Showing the Folder Hierarchy

Due to behaviour changes, particularly in the Windows version of Lightroom, I’ve updated the instructions, which can now be found here.

Does your folder list look like this?

No Hierarchy

And would you actually prefer to see the folder hierarchy up to a higher level, like this?

Full Hierarchy

Apart from the fact it looks nice and tidy, it makes it very easy to relink missing folders when you change hard drives, accidentally rename a parent folder outside of Lightroom, so forth. You only ever have to relink the highest level folder, and subfolders will update themselves.

[Edit – as per Jack’s comment below, make sure you have one unimported file temporarily somewhere in your pictures folder, otherwise Windows won’t show the Import dialog.]

Don’t worry, you don’t have to reimport your whole library. There’s a much easier way of showing Lightroom the parent folders.

First, go to File > Import. Select the highest level parent folder that you want Lightroom to see, and hit Choose.

Import Dialog

In the next dialog, it looks like you’re going to import all of your photographs again. But tick Show Previews, and then hit Uncheck All so that all of the images are unticked. This will prevent Lightroom from importing the images themselves.

Import Dialog 2

Finally, hit Import. A few seconds later, and Lightroom will show your folder hierarchy in the Folders panel.


11 Responses to Showing the Folder Hierarchy

  1. Jack says:

    I tried this method in lightroom Windows version, but it is likely it does not work. The software refuses to open the Import Dialog and displays “The following photos will not be imported because they are already present in the catalog. To see these photos in the catalog, select ‘Show in Library’ (The import will be cancelled)” Then whatever button I click to (OK or CANCEL), the import is cancelled. If I click on the SHOW IN LIBRARY button, of course import is cancelled, but a temporary collection “Alreadi In Catalog” is created.
    What am I missing?

  2. [You are quite right Jack, I’ve just double checked on a Windows machine. There’s a simple workaround though… add one single additional picture into any of the folders, so that it will bring up the Import dialog. You can still ‘uncheck all’ so that it doesn’t import into LR, and delete it from the hard drive once you’ve finished, but it will enable Lightroom to see the full hierarchy. – VB]

  3. Robert Wilson says:

    I like this tip! Finally, I can have my directories look like hierarchical like actual hard-drive file storage (on Windows). I think most new Lightroom users are kind of confounded because the Folders doesn’t automatically “look” like the structure in their hard-drive.

    In my case regardless of the comptuer folder structure, my “root” work storage area is \work\ so I dropped a file in there (and renamed it, so it wouldn’t accidently be recognized as already in the catalog). Now all further imports drop exactly where I expect them, somewhere below \work\.

    Thanks a lot!

  4. Leo Dj says:

    Additional info for Windows:
    Even after having an unimported file, you will still get the warning “The following photos will not be imported because they are already present in the catalog”. However, go ahead and click Import. You will then see the Import Photos dialog. Make sure for File Handling option you choose “

  5. Leo Dj says:

    *I accidentally pressed Submit Comment before finishing my post 😦 *

    Anyway, for File Handling option you have to choose “Import photos at their current location”, or it won’t work. Click uncheck all (unless you do want to import any of the photos), and click Import.

  6. [Thanks for adding that Leo – you’re quite right! – VB]

  7. Katja Heinemann says:

    somehow that doesn’t seem to do anything for me – all my folders became unhinged when I renamed one folder on the external hard drive, and even though I have re-named it back to the original, LR can’t find anything in that folder and would need each image re-imported. I also wanted to have a folder structure that resembled my workflow, so this seemed like a great tip – but if I unclick all the previews and hit “import”, all that happens is that LR imports an empty folder directory that is not linked to anything and shows 0 images in it. I am working on a Mac in OS X 10.4 on the LR Beta version right now. Help???????? I can’t manually re-import every single image, so I guess my only solution would be to start over form scratch and make a new library??

  8. Katja, drop by and we’ll see what we can do to help. – VB

  9. Katja Heinemann says:

    actually, the key here was that I needed to relink the folders first, THEN I could add a super-structure folder after that. Can’t re-link while adding a “master”/top tier folder, makes sense. So, re-linking folders now and am also newly signed up to the Forum for further questions, which I am sure I’ll have plenty of…..

  10. Joanne Clerk says:

    I just migrated from PC to MacBook Pro. I was able to import all photos from my external hard drive to the Mac but lost my folder hierarchy. I tried the method you suggested here but get same results as Jack (see Jack Nov 12, 2007). I then tried to add a new photo to one of the folders but I get a message that I cannot move or add a photo to the folder because it cannot be modified. I have looked everywhere for additional hints on this problem unsuccessfully. I am stuck. Please help.

  11. Joanne, which version of Lightroom are you using? These instructions were for version 1. And how did you go about moving the files? Drop by and we’ll get you sorted in no time. It’s easier to talk on a forum than by blog comment! – VB

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