can do less damage if executed by mistake. But unfortunately, the user might not even realize he is only updating Lightroom catalog and not delete the photos.
So next time your hard drives fill up at 95% or more, check if any orphan files are at fault before forking over more cash to upgrade your drives. The solution might be easier and less costly than you think.
As with every destructive action you take on your computer, a work of caution is advised. Please, make sure you have backup and double check the files you have selected. WARNING: the steps below, would delete photos from your computer permanently!
1. Check The Current Space Usage:
First thing first. We need to measure how much space we reclaimed so go ahead and check how much storage Lightroom uses for your photos now. If you use Windows OS, navigate to the folder, right click and click on Properties. You will see the total storage used by all files in this folder. For Mac and OSX, once you navigate to the directory, hit Cmd+I keys or right click and click on Get Info option.
2. Navigate to Your Images Library:
In Lightroom, click G button to go to Library mode and select the top level folder which contains all your images. If your photos are stored under multiple drives or folders, repeat the steps starting from Step #3 till Step #6 below for each hard drive or directory.
3. Synchronize the Library Folder:
Now that you are in the Library mode and in the folder where Lightroom thinks all yout photos are, go ahead and right click on the folder and pick Synchronize Folder menu option. Lightroom will visit the folder you selected and will check if all files in this folder already exist in its catalog. If any discrepancies are found, Lightroom would update its records. For large number of files this might take a while, so be patient. Grab a coffee or a snack while you wait to update. The wait would be worth it. Lightroom after crunching the numbers would show you how may files in the folder doesn’t exist in the catalog and therefore can be deleted.
4. Import All New Photos:
Now that we found which orphant files we need to deal with, let’s take some action. First, we will import these into Lightroom so we can delete them later. Go ahead and click on Synchronize button and Lightroom would import all the orphan files into its current catalog. And not to make things confusing, but you will have two options: Add and Copy. You need to select Add option as the files already exist and all we need to do is to add them to the catalog. If you select Copy, Lightroom would try to copy the files in addition to additing to its catalog.
And here is the option Lightroom gives us to deal with this files. Every time you import files into Lightroom, it created new view called Previous Import into the Catalog panel, so we would have the list and preview of all orphan images available to us. I can almost see the sparkles if your eyes. We can then go ahead and do what we have not done before. Delete instead of Remove these files and get rid of them forever.
5. Delete The Orphan Files:
Please, go ahead and scroll through the images in the film strip to make sure none of these images is something you actually need. CAUTION: The files you select would be deleted forever, so if you think you need any of them, backup before proceeding with the next step.
Now go ahead and select all pictures from Previous Import, hit the Backspace which is the shortcut of deleting images in Lightroom and click on Delete from Disk option. Lightroom will now delete the photos from the hard drive and also from its catalog. If you make a mistake, not to worry, go to your recycle bin, restore the deleted files to their original locations and import them back into your Lightroom catalog.
6. Check The Disk Cleanup Savings:
Now that we have actually asked Lightroom to delete the orphan files and Ligthroom did such a great job, it it time to check the space savings. First, go ahead and empty your Trash (OSX) or Recicle bin (Windows). Then check the disk spaces used by the same folder you started working on. If you have photos to delete in Step #5, then you should be able to see less space used.
7. Backup Your Photos:
Last step. Take a fresh backup of the remaining files on the hard drive you just cleaned and if you backup this drive to second or third hard drive, you can not go ahead and sync them up so you have the disk savings on the backup drives too.
Archiving and maintaining client’s digital files is part of every photographer’s workflow. Although the price for disk storage has declined significantly for the last 5 years, it still makes sense to maintain your Lightroom catalog and digital files archive and keep it well organized and clean. Smaller volume of digital files makes it easy to archive and restore, it also frees up space for new images. And we all know how much images a wedding photographer can bring home after each wedding. So be smart and keep your hard drives clutter free.
About the Author:
Trifon Anguelov Photography is a Premiere Bay Area Wedding and Events Photography business based in Mountain View, CA 94040 and serving clients in San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him on social media (links in the top right sideblock of this blog) or check his latest photography projects on his Wedding and Portrait Photography Site