So you”ve been using Lightroom for a while and have a much better grasp on it than when you started.  If only you had known what you were doing when you originally set up that catalog.  Need to organize your photos in a more logical way?  You are not alone!

Let’s start with these two important points about reorganizing the photos in your Lightroom catalog:

  • This re-organization will be reflected on your hard drive as well as inside Lightroom’s catalog.
  • For photos that are currently in Lightroom’s catalog, you should only move or delete them within Lightroom.  Otherwise, you confuse Lightroom because it doesn’t know what you did with its photos and you get the dreaded gray question mark.

Ok, now that we’ve set the ground rules, let’s talk about how to clean up your photos’ organization.

Start by making sure that you have all possible Subfolders displayed in your Folders Panel of Lightroom.  Go to the Library menu and select “Show Photos in Subfolders.”

Next, study the screen shot below (my Folders Panel – look on the left side of the Library module for yours).  Let me tell you a little about how I organize my photos.

You can see from my Folders panel that I have imported into Lightroom’s catalog photos that are on both my internal and external hard drives.  I store 100% of my photos on my external drive.  The files on my internal drive come from classes that I teach and graphics for this website.

On my external hard drive, I have folders for each month.  Within each month, I have folders for each shoot/event/occasion.  At the end of the year, I transfer each month into a folder for the year.  As my Folders panel shows, I haven’t completed that process for 2012 yet.  Transferring my monthly folders from the Photos master folder, where they live now, into the 2012 subfolder, is simply a drag and drop. 

How to Move an Entire Folder of Photos in Lightroom’s Catalog

I click on June 2012 and drag it to the 2012 folder, where I release the click.  

Now, depending on how many photos you are moving, this can be a slow process.  In fact, you might see the dreaded gray question mark on the folder you just moved while it processes.  Don’t worry – the folder will move eventually.  You might need to restart Lightroom to see it, but it will work.


Here is my Folders panel after restarting Lightroom.  See?  June is safe, sound and well-organized.

How to Move Selected Photos to a Different Folder

What if you imported photos into the wrong folder on your hard drive?  You don’t need to move the folder they are in, you just want to put some photos in a different folder.  That’s easy too.  Select the photos you need to move, go to the folder you’d like to move them to, right click, and select “Move Selected Photos to This Folder.”

Take the 3 highlighted photos in the screen shot above.  They live in the June 2012 folder, but I want to move them to July 2012.  After selecting the photos, I right click on the July 2012 folder and select “Move Selected Photos….”  Note that June 2012 is the highlighted folder, because that is what I have open.  It can be confusing that July 2012 is not highlighted even though you are moving your photos there.  Don’t let it trip you up!

How to Create a New Folder

Let’s say I want to create a brand new folder inside June 2012.  I simply right click on June 2012 and select “Create New Folder Inside….”  Next, I can follow the steps above for moving photos into this new folder.


You can see the new folder I created, Vacation.  It is grayed out because there are no photos in it yet.

As I said above, these changes happen both within Lightroom’s catalog and on my hard drive, so I can see this new folder by looking in my Finder (Windows Explorer for you PC users).

How to Rename Photos

If you’d like to change the names of some of your photos, select them and go to your Library menu.  Click on “Rename Photos.”

You can change the naming template you’d like to use (e.g. Custom Name – Sequence vs. Custom Name – Original File Number).  After choosing the template, type in your new name and hit OK.  Your photos now have new names.

How to Rename Folders

Right click on the photo you’d like to rename and select, you guessed it, Rename.

How to Delete Photos

To delete photos, select the photo or photos (they should be highlighted) and right click on one of them.  Select “Delete Photos.”



You will then receive the following message asking whether you want to remove the photos from Lightroom’s catalog or actually delete them from your hard drive.  Select Remove to take the photos out of Lightroom’s catalog but leave them on your hard drive.  Select “Delete from Disk” to delete the photos completely from your hard drive and Lightroom.

For me, I don’t have photos that aren’t in Lightroom.  All photos are in my catalog.  I know that others work differently however, so this choice is up to you.

How to Delete Folders

If you’d like to delete a folder from Lightroom’s catalog and your hard drive, first you need to delete the photos inside  using the preceding tip.  Then, right click on the folder name (it will be grayed out to indicate that it is empty, like Baseline Test in the screen shot below).  Select Remove, and Lightroom will delete the folder from the hard drive as well as its catalog.


Ok, those are the major scenarios I can think of that would help you organize your catalog in Lightroom.  Have I left anything out?  If you still have a question about cleaning up your Lightroom catalog, post it in the comments below.