If you’ve deleted your original files, you don’t have backups, and they’re not in the Recycle Bin (Windows) / Trash (Mac), the next thing to check is whether the photos are still on the memory card. If you haven’t reshot the entire card, it may be possible to rescue some of the original photos using recovery software. You could also try recovery software on the hard drive, to see if they can be rescued from there.
If that’s not possible, before you do anything else, close Lightroom, find the catalog on the hard drive, and duplicate the catalog and previews, just in case you make a mistake.
Adobe have written a script that retrieves Lightroom’s previews and saves them as image files, however there are also a couple of free plug-ins which make the process easier. The resulting JPEGs are only the size and quality of the previews, but they’re better than nothing.
- Download and double click to unzip the plug-in.
- Go to File menu > Plug-in Manager and press the Add button. Navigate to the plug-in you’ve just unzipped.
- Back in Lightroom’s Grid view, select the photos you need to rescue.
- Go to File menu > Plugin Extras > Extract Preview Images to show the dialog.
- Select the location for the extracted previews and press Begin Extraction.
- In the results dialog, the plug-in reports on the size and quality of the extracted previews.