Moving Photos


Today’s Question: I have been using Lightroom on my MacBook Air, which has very little storage. I would like to move all the photos to an external drive and delete them from the MacBook for more space. How can this be done?

Tim’s Quick Answer: My recommendation is to first make sure you have a full backup of the photos that are currently on your laptop, and then move the photos from the laptop to the external drive. To do so you can create a new “parent” folder on the external hard drive, select all folders on your internal drive that are being managed by Lightroom, and then drag-and-drop those folders to the new external drive.

More Detail: There are, of course, several approaches you could take to move your photos from one drive to another. My preference is to take an approach that ensures there is no risk of Lightroom losing track of your photos. Therefore, I prefer to move the photos from directly in Lightroom.

Again, the first step is to make sure all of your photos are already backed up to a separate hard drive, to ensure you have a way to recover your photos in case something goes wrong during the process of moving photos.

Once you have a backup for your photos, you can connect the external hard drive you want to use as the new location for your photos. This drive will not appear in Lightroom because no photos on the drive are currently being managed by Lightroom. However, you can create a new folder on the drive so that the drive will be shown in Lightroom. To do so click the “plus” icon to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module in Lightroom, and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu.

In the dialog that appears, navigate to the hard drive you want to use for photo storage, and click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog. Type a name for a “master” folder to contain all of your photos, such as “Photos”, press Enter/Return to create the new folder, and click the Choose button to add that folder as an available location in the Folders section on the left panel.

At this point you can select all of the folders in the Folders section of the left panel. To do so, click on the first folder on the list and then hold the Shift key and click the last folder on the list. You can then point to any of the selected folders and drag-and-drop to move all folders to the new destination (the folder you created on the external drive). Note that Lightroom will ask you to confirm you want to actually move the photos on the hard drive.

Once the files have been moved, you will have all of your existing folders (and all of the photos within those folders) reflected in the folder structure on your external hard drive, under the new folder you created on that drive. If you prefer to see only the photos containing your photos and not the “parent” folder you created, you can right-click on the parent folder and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup menu that appears. At any time you can reveal that parent folder again by right-clicking on any of the folders within that parent and choosing “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu.