Seven Steps To Reclaim Valuable Disk Space By Cleaning Up Lightroom Orphans

Here’s a method to reclaim valuable disk space by deleting orphaned RAW files that Lightroom accumulates over time.

Lightroom LogoIf you’ve been using Lightroom for a long time, chances are you have accumulated a lot of orphan files. Those are RAW files that still exist in your pictures folder, but that your Lightroom catalog (the database) doesn’t know about.

During the import of your photos, Lightroom adds a lot of information about the images to its catalog. The file name, all the EXIF data like shutter speed, aperture and ISO, the location of the image file on your hard drive and more.

Orphans accumulate over time because when you try to remove a file from Lightroom, it’s actually quite easy that instead of removing the image file, you remove it from the catalog and not from the hard drive.

Lightroom Delete Dialog

Whenever you press the backspace key while in the All Photographs view, you get the choice to Delete from Disk or Remove. Delete from Disk trashes the image file, while Remove keeps it in its location and just removes it from the catalog. The default is the Remove button, so by simply hitting enter at this point, you’ve created an orphan.

I have now again reached the point where the hard drive that holds my pictures is threatening to fill up, but this time, instead of just buying a bigger drive and adding to the pile of obsolete hardware, I wanted to find out if there were any invisible space hogs on the drive that I could get rid of first. To my surprise, there were gigabytes of orphans strewn all over the place. Most likely those are files that I wanted to Delete from Disk but accidentally just removed from the catalog. It happens.

Here’s how to find and delete these orphans and reclaim all those valuable gigabytes. WARNING: if you follow this method, you will end up permanently deleting photos from your hard drive!

  1. For later reference, check how much space your pictures take up on your disk by selecting the folder where Lightroom saves the images and pressing CMD-I (Info).
  2. Open the folders tab in your Library and select the top level one (in my case it’s called Pictures). This procedure assumes you keep your Lightroom photos under one directory. If your pictures are on several hard drives or under several top-level directories, repeat this process for each of them.
  3. Right click on that folder and select Synchronize Folder… – wait for the following dialog to update its numbers. This can take a while depending on the size of your library. In the end it will show you the number of orphans behind Import new photos.
  4. Select Import new photos and press the Synchronize button. Lightroom will now import those orphans into your catalog. Make sure you select “Add” instead of “Copy” when you import, so the files will stay in their original locations.
  5. Lightroom will automacially select Previous Import in the Catalog panel for you and show you the pictures it found.
  6. IMPORTANT: Review those pictures to make sure you really want to get rid of them.
  7. WARNING: unless you have a backup, this next step will actually remove photos from your hard drive for good. Select all pictures from Previous Import, hit backspace and when prompted, instead of clicking Remove, click Delete from Disk. Lightroom will move them to the Trash. To completely clean things up, empty the Trash.
  8. Check the disk space that’s used by your pictures again.

You have now hopefully reclaimed a ton of hard disk space. How much? If you measured before and after clearing the orphans, let me know in the comments how much space you reclaimed with this method.

About the Author
Chris Marquardt is a photographer and the host of Tips from the Top Floor, a weekly show about all things photography. Chris takes photographers to amazing places, such as Iceland, Mt. Everest Base Camp, India and Ethiopia. He has produced several Lightroom video classes and the popular e-book 1 Hour 1000 Pics - Supercharge your Lightroom Workflow.

tfttf616 – Great Great News


This episode of TFTTF is full of great news! Chris just finished recording a Lightroom Video Workshop, the new push notification system is online, so from now on you’ll never again miss important TFTTF news and the Marquardt International Pinhole (video) is alive and kicking!

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Workshops with Chris Marquardt
Jan 2016: Ethiopia - Danakil Desert
Mar 2016: Lake Baikal, Siberia
Jun 2016: Lofoten, Norway
Sep 2016: Donegal
May 2017: Svalbard/Spitzbergen
Nov 2017: Bhutan
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tfttf589 – More Light Makes More Dark


On this episode of TFTTF German wants to know how to deal with Lightroom and multiple catalogs, Simon has a question on the inverse square law (no math in this episode, promise!) and Happy 111th Birthday, Ansel Adams!

