We hear the question all the time: “What is that question mark next to my photos in Lightroom?” Sometimes, the question takes a more panicked form: “Where did my photos go??? Lightroom lost my photos. Help!”
Don’t worry. Lightroom will find them.
If you move photos in the OS away from the location where Lightroom thinks they are, Lightroom loses the link to them. When that happens, you’ll see a little question-mark icon in the image thumbnail in the Library module, and in the Develop module, you’ll see a big message: “The file named XXX is offline or missing.”
To relink the photos, see the Lightroom Community Help topic Locate missing photos. There’s even a link to a video tutorial of the process as well.
If you move entire folders of photos in the OS and break the link in Lightroom, the folder appears dim in the Folders panel and has a question-mark icon.
To prevent broken links between Lightroom and the folders and photos in your catalog, remember these tips:
- Don’t move photos or folders in the Finder (Mac OS) or Explorer (Windows). Do it from within Lightroom.
- If you store photos on an external hard drive, make sure it is attached and powered on when you start Lightroom. If the drive is disconnected, Lightroom will lose the links to the photos, even if they haven’t been moved.