Today’s Question: My photo folders in Lightroom Classic are structured in an orderly manner, but when I look at the structure on my external hard drive, it doesn’t match. However, I’m not missing any photos in Lightroom. Should I be concerned that the folder structures don’t match exactly?
Tim’s Quick Answer: If there are not photos (or folders) missing within your Lightroom Classic catalog, this is probably simply a matter of confusion caused by the way folder structures can be displayed within Lightroom Classic. In other words, if no photos are missing, there’s most likely nothing to worry about.
More Detail: By default Lightroom Classic only shows you folders that either actually contain photos being managed by Lightroom, or folders that you created within Lightroom (even if there are no photos in some of those folders). This can lead to a bit of confusion if you browse the folder structure for your photos outside of Lightroom.
The primary source of confusion relates to “parent” folders. Let’s assume, for example, that you import photos into a folder for each trip, and that those folders are contained within a “Photos” folder on your external hard drive. That “Photos” folder would be considered a parent folder to the individual folders containing your photos. Depending on how you created your folder structure in Lightroom, the “Photos” folder would not be displayed on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module.
If the folder structure on your hard drive is quite complicated, having parent folders hidden can lead to a bit of confusion, since the apparent folder structure in Lightroom would not match the folder structure you see directly on your hard drive.
You can help clarify the confusion related to parent folders by simply making those parent folders visible. Using the example folder structure above, you could right-click on any of the folders containing photos from individual photo shoots on the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. Then choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu. The next folder up in the folder structure will then be revealed. You can repeat this process as needed to reveal parent folders all the way up to the actual hard drive itself, which can also be presented as a “folder” at the top of the tree on the Folders list.
Note that you can also hide parent folders that don’t contain photos, in order to reduce clutter on the Folders list. To hide a parent folder, simply right-click on that folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears.
With no missing photos or folders, I’m sure this issue of hidden parent folders is the source of confusion here. After all, if the folder structure in Lightroom truly did not match the folder structure on your hard drive, a variety of folders and photos would appear as missing within your Lightroom catalog.