Recovering Photos


Today’s Question: During the import of images to Lightroom from a card reader, I inadvertently removed the images. I cannot find them anywhere in Lightroom. Is there any way I can retrieve the images? Or they totally lost? To make matters worse, I have reformatted the card.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a couple of basic ways you should be able to locate the images from Lightroom, but if they have been removed from the catalog you’ll need to look for them directly on your hard drive. In addition, as long as you haven’t captured new images on the media card, you can recover the photos from that card using special software.

More Detail: The first thing I would do is check the Lightroom catalog to see if the photos simply got imported to a location other than what you were expecting. To begin with, in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module you’ll find a “Previous Import” collection. Clicking on that collection will show you the photos imported during the most recent import operation.

You could also try to locate the images based on filter criteria. For example, you could select the “All Photographs” collection in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module, and then use the Library Filter (View > Show Filter Bar) to filter images based on, for example, the date of capture (or whatever other criteria you know).

If the images were removed from the Lightroom catalog but not deleted from your hard drive, you can re-import those photos from the hard drive. If you know what folder the images had been imported to, you can right-click on that folder in the Folders section of the left panel in the Library module and choose “Synchronize Folder” from the popup menu. In the dialog that appears make sure the “Import new photos” checkbox is turned on, and click the Synchronize button. Any images in the folder that are not in the Lightroom catalog will be added.

If all else fails, it is still possible to recover the photos from the media card, as long as you have not captured new photos on that card. When you delete photos from a card or (in most cases) when you format the card, the information isn’t actually deleted. Special software can recover the photos from the card. For this purpose I recommend a software application called PhotoRescue, which can be found on the DataRescue website here:

Note that there is a free trial version of PhotoRescue, so you can see which images can be recovered before you purchase a license for the software.