How to Fix Common Lightroom Problems
If you’re a long-time Lightroom user, you’ve probably come across some issues over the years…especially if you try to keep Lightroom up-to-date.
Some of the solutions are easy to find, but others…not so much.
As a result, we’ve developed this guide to some of the more common problems afflicting Lightroom users today.
Be sure to bookmark this page even if you haven’t yet had any problems with Lightroom – many of these will at some point crop up. Also, we’ll be updating this page as new issues arise.
For this post, we’ll be focusing primarily on issues that happen with Lightroom Classic.
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Table of Contents
10 Common Lightroom Problems (and their fixes)
Overall, if you buy Lightroom you won’t have too many issues – it’s a stable app. Most of the older bugs have been fixed or worked out by Adobe’s frequent updates.
However, that doesn’t mean that things don’t happen at times – especially if you’re working with the newest releases.
Here’s a list of the 10 most common problems we’ve found troubling users today.
1. Lightroom thinks my photos are missing
There comes a time in just about every Lightroom user’s experience when Lightroom claims that your photo just simply isn’t there. The preview will come up, but the image itself will be uneditable (unless it’s a smart preview).
Missing photos can happen as a result of unplugging an external drive that was the source for the photos or if the drive mount point (Mac) or the drive letter (Windows) has changed.
For these issues the solution is simple – plug the external hard drive back in and/or switch back to the drive letter Lightroom expects.
More likely, though, your missing photos are due to using your computer’s operating system to move, delete, or rename image files rather than doing it through Lightroom. This breaks the link between the files and Lightroom Classic’s catalog.
If this is your problem, be sure to follow these next few steps. DO NOT re-import the photos or synchronize the folder yet. This could make you lose all the work you’ve done on these photos!
Here’s what to do:
1. Find the actual location of the images on your hard drive. If you’re not sure where they went to, use your operating system’s search options (Windows Search or macOS Spotlight).
2. If you can’t find the original files, you’ll need to reload them onto your hard drive from backups. (Yep, let’s hope you back up your photos!)
3. Once you know where the photos are on your hard drive, go back to Lightroom and from the Library module, choose from the top toolbar Library -> Find All Missing Photos. This will show all the missing files in Grid view.
4. Click the Photo Is Missing icon. This will bring up the Locate dialog box.
5. From here, click the Locate button, navigate to the current photo location, and click Select.
6. If you have a number of “missing” photos in that same area, select the Find Nearby Missing Photos in the Locate dialog box. This will prompt Lightroom to look for any other missing photos in the same folder and re-establish links with them as well.
To avoid this headache in the future, make sure you only move files and folders within Lightroom. Sure, it’s tempting to “tidy up” using your computer’s operating system, but this will only break the links between your catalog and your files.
A simple solution is to use a photo editing app that allows you to move your photos and folders around on your computer without having to update their location within the software – Luminar 4 is one popular and affordable option.
Also – don’t forget to backup your images! Remember, the Lightroom catalog doesn’t store the original files, so backing up the catalog will NOT backup your photos. You’ll need to back up your images separately.
2. Lightroom keeps crashing
As mentioned before, Adobe Lightroom is a pretty stable piece of software. Still, there are times when things get corrupted or go askew, and Lightroom won’t be able to recover.
We’ve already covered this topic in-depth here, so if this is what’s happening to you hop on over to that article.
3. Not being able to import from removable drives (macOS Catalina 10.15)
If you’re running Lightroom Classic 8.4.1 or later with macOS Catalina, there are a few issues to look out for. One of these is not being able to import images from a card, camera, or external drive.
This happens because Catalina requires you to give your programs permission to access the different drives.
Luckily the solution for this is pretty easy.
In the Finder’s System Preferences go to Security and Privacy. Make sure that all the boxes are checked under Lightroom Classic, giving it permission to access your drives, files, and folders.
4. Unable to add images to a collection (LR Classic 10.0)
It’s not uncommon for updates to have a few issues. It’s certainly true of Lightroom Classic 10.0 at any rate.
One of these is this error message when you try to add images to a collection: “?:0: attempt to compare two nil values”.
Adobe is planning to fix this in the next update, but until then, you can get around this issue by changing the sort order of the target collection to something other than Custom.
