Deleted Photos Reappear

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Today’s Question: Each evening when I am traveling I will import my photos from the day into Lightroom [Classic CC]. If I have time, I will then start working on those photos adding keywords, applying basic adjustments and deleting those I do not want. The next time I import from the same card the photos I previously deleted will appear again. How can I prevent this from happening in the future?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this type of situation I would recommend that instead of deleting photos during your travels, that you mark them with a Reject flag in Lightroom Classic CC. Then, when the trip is over and you have imported and reviewed all photos, you can delete all of the photos you marked with a Reject flag.

More Detail: When importing photos into Lightroom Classic CC you have the option to not import photos that are suspected duplicates. However, duplicates are identified based on the photos that are currently in your Lightroom catalog. If you had deleted photos from Lightroom but then attempt to re-import those photos from your media card, the photos will not be interpreted as being duplicates. In other words, the photos you had previously deleted will be re-imported into your catalog.

Of course, you could format the media card in your camera after each import, making sure you have an additional backup copy of all photos before doing so. But many photographers understandably prefer to keep all photos on the media card as an additional backup while traveling. In this case a workflow that makes use of the Reject flag can provide a good solution.

With this approach, instead of deleting outtakes during your review while traveling, you would assign a Reject flag to any photo you would otherwise delete. You can apply a Reject flag to the currently selected image by pressing “X” on the keyboard. If you have selected multiple photos and are in the Grid view (rather than the Loupe view, for example) you can press “X” to assign a Reject flag to multiple photos at once.

When you import additional photos with the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on in the Import dialog, photos still on the memory card that have already been imported will not be imported again. That is because even photos you would have otherwise deleted will still be in the catalog, marked with a Reject flag.

When you’re back home and have finished your review of all photos from the trip, you can navigate to the folder in question within Lightroom so you can delete the photos marked with a Reject flag. To remove the photos, go to the menu and choose Photo > Delete Rejected Photos. This will bring up a dialog asking if you want to remove the photos or delete them from the disk. I recommend deleting the files altogether, which means clicking the “Delete from Disk” button. This will delete all photos in the current folder that have a Reject flag assigned to them.

Note that you can also filter photos based on having a Pick flag (or no flag at all), so that you won’t see the photos you’ve applied a Reject flag to as you are reviewing photos during (or after) your travels.