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Photoshop Lightroom Reference Guide

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Moving Folders and Photos in Lightroom 2

Last updated Apr 25, 2008.

Creating new folders and moving photos from folder to folder is a fundamental aspect of file management. It’s also a fundamental task that should only be performed from within Lightroom in order to maintain the connection between the Lightroom catalog and the imported photos. There have been some changes to the functionality for creating new folders in Lightroom 2 that make this process easier than in Lightroom 1.

It all happens in the Folders panel and Grid view in the Library module. To jump to Grid view from anywhere in Lightroom, just press G. Expand the Folders panel and you are ready to start moving.

One important note is that Lightroom can only move photos from folder to folder. To create copies of photos, you must use the Export dialog to export copies to the folder of your choice.

Moving Photos

The most basic move operation is to move one or more photos from one folder to another folder that is already in Lightroom. Here’s how:

Step 1.

Click on the folder containing the photos you want to move. Select the photo or photos by clicking their thumbnails. You can select multiple photos by holding the Ctrl (or Cmd on Mac) key and click each photo. You can select all by pressing Ctrl+A (Cmd+A on Mac).

Step 2.

Click on one selected thumbnail and drag it to the desired destination folder. As soon as you start to click and drag, you will notice the cursor changes to a hand and thumbnail icon. If you have multiple photos selected, you will see multiple thumbnails in the icon (this is a great clue if you’ve accidentally selected more than one photo).

Step 3.

Once you move the cursor over the destination folder and it appears highlighted, you can release the mouse to drop the photos into that folder. The first time you do this, Lightroom will display a confirmation dialog asking if you really want to do this. Click the Move button to continue the operation. You could check the “Don’t show again” box, but I’d leave it unchecked as a precaution against accidental moves.

Lightroom will then move the photos to the new folder and update its catalog to reflect this change.

Moving Folders

You can move one folder into another folder in the same fashion. Just select the folder in the Folders panel and drag it into the new destination folder. Lightroom will again ask you if you really want to do that, so click the Move button to proceed.

Adding Folders

Lightroom 2 has made it easier to add new top-level folders and sub-folders from the Folders panel. Adding top-level folders was always trickier in Lightroom 1 than it needed to be, so this is a welcome change. This will also make it much easier to use Lightroom to move folders and photos from one drive to another (such as when your current disk starts bursting at the seams from too many photos). Here’s how to add a new top-level folder on a new drive:

Step 1.

Click the plus-arrow icon at the top of the Folders panel and choose Add Folder. This will launch the Browse For Folder dialog on Windows or the Choose or Create New Folder dialog on Mac.

Step 2.

Navigate to the new drive. If you’ve already created a folder on that drive outside of Lightroom, you can just select it now. If you haven’t created the folder, then use that dialog to create a new folder. On Windows, click the Make New Folder button. On Mac, click the New Folder button. Once the new folder is selected, click OK on Windows or Choose on Mac.

Step 3.

If the folder you selected already contains photos, then Lightroom will open the Import dialog and allow you to import them as well. Click the Import button to bring those photos in. If for some reason you don’t want to import those photos, just click the Uncheck All button first, then click Import to bring just the folder in by itself.

If there were no photos in that new folder, then it will just appear in the Folders panel.

Once the new folder can be seen in the Folders panel, you can drag and drop folders or photos into it and have Lightroom move them to this new drive.

If you want to add a sub-folder within an existing imported folder, the easiest method is to right-click (Ctrl-click on Mac) the parent folder and choose Create Folder inside “[foldername]”, then give that subfolder a name and click Create.

New Move Shortcut

Now that the basics are covered, there is one other new feature in Lightroom 2 designed to assist in moving photos that can be accessed via the right-click contextual menu. It works like this:

Step 1.

Select the photo (or photos) you want to move.

Step 2.

Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the folder you want those photos moved into and choose Move Selected Photo(s) to this Folder.

Step 3.

Click Move in the confirmation dialog and Lightroom will move the photos.

While these aren’t as sexy as some of the changes in Lightroom 2, I do think they have the potential to make your life much easier just the same. Enjoy!