5. Only one collection shows up in the Collections panel (LR Classic 10.0)
Another issue with 10.0, is that if you have the Collections panel collapsed when you close Lightroom Classic, you might find that only one collection will show up in the Collections panel when you relaunch again.
If this happens, click the “+” in the Collections panel and change the sort order from whatever happens to be selected.
(This will also be addressed in the next update.)
6. “Sync Settings” no longer working
Unlike syncing to the cloud, LR’s “sync settings” function allows you to make changes to one image and then apply those same settings to as many other files as you select.
Over the years, a number of users have found that “sync settings” will suddenly stop working – sometimes after an upgrade, sometimes for no discernible reason at all.
If this is you, the most common reason has to do with the white balance. If white balance is one of the settings you’re syncing and it’s set to “as shot” on the source image, Lightroom will tell all the other images to use the white balance they were shot with as well – not the source image’s white balance.
To fix this, try moving the white balance setting by 1. This will change it from “as shot” to “custom”. With an actual numerical setting added in, your white balance should now sync.
Be aware, changing it to “daylight” or something similar may not work. Manually changing your white balance setting is best.
7. Your destination folder comes up as “Not Writable” on import
If you’re trying to import images into LR Classic after having already copied them onto your hard drive, you may get an error that reads “Could not copy a file to the destination folder because it is not writable”.
As you may know, there are three different import options in LR Classic: copy, add and move. If you already copied your photos onto your hard drive from your card, try selecting Add instead of Copy at the top of the import screen.
When you choose Add, your destination won’t matter, and no permissions are needed. You’re just adding images to the Lightroom catalog file. The original files stay untouched. This should allow your images to import without a problem.
8. Lightroom can’t read the RAW images from a recently purchased camera
Thinking of buying a camera that came out in the last couple of months? If so, don’t be surprised if the rest of the world hasn’t caught up to it yet. If Lightroom can’t read the RAW files, odds are your new camera’s RAW format isn’t supported yet.
But don’t despair. Camera manufacturers know this and will usually provide free software that lets you edit your RAW photos. For example, if you just bought the Nikon Z6ii, you can use Nikon’s native software to edit.
Need Lightroom? Well, you’ll have to wait a bit. It usually takes 1-2 releases of Lightroom before it catches up. That being said, Adobe releases a new update of LR Classic just about every two months, so you won’t have long to wait.
Alternatively, you could also just shoot in JPEG until the new release comes out.
9. Photos deleted in LR CC don’t delete in LR Classic
Have you ever tried to delete a photo from Lightroom CC or the iOS app and then found that the file isn’t deleted in Lightroom Classic? If so, don’t worry. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Unlike Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic requires its cataloged images to live on a local hard drive. When you tell your mobile device to Sync with Lightroom Classic, your images will automatically download to your computer. To delete them, you have to delete them off your computer.
Lightroom CC, on the other hand, only deals with what’s in the cloud. Deleting a file there only deletes what’s in the cloud (including your collections), not what’s on your hard drive. This allows those who want to delete an image from the cloud but not from their hard drive to have that option.
You can always delete an image from the cloud before you open Lightroom Classic. Once it gets downloaded to your computer, however, you’ll need to delete it from the computer itself.
10. Smart previews aren’t being built on import (LR Classic 10.0)
Those who’ve recently upgraded to Lightroom Classic 10.0 and who use smart previews, might come across an error dialogue saying “Some smart previews were not built”.
This is a known bug and should be fixed in a future release.
For the time being, you can get around it by importing your files without smart previews and then building the previews afterwards: Library > Previews > Build Smart Previews
You’ve probably noticed that many of the problems listed above have a lot to do with upgrades. In truth, that is the bulk of the problems people are having with Lightroom. It’s part of the hazard of continuing to advance and improve – not everything will work at the time of the release.
Personally, I tend not to upgrade either my operating system or my applications until I absolutely have to – I have fewer problems that way.
If you’re on the other end of things – always getting the latest updates (which is what’s recommended), you may have to be patient as a few kinks are being worked out.
And remember, you can always use the Creative Cloud app to revert to the previous version of Lightroom while you’re waiting for bugs to be fixed – as long as you haven’t also updated your catalog.
What do you think? Are you having problems with Lightroom CC that aren’t in this list?
Usnea Lebendig is a travel and landscape photographer who loves trekking in the wilderness, exploring other cultures, and using photography for social activism.