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept” – Ansel Adams

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Shh don't tell Chris this is here

Show Links:

Workshops with Chris Marquardt
Jan 2016: Ethiopia - Danakil Desert
Mar 2016: Lake Baikal, Siberia
Jun 2016: Lofoten, Norway
Sep 2016: Donegal
May 2017: Svalbard/Spitzbergen
Nov 2017: Bhutan
» all workshops

Adobe Lightroom 4.2 issues solved. Leaves a bad aftertaste

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about some Lightroom 4.2 performance issues. I finally finished the job, despite the issues. To fix the problem, I had to go through several things that were recommended on the Adobe support forum. Including setting up a new catalog, optimising the old one (several times), making sure OS and everything was up-to-date (everything was), making sure there were no preview renders going on (there weren’t), making sure Lightroom wasn’t writing XMPs automatically, increasing the raw cache size from 10GB to 50GB (does that even make sense on a catalog that holds less than 5000 pictures?!)

The good thing: LR4.2 is now performing at acceptable speed.

The bad thing: I have NO idea whatsoever, which of the above steps actually made the difference and at this point I don’t have the time to do any deeper analysis on the problem.

And neither should I have to.

The whole incident leaves a really bad taste. I love Lightroom. I’m passionate about Lightroom. I’m actually so passionate about it, I teach Lightroom. It allows me to do things I couldn’t do just a few years ago. Lightroom has become the hub for 100% of my photography. But please, can anyone explain to me why a point update from 4.1 to 4.2 should require some customers to go on a week-long hunt for a solution to a problem that wasn’t existent on the same system with the same catalog just a minute before the update?

What’s going on at Adobe? (oops, I think I have a a deja-vu) – your guess is as good as mine. Let me try: maybe Adobe didn’t finish testing 4.2 before they released the software to the general public (sure feels like it to me). Or maybe the beta tester base was too small (which could have resulted in them not catching the big bugs). Or maybe Adobe’s quality standards have been dramatically lowered over the last year (I sure had that feeling when the 4.0 update killed my tone curves back in May).

I’m getting really tired of this. Adobe, please don’t make me go through this again when you release 4.3.

Should you upgrade to Lightroom 4.2? After today, I’m not so sure.

Update Oct/29/2012: I managed to solve the issues. How? Beats me.. read all about it here.

Update Oct/16/2012: Adobe has merged my problem report with another few that circle around the same topic. You can find the merged thread here. If you experience similar issues with Lightroom 4.2, please consider going there and marking the thread +1 to help raise awareness!

Lightroom LogoThe other day I updated Lightroom to version 4.2, which for me resulted in a massive slow-down on my mobile system. I didn’t have the time to test on my Mac Pro yet and I won’t until next week, as I’m traveling.

After the tone curve problems and other issues that Adobe introduced with Lightroom 4.0 and their subsequent (and over two months in the making) 4.1 update in May (I’ve written about it), … I can’t help but feel a bit like “here we go again”.

Everything had been great in the five months since 4.1 came out. Good performance on my mobile setup, tone curves working fine, new 2012 process doing good.

The new issues with version 4.2 don’t seem wide-spread, but when I typed Lightroom 4.2 into the Google search box, the first suggestion that came up was Lightroom 4.2 slow… maybe it’s just too new and we’ll have to wait for the reports to come in.

My two specific issues are these:

Issue 1: I love smart collections. One way I use them often is this: I set the smart collection to only show unflagged images, then when I press the x (reject-flag) key on pictures, they instantly disappear from the collection.

Not so instant anymore since version 4.2. I’ve had to wait anywhere between one and 20 (twenty!!) seconds until the flagged pictures went away. It used to be a great way to narrow down a selection together with a client, instead, today it made me look bad.

Issue 2: Import speed. I don’t use the fastest cards, but half an hour on a 4GB card full of RAW images is simply too much. It didn’t happen right away. But during the course of a few imports, LR’s import speed slowed down dramatically. And I’m not talking about preview rendering times, just the simple import.

When restarting LR, things seem to speed up a little, but not for long.

I’m quite frustrated with this experience. Please let me know in the comments if you’re seeing a performance increase or decrease since the update to Lightroom 4.2.

If you’ve got speed-related issues like I do, please consider to +1 the problem report that I filed with Adobe today to help Adobe see that it’s a real issue. (Update: after Adobe merged it with another thread, this is the new location).