Hundreds of images have disappeared from Lightroom and hard drive - Without deleting

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  • Updated 3 months ago
Half of the images from one event and all of the images from another have completely disappeared from Lightroom and my hard drive. I have a 2017 MacBook Pro and have been using Lightroom professionally for ten years. This summer I imported two events back to back, started editing the images and then two weeks later when I went to finish editing half the photos from one event and all of the photos from another event have completely vanished. I have never had this issue before and am panicking because the folder that lost half is from a wedding and I have tried everything to find them again. I have no idea what might have happened. I was able to get a fourth of the images off the card I shot on through a service that retrieves formatted files, but the most important images (the getting ready + ceremony) are completely gone. Please help!
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akb

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  • frustrated and confused and sick to my stomach

Posted 3 months ago

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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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What do you expect us to do? If the images really disappeared from the hard disk, and not just from Lightroom, then the only way to get them back would be from a backup. If you don’t made backups, then that same service could perhaps get them off your hard disk.
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akb

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Oh I apologize for thinking that this forum was for help with unknown issues encountered?? Trust me, had I wanted to just be treated like a moron I never would have posted. But silly me thought this was a place for other photographers to help each other out with issues that they couldn't find an answer to?? Am I wrong?
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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m happy to help you in any way I can, but I don’t want to give you false hope. If the images are really no longer on your hard disk, and you don’t have a backup, then the only chance you’ve got is to get that retrieval service have a look at that hard disk.
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akb

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I'm sorry,

When you started your response off with "What do you expect us to do?" it didn't scream "I'm happy to help you in any way I can."

Not to mention, the reply that was left before you (don't worry I'm not blaming you for what they said, merely trying to establish a recurring pattern that honestly happens WAY too much in the photography world) that (from what I could tell) was only expressing how I must be lying about my experience as a professional because (from what I gathered as the same point both of you seemed to be getting at) is no real professional has ever encountered an issue they didn't have all the answers to. And what 'professional' would ever reach out to other professionals who MIGHT (fingers crossed) have encountered a similar problem and maybe, JUST MAYBE, might have a suggestion for something you haven't tried yet. 

Why can't we all just be friends and actually help one another? Rather than feeling like we have to constantly prove how far above (or more professional, or just better) we are than others in our field? God forbid anyone notice that we are respectful and kind to other photographers and realize that we are all still learning and trying to grow in whatever aspect of our art that we want or need to.

Or even worse, you make a stupid mistake and instead of a peer reaching out and making helpful suggestions that pertain to the actual issue, they decide it's more important to point out all the ways you messed up, knowing (as a fellow photographer) how terrible you probably already feel. 

So please, don't act like an "innocent messenger" and at least own your response. 

If you think I'm an idiot, cool. Don't respond to my question. That is totally fine. The whole purpose of me making this post was a last stitch effort to see if someone else out there has ever encountered a similar situation and might know something I don't. If I wanted to be talked down to and told "photo 101 tips" I would have posted this on facebook.
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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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Do you have a catalog backup with previews (not just a catalog file backup) that shows the images? For example in Time Machine? If so, you still won't be able to retrieve the images themselves of course, but you could perhaps extract the previews. That would give you screen-sized JPEG's, which is better than nothing at all.
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akb

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So yes, usually I do save backups every time I import. This time I was in the middle of five jobs in rapid succession and foolishly let that slip by (my backup drive was not with me at that moment) while in a hurry to make sure I just uploaded each card as it was happening. Trust me, I know I should have just taken the time to make sure I saved backups online or as soon as I had my backup drive. But I didn't. I have NEVER lost images before, except when I first started and I accidentally formatted a card I thought I had imported already, luckily those were just personal images, but because of that I have been very careful going forward.

After each job I culled and started editing a few 'test" photos before rushing onto the next job. After all my shoots were done I continued with my normal post process workflow (starting with the first shoot, I edited the culled images, exported, uploaded to an online album for my clients, and posted a blog post) when I got to the job in question, I immediately noticed that half of the images were missing. I immediately stopped using my computer (because I knew I didn't have backups saved and also understand that once information is written over, it's hard to get back) I contacted a few professional computer techs in town and they suggested I use a program to attempt to retrieve any files that had been deleted (and 'trash emptied') in case I had saved the files into the wrong folder (with how quickly I was moving through jobs I thought that was the most likely scenario) so I used Recoverit, Diskdrill and one other program which were all able to recover files that had been deleted before and after said event, but not the event in question. I also used those programs to recover any formatted data from my SD and compact disk cards. I was able to get some files back that way, but most of them had already been written over again with events that I had shot after the event in question. I even searched through every single folder I have, just in case I accidentally imported them to the wrong folder that I had since removed from Lightroom. Nothing. Older files that are no longer saved on my computer itself, still show up in Lightroom under 'missing photos' but these have completely disappeared. My business partner also looked through the images in Lightroom after said event, so it's not that I just thought I had imported them but really didn't. 
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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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So sorry to hear of your disaster akb. Accidents happen to all of us.

I can't think of a scenario that would wipe the photos from both the catalog and the hard drive that doesn't include user error, sorry! :-( If the catalog got corrupted, they could certainly disappear from the catalog, but they'd still be on the hard drive. And if the drive was dying, they could disappear from the hard drive, but they'd still show in the catalog or the catalog wouldn't open because it was corrupted by drive errors. The most likely suspect is that these photos never fully copied in the first place, or you accidentally had them selected at the same time you were deleting some other photos and simply didn't realize. Looking through backup catalogs might answer whether they were ever imported, but it wouldn't recover the photos.

Unfortunately there's no good solution, beyond either restoring backups or hard drive recovery. I'm really sorry you've had such a horrible experience.
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Bruce Houstoun

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You may have selected an incorrect import preset and those missing files were renamed/placed into another event folder?
Search by filename could then fail, so try searching/filter the catalog by date.
(If you were just looking at the thumbnails in the "Previous Import'" collection you could miss the actual names/folder location when rushing through the multiple imports?)

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Victoria Bampton - Lightroom Queen, Champion

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> those missing files were renamed/placed into another event folder? 

Very good thinking. They might have been accidentally dragged into another folder after import too.