Jul 202015

Lightroom won’t import ANYTHING

What if the tools fail © Adam Marelli

What if the tools fail?  Simon from our workshop shoot at violin makers Hayn & Hayn in Berlin.  © Adam Marelli

Before the last workshops in Berlin and London, I needed to buy a new laptop, download Lightroom 6, and pray to the photo-gods that all would be well abroad.  Half way through the Berlin Workshop there was a problem.  Lightroom would not see any images when I tried to import.  I could bring up the import window, see my SD card, external drive and pictures on my computer, but EVERYTHING was grayed out.  Oh dear god what do I do?

Lightroom Import  when it is working properly looks like this.

Lightroom Import when it is working properly looks like this.

If you have the same problem as I did, the issue is that you:

  1. Click the Import button
  2. The Import screen comes up
  3. All of your files, drives, or SD cards are grayed out and zero images show up in the center panel
  4. You start hyperventilating

I did what you are supposed to do in that situation. I rolled up on the floor and commenced crying. : ) Just kidding…David Farkas and I searched the Net first because many Lightroom glitches are known and documented online.  Chances are someone else has already been through the problem and published the answer.  This is one of the upsides of the Internet.  There are entire communities of people who would like to help you avoid the problems they encountered.  But what happens when the problem you are having is not coming up online?  If you have ever called Adobe Support, you already know that a third colonoscopy, a trip to the DMV, or a 12 hour flight next to a screaming baby sounds like more fun than calling Adobe.

Stepping outside for a second to clear my head, I noticed that the meeting room next to ours read “Welcome Adobe.”  As luck would have it, there was an Adobe meeting next door to the workshop.  Now, Adobe is a huge company, I thought, “What are the odds that this is the Lightroom team?”  When a guy in a tan sport coat walked towards the room, I asked him, “You don’t happen to do anything with Lightroom do you?”

He said,”Depends, what’s the issue?”

Standing next to me was the head of the Adobe Creative Suite.  There is not a better guy in all of Adobe I could have bumped into.  We showed him the problem, asked if he had seen it before, and with the BEST customer service response I’ve ever heard, he said,”Why don’t you give us the computer and we will work on it.”  Talk about hands on quality control.  He took the computer into the other room and went to work.

They had not seen the issue I was having before and they tried a number of fixes, more than I can list here.  They fired a few emails back to the team on the West Coast of the US, so we needed to wait overnight.  Fortunately we were all staying at the same hotel, so we could reconnect over breakfast.  In the morning, they had an answer and a list of instructions to follow.

Praying for Solutions © Adam Marelli

Praying for Solutions © Adam Marelli

After re-installing Lightroom and a few other attempts did not fix the issue, they recommended we try the following:

Start Lightroom CC 2015 with clean user preference:
  1. Press and hold the Shift+Option keys when double-clicking on the Lightroom application icon to launch it.
  2. Lightroom will show you a dialog asking whether you want to “Start Normally” or “Reset Preferences”. Click “Reset Preferences” to start Lightroom with a clean user preferences.
Start Lightroom CC 2015 with clean presets:
  1. Launch Lightroom CC 2015.
  2. Go to Menu Lightroom>Preferences to bring up the user preference dialog.
  3. Go to the Presets tab, under Location, click on “Show Lightroom Preset Folder…” button.
  4. In the Mac OSX Finder, rename the highlighted “Lightroom” Lightroom preset folder to “Lightroom.original”.
  5. Relaunch Lightroom.


Smile, because all is well with the world and Lightroom works again.

Hopefully you do not encounter this issue, but if you do, I hope this article helps or that you bump into Adobe like I did.  And if you are in NYC I look forward to seeing you at my seminar on Saturday “How to make a photo series.”



  69 Responses to “Lightroom won’t import ANYTHING”

  1. Man! These set of coincidences could send ‘Fargo’ to a disco ( I am still shaking my head in disbelief). Life is strange and wonderful.

  2. You are THE MAN!
    I owe you a beer…or twenty.
    You just gained another subscriber.

  3. When you reset the presences what did you loose catalogs, images, presets? Thanks for the information!

  4. With this reset did you loose your catalogs, images or presets?

    • Michelle,

      Everything in the catalog was fine. I dont use presets so there was nothing to use there. Had to change the name template at the top. All in all not bad, just frustrating.


  5. Thank you. Saved my night.

  6. Worked fine apart from losing Publish Services to Smugmug. Nameplate was OK !

    Then a few days later it happens again !

    Been using LR since the start & never had this issue before.

    Start again.

    Thanks for the tip though it was frustrating to say the least.



  7. Thanks for posting this. Had it happen tonight, and your solution was perfect. Got me running again. Thanks again!

  8. Hello, any way someone knows how to do all these steps on a PC?

    • Dear Carmen,

      I am not sure what to do for PC’s.

