Recover Deleted Duplicate

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Today’s Question: I made a duplicate copy of an image in Lightroom and tried to add it to a new folder in Lightroom. It transferred both images so I “removed” the duplicate. Unfortunately it also removed the original. Is there an easy way to find it and put it back in Lightroom?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you removed the image from the catalog without deleting it, you can simply synchronize the folder to recover the image. If you deleted the image itself, the only possible solution is to recover the image file from the Trash/Recycle Bin in your operating system.

More Detail: When you create a copy of an image within Lightroom, you are actually creating a “virtual copy”. This is essentially just a second set of adjustments so you can create two different interpretations of a photo in the Develop module. The source file is not duplicated on your hard drive, so you still only have a single copy of the source image.

If you move an image from one folder to another, any virtual copies associated with that image will also appear to be moved to that destination folder. This is because the virtual copy isn’t an actual file, but rather just a set of additional adjustments within Lightroom.

This can certainly lead to some confusion when it comes to removing a photo from your catalog. If you select the option to remove a virtual copy (by right-clicking on the virtual copy and choosing the “Remove Photo” command), you will simply be asked to confirm that you want to remove that virtual copy, since doing so won’t cause the source image to be deleted.

If you choose the “Remove Photo” command after right-clicking on the source image (rather than the virtual copy) then you’ll have a couple of options. You can remove the image from your Lightroom catalog without deleting the source file, or you can delete the source file from your hard drive. With either option, by removing the source image the virtual copy will be removed as well. Note that choosing the option to delete the source file will actually move that file to the Trash or Recycle Bin for your operating system, so you can still recover the file from that location as long as you haven’t “emptied” that Trash/Recycle Bin.

If you used the “Remove” option, then you can bring the source image back into your catalog by synchronizing the applicable folder. Simply right-click on the folder in question and choose “Synchronize Folder” from the popup menu. In the Synchronize Folder dialog be sure the “Import new photos” checkbox is turned on, and click the Synchronize button to add the images that had been removed back into your catalog.

If you deleted the source image, you’ll need to first recover the files from your Trash or Recycle Bin, and then use the “Synchronize Folder” command to bring those images back into your Lightroom catalog.