What is that question mark next to my photos in Lightroom?

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.”

The "missing photos" icon in the Grid view of the Library module

The "missing photos" icon in the Grid view of the Library module

The "missing photos" error message in the Develop module

The "missing photos" error message in the Develop module

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Folders appear dimmed and have a question mark when Lightroom can't find them.

A missing folder in Lightroom

 

 

 

 

To restore broken links to folders, see the Help topic Locate missing folders. The topic Synchronize folders might be useful, too.

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.
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3 Responses to What is that question mark next to my photos in Lightroom?

  1. Pingback: Best editing software for beginners... - Page 12

  2. Adam Ward says:

    I seem to be having this problem when exporting photos out of lightroom to a new folder. It has the offline or missing warning but I haven’t moved the originals. Any idea why? I’m using LR4. Thanks Adam

  3. MItchell Zimmerman says:

    I am a LIghtroom newby. I made some mistake in trying to upload/import photos from a card, and they didn’t upload. I didn’t realize this and reformated the card. Fortunately, I had the photos on another storage device and recovered them. BUT now whenever I open Lightroom, I get the message referred to in this comment — for 700-odd photos! I don’t want to locate them, just start again. How do I make this message go away for the entire folder’s worth of photos? Every time I shut down Lightroom and re-start, it’s there again! Thanks.