Lightroom: Import from catalog doesn't recognize duplicate images -> no synchronizing of metadata, settings, keywords possible

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I am using Lightroom CC 2015.4 under Win7.

The problem is:


have got a local catalog with my actual keywords, adjustments and so
on, and a different master catalog, containing the same images on a
different drive but without the latest edits.

So I wanted to import my edits and metadata from the local catalog into the master catalog:


opened the master catalog, 'import from another catalog', and then
Lightroom listed all the images of the local catalog.

I don't want to copy the images (as they are already on my master
drive), I just want the complete metadata, adjustments, keywords,
ratings, and so on to be updated. If I select "Don't import new photos",
mistakenly some of my images are grayed out and some are not, so I am
not being able to update just the catalog settings for all images.

seems to be that Lightroom has problems to recognize that all the
images in the local catalog are already in the master catalog.

path names are 100% identical both on the local drive and the master,
and so are the image files themselves. I checked already with a tool
that all files are identical on binary level, thus the Exif-Data must be
the same. The file names, date and time are also identical. Thus all
conditions for duplicates are fulfilled according to the Adobe Help
Page. The files were not renamed or altered in any way outside Lightroom.


if I try that vice versa, i.e. I open the local catalog and try to
import from the master catalog, it seems to be that the same images are
grayed out.

It seems to be a very old issue as one can find it for example here: (from 2014) and here: (2011)


Best regards. (Sorry for my English, I am not a native speaker.)
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  • quite disappointed

Posted 4 years ago

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Lynn Oakleaf

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The easiest way would be to "remove" the images in question from your "Master" (remove from catalog-not delete from the hard drive).  Then import the "local" catalog into your Master catalog.

When I go on a shoot, I create a "local" catalog named after that shoot and work on those images in that local catalog until I am ready to move them to the "Master" catalog and then in the Master catalog, I import from another (local) catalog.
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Thank you for your answer, but I am not sure, what procedure you suggest and in which way that would be a workaround. :-)
In my opinion is your description exactly what I was trying to do:

In my local catalog and in my master catalog are the same image files. I did my edits in the local catalog and when I am finished I wanted to merge both catalogs.

As both drives already contain the same images, I just want to update the metadata of the duplicate images. Therefore I select the "Don't import new photos' options. But as Lightroom does't recognize them as duplicates my only choice is to import the image files also. But then I have two identical files in my catalog and on my hard drive.

That is what you are suggesting, right?

But even if I remove the duplicate images from the master catalog without deleting them from the master drive, Lightroom imports the "new" images with the postfix "-2" as the original images are still there.

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Lynn Oakleaf

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Let me guess-you have two catalogs with the same name on 2 different computers?

Both catalogs have the same name?
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No, I have two different catalogs on one single computer.
I will try to explain it in detail, but please be aware that I am not a native speaker. :-)
That being said, we can start:

After a shooting new images are directly imported into Lightroom from the CF card to my local drive. I use a Local catalog (its name is 'local'). After the import, I backup the new images to my NAS (using tools outside Lightroom). The filestructure (path names, file names and so on) are the same on both drives, due to the fact that I synchronize the local images to the NAS.

And now its time to introduce the second catalog, called 'global'. I import every image on the NAS into this catalog. Why I am doing this? Because this is the master catalog and master repository for all images in the past and present as the image files on my local drive will be erased after editing due to capacity restraints. The NAS serves only as a backup device to my local, internal drive, i.e. it is not running 24/7, therefore and for speed reasons I prefer editing the local files.
Both catalogs are of course stored on my local, internal drive. (Side note: hopefully there is a network capable version in the near future!)

So if I am finished with editing and developing my images on the local drive, I want to synchronize the changes with the master (=global) catalog.
The function 'Import from catalog' with the option 'Don't import new photos' should do the job: No need to import the duplicate images, only metadata, keywords and so on should be updated.

But regrettably Lightroom recognizes only a small part of my edited images as duplicates. Thus I am not able to update the changed settings like metadata..., you name it.
Even if I try to remove the images in question from the catalog (without deleting them from the NAS), Lightroom sees them in the filestructure and imports images with an appended '-2' to the filename. Not usable.

You see, I am using one single computer, with two different named catalogs, with identical filepathes on both drives (the local drive and the external NAS).

It is simply the same, plain concept that everyone recommends when working with desktop and laptop computers.

I have seen at least two postings describing the same problem like I have, and I think that it is not that rare (for the links please see my post from above).

At the moment I appreciate any help, tip or even workaround as I am stuck.

By the way, is this the offical place for bug reports?
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Lynn Oakleaf

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This a place where a lot of people report bugs and it is monitored by Adobe.  Sometimes the answers you get are from Adobe people and sometimes from other users (which I am).

Let me also start by saying that people use different terminology so that can also be confusing.

I am not sure who has put out the "concept that everyone recommends when working with desktop and laptop computers" or if you and I have interpreted it differently.  I think they are referring to having duplicates of your images in a secondary location but not imported into LR.  In your case, you talk about backing up your images to the NAS, but later you delete the originals from the local drive, so you have no backup of images.

While  "The filestructure (path names, file names and so on) are the same on both drives, due to the fact that I synchronize the local images to the NAS.", isn't the drive letter different for the NAS? So LR is seeing that you have images on both the local and NAS drives.  

You can't have the same images in both a local catalog and a master catalog and just move the metadata from the local to the master.  

LR works almost like the old library card catalogs.  Every time you add an image it adds another card to the catalog and on that card it keeps track of all the changes you've made to that image.  When you delete an image it removes that card.  

In the library card catalog you could replace a card with a new one, in LR you can't, it only adds or removes, but doesn't modify an existing card.  You also can't have two cards for the same image (except for virtual copies-then LR creates another card for that image and you can make changes different from the original and LR knows the difference).

You imported what I assume are unedited files into both a local catalog and your global catalog, but then worked on them in a local catalog and now you can't get those edits into the Master catalog.  You shouldn't have "imported them from another catalog" into the Master catalog until you were finished editing them in the local catalog.  

HERE IS SOMETHING I WROTE FOR FRIENDS TO HELP THEM-Just think of laptop as your local drive and desktop as your NAS.


Setup your organization as above, including setting up the “Photos” and “year” folder for the current year.


On the Shoot

1.      Create a “shoot folder” with a unique name for the shoot, Yosemite (for example) into the appropriate YEAR folder as above

2.      Copy your photos from your camera’s memory card to that folder. Then remove the memory card from the computer or card reader. Do not reformat this card or erase it until you have safely gotten your photos stored on your desktop computer or an extra drive.

3.      Open Lightroom and create a “new catalog” using the same name as the unique name (i.e.-Yosemite)  you gave to the folder where you stored your pictures photo.  It is important to make sure that you have selected the source as the folder where you just copied the photos as Lightroom want to default to memory cards.

4.      Import your shoot photos into this “Yosemite” catalog choosing the “ADD” option at the top of the import screen. (They are already on the computer because we copied them already, now we just need to ADD them to this new catalog.  This is a quicker process than importing from the card to the hard drive using LR.

5.      Once the “importing” has completed you are free to start viewing, deleting, editing, etc.

6.      ADDITIONAL SHOOTING SAME VENUE-just repeat instructions #2, 4 and 5.


Getting Home/Transferring to

1.      Using a “thumb drive” or other means, copy the “Yosemite” catalog folder from the laptop drive to the “Lightroom Catalog” folder on your Desktop computer.

2.      Copy the folder containing the photos from your laptop to your desktop, making sure that this folder is in the same “tree” location on your desktop.

3.      Now open the “Yosemite” Lightroom catalog.  Your pictures should appear on your desktop, but it is important to ensure that LR knows where the pictures are.  Click on an individual photo, look under the histogram in the upper right and see if it says “original photo” or “missing’.  I fit says original-fantastic, you’re in good shape.  If it says missing. Right click on that photo and choose “find missing files”, navigate to the location of the photo and find it by name.  Make sure the box “locate nearby missing files” is checked and it should also link the other photos from the same catalog.

4.      As a safety check, in Lightroom, go to the Library module, library menu, “find all missing photos”.  This will bring up any photos not linked to the catalog and you will have to repeat #3 above.


OK So Far, Now What

1.      You could merge this catalog with the MASTER catalog and continue on, or:

2.      You continue to work on the work on this catalog, deleting the losers, doing so editing, renaming what’s left and then merging with the MASTER catalog.



Renaming the files

            After cleaning up the files as in previous #2, I then rename the photos inside of Lightroom so I can easily tell when and where they were taken and so I’m not trying to figure out where 1564761.raw was taken  I rename to 2015_Oct #2.raw, isn’t that better.


Merging the Catalogs

                        When I have the gotten to the point where I have renamed the files, I then merge

                        them into the MASTER catalog.  To do that:

1.      Open the MASTER catalog, “File, Import from Another Catalog”, select the catalog you wish to import (Yosemite in this case) and select OK.  The catalogs will merge quickly and you are done.

2.      Once you have merged the catalogs and ensured that all went well you should delete the catalog folder that you merged from (“Yosemite”) because if you do any more editing in that catalog it will not be reflected in the MASTER catalog.

3.      LAPTOP-At this point you should also delete the “Yosemite “ folder from the Lightroom Catalogs folder and the Photos folder


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Thank you for your long and detailed answer!

Regarding the recommended procedure, I don't know if it is common sense of the majority of photographers, but at least several persons use it that way, if one can believe several posts, blogs and internet pages. I don't want to say that this is the one and only super best of all procedure, that was not my intention.
You are right that the vast majority of articles in the web deals with that procedure you describe, i.e. the master catalog doesn't contain the new images. But it is not an one way street: what would you do if you would like to edit photos of your master catalog on your laptop?

You can export the images in question to a new catalog on your laptop, but as soon as you have finished your edits, you have to import only the edits back to the master catalog (or you are forced to delete the edited files on your desktop before you import them. Neither elegant and safe nor possible for a bigger number of edited images).

And this is my main point:
It doesn't matter if this is a highly recommended method or only a solution for very few guys, the feature to import only metadata for duplicates is implemented and it has to work. Everytime not only sometimes. (And it did work for me in the past!)

You are right saying that of course the drive letters are different, but Lightroom identifies duplicates according to some file specific attributes, not the drive letter. Otherwise Lightroom would not recognize some of my duplicates in one import session.

So the bottom line is, that this seems to be a bug. And it seems to persist over several years.

(Hopefully I sound not rude, that is not my intension. Also no offense intended.)
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I don't know if this bug is already fixed as I found a workaround for my problem prior to the next LR release:
The thread 'Lightroom: No suspected duplicates when imported from catalog and some imported photos don't show in Library' in this forum describes a perl script which did the trick.

In one database the importHash is missing (empty field). With help of this script and possibly some fine tuning, one can copy the hashes from one database to the other. And finally LR recognizes the images as duplicates. Synchronizing of metadata is then possible.

Perhaps this could be helpful for someone.