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Auto Focus: When to Use Synchronize Folder and Update Folder Location

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By Chris Malinao

There was a time when we did not see the word Folder in the Lightroom interface because Lightroom was intended to not be dependent on folders, and because relying on folders is an inefficient way of managing data. With folders, we copy-paste, we duplicate our photos, we needlessly bloat our hard drive.Instead of folders, Lightroom chose metadata as basis for the catalog. Lightroom becomes efficient in data management that way, because we can have several versions of the same image without creating additional photo files, we do not copy-paste, we do not bloat the hard drive.

FIG.-1. Synchronize Folder is when you’ve added photos to a folder that has previously been imported into Lightroom, and you want to add them to the Catalog. Update Folder Location is when you want to get rid of duplicates. Read on.

FIG.-1. Synchronize Folder is when you’ve added photos to a folder that has previously been imported into Lightroom, and you want to add them to the Catalog. Update Folder Location is when you want to get rid of duplicates. Read on.

But because we’ve been so used to seeing folders ever since we first learned to use the computer, Lightroom, in Version 3, brought that word to the interface just for us to see what folders we have imported into Lightroom. Remember, as a matter of workflow, we first need to import our images into Lightroom to make it aware of its location in the hard drive. Once imported, we proceed to make Collections in Lightroom to organize our photos, then access these photos via the collections, not via folders, for reasons of efficiency stated above.

So, the question arises: What should we do if we added more photos to a folder that has been imported into Lightroom, that is, we added these photos directly into a folder using File Explorer or Finder? The recent photos have not yet been imported so Lightroom is not aware of those.

This is where we use the option to synchronize the folder. In Library, right-click on the name of a folder and choose Synchronize Folder, then the dialog box in Fig.-1 appears.

You want check marks on the options. Select Import new photos to import photos that appear in the folders but have not been imported in the catalog. Show Import Dialog Before Importing to specify which folders and photos are imported.To remove photos that have been deleted from the folder but not from the catalog, select Remove Missing Photos From Catalog. If this option is dimmed, no files are missing. To scan for any metadata changes made to the files in another application, choose Scan For Metadata Updates.

It is in the Folder view that you can add and move folders in the Folders panel, rename folders, and delete them. Changes you make to folders in Lightroom are applied to the folders themselves on the volume. The thing to remember here is that Lightroom is aware of the changes.

What about Update Folder Location? Right-click on a folder name and choose Update Folder Location. We use this when have multiple copies of the same folder of images in two locations. Strange as this may sound, this happens. Like when you duplicated a folder of images for demonstration purposes and you have made important edits to the photos inside that folder. Or when you don’t remember anymore which one was your working folder, was it the one in my C: drive, or that folder on the D: drive, or even inthe external drive?

If we simply delete an unwanted folder in the Catalog, this could also delete the files from Collections, erase any virtual copies and, if we haven’t saved information to the files, this will discard metadata changes and develop settings. (We’re not referring to backup photos here, simply redundant files.)

Updating a folder location will avoid these pitfalls, and it goes like this: right-click on the Folder and choose Update Folder Location, then File Explorer appears. Navigate to the folder or images that we want Lightroom to work with and select it. This enables Lightroom to keep track of that set of images and forget about the others.

Chris Malinao teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF (Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation), a nonprofit organization that offers year-round workshops in Basic Photography, Advanced Photography, Wedding Photography, Strobist Lighting, Food Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom.

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