Today’s Question: My Lightroom Classic catalog does not show two folders that exist on my external hard drive. When I try to import those folders, they do show in the folder structure for importing but the photos are greyed out and can’t be imported. Normally when this type of problem occurs, I remove the folders/files from the catalog (without deleting the originals) and re-import. Since the folders of interest don’t show in the catalog view, I can’t do this. How do I proceed?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In this case the photos can’t be imported because Lightroom Classic has determined that the same photos are already in the catalog, just not in the same folder location. You can still import these duplicate photos if you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox in the Import dialog, but you’ll also want to address the actual duplication and make sure you’re not losing metadata updates in the process.
More Detail: In general, I recommend keeping the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox turned on in the Import dialog of Lightroom Classic. This helps ensure you don’t accidentally import the same photos more than once.
However, if the apparent duplication is the result of there being more than one copy of the same photos on your hard drive, then it can be helpful to import the duplicates into your Lightroom Classic catalog and then manage the duplication (and the metadata for the photos) from within the catalog.
If you turn off the “Don’t Import Suspected Duplicates” checkbox when attempting to import the “missing” folders into your catalog, you’ll be able to import the photos normally. In this context where the photos are already located in the intended storage location, I recommend using the “Add” option at the top-center of the Import dialog to simply add the photos from their current location.
You can then locate the “other” copies of the photos in question, and compare the metadata to determine how to proceed. You could likely search by filename, for example, or sort the image by capture time to find the duplicates alongside each other while browsing the “All Photographs” collection from the Catalog section at the top of the left panel in the Library module.
The key is to determine whether both copies of the photos have been updated with metadata or adjustments, for example. If one folder represents the photos that have been updated and the other represents the photos that have not been updated, you can simply discard the copies that haven’t been updated and refine the folder structure as needed.
If both copies of the photos have been updated, you’ll have a bit more work on your hands, such as by copying updates for individual photos. The goal would be to have one copy that includes all desired metadata updates, and another copy that can be discarded.
Note, by the way, that I strongly recommend that you not remove photos from Lightroom Classic and then re-import them, because doing so can cause you to lose metadata updates that had been applied within Lightroom Classic.
To learn more about cleaning up (or avoiding) a mess in Lightroom Classic, check out my “Cleaning Up Your Mess in Lightroom Classic” course on the GreyLearning Website here: