What to Do If You See "File Could Not Be Found" in Lightroom

File Could Not Be Found in Lightroom

What to Do If You See "File Could Not Be Found" in Lightroom

Have you ever seen the "File Could Not Be Found" message in Lightroom, or noticed a folder with a question mark or a photo thumbnail with an exclamation mark?  These symbols indicate that Lightroom has lost track of your files.

Lightroom The File Could Not Be Found

These icons appear because the files have been disconnected from Lightroom.  If you notice these symbols, it means your folders or photos are NO LONGER LINKED TO THE LIGHTROOM CATALOG.

Understanding why this happens is essential to resolving the issue.  Several factors can cause this disconnection, but first, it's important to understand how Lightroom interacts with your files.

Understanding the Lightroom Catalog

The Lightroom Catalog maintains a unique relationship with your photos.  While your images aren't physically stored in Lightroom, the catalog keeps track of their locations and records all the adjustments you make to them.

This essential information, including the edits and organizational details, is stored in your Lightroom Catalog.

Lightroom File Could Not Be Found

How Do Folders & Photos Get Disconnected from Lightroom?

Folders and photos can become disconnected from Lightroom for several reasons:

    • When you move your folders or photos while you are not in Lightroom
    • When you rename a folder while you are not in Lightroom
    • The hard drive where you store those folders or photos is turned off, moved or corrupted

When any of these actions occur, Lightroom loses track of your files and displays "question mark" icons on folders or "exclamation point" icons next to photo thumbnails to alert you that there is a problem.  This indicates that the relationship between Lightroom and your files is broken.

However, this doesn't necessarily mean the photos have been deleted or are permanently lost—unless you have actually deleted the files.

How to Reconnect Missing Folders & Photos

To fix missing or offline photos, you need to reunite Lightroom with your images.  There are two ways to do this:

  1. Move the Folder or Photo Back to Its Original Location: Simply move the folder or photo back to where it was originally and where Lightroom expects it to be.  Lightroom will automatically detect the folders, and everything will return to normal.
  2. Reconnect the Folders in Their New Location: If you've moved the folders to a new location, you can reconnect them to the Lightroom Catalog.  Right-click on the Lightroom folder with the question mark and select "Find Missing Folder...".  This will open a window allowing you to manually navigate to the current location of the files.  If the folder has just been renamed, Lightroom will update the name and restore the relationship.
  3. Turn On Your External Hard Drive or Plug it Back In: If your folder was disconnected because your external hard drive was turned off or moved, simply turn it back on or plug it back in. Lightroom will detect the files, and the question marks will disappear.  It's as simple as that

The File Could Not Be Found Lightroom

Fixing Deleted Photos

If a photo has been permanently deleted from your computer, it cannot be recovered through Lightroom.  However, if you delete a photo outside of Lightroom, the thumbnail will still appear in Lightroom with a question mark next to it, as the Lightroom catalog is unaware of the deletion.

To correct this, select the thumbnail in Lightroom and press Delete.  When prompted, choose Remove.  This will delete the thumbnail from your catalog and resolve the issue.

How to Prevent Disconnecting Lightroom from Your Photos

To save yourself time and frustration, ensure all file operations, such as moving, renaming, and deleting, are done within Lightroom

Renaming a file is simple: right-click and choose "Rename."  Moving a folder is just as easy: drag and drop the folder within Lightroom.  By managing your files this way, you can prevent Lightroom from losing track of your photos.

How to Relink Photos in Lightroom

If you find it difficult to remember these steps, remember that occasionally, you may need to fix these broken relationships.  And now that you know how to do it, you'll be able to handle it with ease.

Reconnecting Missing Photos in Lightroom - Video Tutorial

If you're a visual learner, be sure to watch our short video tutorial below:


Do you have any questions or comments about How to Find & Reconnect Missing Photos in Lightroom?  Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you!  And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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