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Solving Common Photoshop Problems – Lightroom Image Disappeared?

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!

About Michael Hoffman (224 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.

5 Comments on Solving Common Photoshop Problems – Lightroom Image Disappeared?

  1. This is so true – When I was new to LR, I almost always worked in Previous Import because it was so easy to get caught up in viewing and editing the photos while they were importing (Impatient Photographer Syndrome – there is no cure). Great tip!

  2. Thanks for this great tip! I was completely frustrated-this has happened to me previously, and I couldn’t figure out why the problem was always solved when I closed up, worked on some other folders, and then went back to the folder where I had “lost ” the images-of course I was no longer working on “previous import”!
    Thanks again!!

  3. Thank you thank you thank you!!! This was making me crazy!!!

  4. Thank you, totally had me stumped, very much appreciate your post.

  5. Máťa Bé // 30/12/2013 at 7:48 pm //

    yessss, thanks for this information, It helped me a lot, I was really crazy about non-working reimport 🙂

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