Here’s a problem that has plagued everyone at some point in the Lightroom learning curve, and it can be a real stumper if you aren’t paying attention, or if you aren’t wise to the ways of Lightroom. This problem occurs when you send a photo or photos out for editing in an external editor, and when you save from the editor… poof! The image disappears, leaving you wondering what happened. This is almost always caused by the same problem, and it still bites me once in awhile when I’m not watching what I’m doing. The good news is, it isn’t a problem at all, and the image is easily discovered. Let’s take a look.
We’ll start in Lightroom. I’ve just returned from a trip to China, and I managed to take a variety of photos while I was there. I returned, and imported the images into Lightroom.
Some of my images were bracketed, so I elected to merge them to HDR using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro, one of my personal favorite plug-ins. The process is straightforward, highlight my bracketed images, right click, and choose Export, then select my HDR Efex Pro preset:
In HDR Efex Pro, I make my adjustments, then click Save to return the processed image back to Lightroom:
Now, we get back to Lightroom, and… no image! Where it the world did it go?
Sometimes, the answer is that you have a specific User sort order set, and the image goes at the end of the list. Not the case here, as we can see the bottom of the grid and the image clearly is missing.
A closer inspection of the grid shows something strange is definitely going on. The images were in a stack:
But, notice the first image says “1 of 4.” If you hover over the second, it shows “3 of 4.” What gives? The returned processed image from HDR Efex Pro should be “2 of 4,” but it isn’t showing.
The answer, and this is what gets everyone from newbies to more experienced but forgetful users, is found in the left hand pane, which was closed in my example. Let’s open the left pane and take a look:
And, here we see the issue. We are viewing “Previous Import!” Previous Import is a special kind of temporary collection, that shows the images from your last Import session. For whatever reason, any image created by an external editor and saved back into Lightroom does NOT show up in Previous Import.
Let’s open the Folders, and navigate to the folder where we asked the files to be placed during the previous import session. In my case, this is very easy, because I let Lightroom organize the files by date (it’s an import option, which I strongly recommend unless you have a good reason to organize them another way… and of course, many people do have a good reason).
Here’s the view of the folder, and there’s our image, right where it is supposed to be – in position “2 of 4” in the stack. When we view the folder, we see all the items in the folder, which is where HDR Efex Pro returned the file. When we were viewing Previous Import, we did not see the file because external editing, even though it re-imported the new file, did not count as an “Import” worthy of inclusion in “Previous Import.”
Here we see that the file was never missing at all, we were just looking in the wrong place – at a filtered list of files that didn’t show the whole picture.
This very same problem can occur in other similar circumstances:
- When you send a file to Photoshop for editing, or to any other plugin that returns a different file from what was sent.
- When you are viewing a collection and send files for editing, the returned edited files aren’t automatically included in the collection.
So, the next time you’re doing some post-processing in Lightroom, and wonder why your image disappeared, look to the left hand pane. Chances are, you’re viewing Previous Import, or viewing a Collection. Go back to the Folders, and you’ll find your image!
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