Remove or Delete?

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Today’s Question: In your answer about removing a folder and its contents, you talked about deleting the folder from the hard drive when removing it from Lightroom. Wouldn’t it be safer to keep the folder on the hard drive as a backup, meaning to not delete it when removing it from the Lightroom catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My feeling is that if you want to remove photos from your Lightroom catalog, you should also delete the source images. Otherwise you would have photos taking up space on your hard drive that you don’t even know actually exist, because you can’t find them in Lightroom.

More Detail: As noted in yesterday’s edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, when you remove a photo from your Lightroom catalog you can choose whether or not you want to delete the source photo from your hard drive. In other words, you can remove the photo from your catalog but keep the source file on your hard drive, or both delete the source photo and remove the record from the catalog at the same time.

I certainly understand the notion of wanting to keep the source files on your hard drive “just in case”, so that if you change your mind later you could add the source image back to your Lightroom catalog. But to me this creates bigger potential problems in your workflow.

In other words, if you aren’t totally sure you want to delete the photo from your hard drive, you shouldn’t remove that photo from your Lightroom catalog. This is based on the notion that I want to manage all of my photos in a single catalog, and therefore I want my catalog to contain all of my photos.

There are certainly exceptions in terms of photos you want to keep without managing in Lightroom. But in that context I would suggest moving the photos to a completely different storage structure, to avoid potential confusion.

So, generally speaking I would say photos being removed from your Lightroom catalog should be deleted from your hard drive. If you have a scenario where you do indeed want to retain photos but manage them outside of your Lightroom workflow, I would remove them from Lightroom but then also move them to a different storage structure separate from your primary photo-management workflow.