“Synchronize Folder.” Sounds safe enough, doesn’t it. And it IS safe enough… as long as you read and understand the dialog. But how many of us hit OK on dialogs without first stopping to read them? I’ll admit, I’ve done it too. If you do that with the Synchronize Folder dialog, you can get into all sorts of trouble, so let’s take the time to read it properly…
The main purpose of Library menu > Synchronize Folder (also found in the folders right-click menu) is to update Lightroom’s catalog with changes made to the selected folder by other programs, for example, adding or deleting photos or updating the metadata.
- Import new photos searches the folder and subfolders for any new photos not currently in this catalog and imports them.
- Show import dialog before importing displays the photos in the Import dialog, to allow you to view the new photos and adjust the import options prior to import.
- Remove missing photos from the catalog checks for photos that have been moved, renamed or deleted from the folder and removes the missing photos from the catalog. If in doubt, leave this option unchecked, as you’ll lose all of the work you’ve done to the missing photos.
- Scan for metadata updates checks the metadata in the catalog against the file, to see whether you’ve edited the metadata in any other programs, such as Adobe Bridge. (For a complete discussion of XMP metadata, see pages 345-349 in my Lightroom Classic book.)
- The Show Missing Photos button searches for photos missing from the folder and creates a temporary collection in the Catalog panel. You can then decide whether to track them down and relink them, or whether to remove these photos from the catalog.
But stop! Before you press the Synchronize button, stop and think. If Remove missing photos from the catalog has a number next to it and you synchronize that folder, you may lose the work you’ve done in Lightroom. It doesn’t intelligently relink missing files. Instead, you need to cancel out of the Synchronize Folder dialog and manually relink the missing files.
So when is it useful? If you’ve dropped photos into a folder using other software (including Windows Explorer/Finder), or you’ve edited a photo in an external editor (e.g. Photoshop or OnOne) and it hasn’t been automatically added to the catalog, then Synchronize Folder saves you navigating to the folder in the Import dialog.
Next time you need to use Synchronize Folder, don’t forget to stop and read the options carefully before pressing OK.