      But if you send this article to Adobe Support, they might be able to advise you.


  9. As all these people have previously stated, YOU’RE THE MAN.

  10. It’s important that you tell everyone that lightroom will ask you for a serial number after performing all these steps -___-

  11. Thank you so much! For some reason, my Lightroom keeps having this problem every now and then. I’ve used your method multiple times!

  12. Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!!!

  13. Another Satisfied Customer…YOU ROCK!!!!!

  14. The problem I am having is still present. As soon as I try to import or sync and folders lightroom crashes. has anyone seen this before and know of a solution..

  15. By the way I am running
    Lightroom version: 5.7.1
    Operating system: Windows 8.1 Home Premium Edition
    Version: 6.3 [9600]
    Application architecture: x64
    System architecture: x64
    Logical processor count: 8
    Processor speed: 2.3 GHz
    Built-in memory: 16275.5 MB

  16. I had the same problem. It was because it suspected duplicates. All you have to do is uncheck “don’t import suspected duplicates” under file handling on the right and BOOM it works! You can now import.

  17. See my solution below….

  18. This didn’t work for me, any other suggestions?

  19. You have to create a new catalog. My old catalog corrupted. I created a new one and it allows everything to function properly now.

  20. Hi,
    Thank you so much! This solution helped me perfectly the FIRST time this issue happened to me. Things went smoothly for another upload but then the same issue happened but this time the solution does not work. First, I could not rename the folder “lightroom.original” because that name was “already taken”. So I renamed the original “lightroom.original” to “lightroom.original.1″ and then renamed the highlighted folder “lightroom.original” as per your directions. But the same issue of not being able to read/download the images happened as before.

    Please, any thoughts and suggestions would be welcome!


  21. Yes I did loose my catalogs, images and presets. How do you get them back? Please help!!

  22. Thanks man!
    Just had the same problem, but could fix it in minutes thanks to you!

  23. Maria, you’re a diamond – thank you :)

    Janie x

  24. Thank you SO MUCH!!

  25. awesome tips. thanks worked in LR CC

  26. I am using Lightroom 5.7.1 and currently experiencing the same issue. Until today every import has worked perfectly and now nothing but grey. I have tried all the suggestions above to no avail. Please help.

  27. I worked on this in the wee hours of morning and gave up. After some sleep I figured out I was not following your wonderful advice correctly. Now with fresh eyes everything is working again. Thank you!!! This was the only place I found with a fix and I looked all over the internet.

  28. Glad that worked out Jaymie!

    Tragedy averted…I totally understand. Nearly had a heart attack myself when it happened.


  29. I am new to lightroom 6 and I am not able to to import photos, the first time I tried it said “could not import because the file could not be read”.
    Do you think your solution will work?

  30. Thank you now I have to try and re import the 10000 from fashion week. I will be happy to do that over the not working Lightroom. Thank you

  31. Step 1 worked!

  32. I don’t know how this worked, but you’re a godsend! Thank you!!!!

  33. Thank, this works! The easiest solution!

  34. (Maria’s solution)


  36. 2 years on and still saving people! Thank you.

  37. Adam Marelli, can you please help me? I’ve googled for hours now, also tried your solution and the solution Maria made here in the comments, but nothing is working for me… I just want to lay down and cry haha.

    So my problem seems to be the same as the one you had. When I press “import”, I can choose folders and I do see my photos just that they are all grey. Their name is showing, but no preview of the photo. I’ve tried to import one of these grey photos, but it just says “importing” forever… nothing happens. And then I try to quit Lightroom, but then it freezez and I need to force quit it.

    So, do you know (or anyone else) how to fix this problem?

    Thanks, Ellen Elise.

    • Hi Ellen,
      Not sure what to advise in the situation. It stumped me and this was as far as I got for a solution.
      Have you made any progress?

  38. I have the same problem. Did you find a solution?

  39. Thank you so much for your article – I had exactly the same issue from one day to another and couldn’t find a solution until I found your article. You’re a hero.

  40. THANK YOU!!!!! Best ever! I’m breathing again…… (and great sense of humour as you write too! )

  41. Thaaaaaaaaaaaanks! :)

  42. Thanks for posting this solution two plus years ago. It worked well for me. I hope the problem won’t recur.



  44. Thank you and thank you!

  45. Awesome! Import stopped working all of a sudden and without this post I was going nowhere.

    Thank you!

  46. I did both solutions and after the second one I lost my resent catalog with 4 events on it. Is it possible to get back the newest catalog? I will lost hours of edits plus re import again 3000+ images

    Thank you!!! It’s rare to find a “fix it” article that actually works. This totally worked thank you thank you.

  48. It worked for me with LR CC 7.5. It had been driving me crazy! Many thanks :)

  49. I followed all your steps and I still couldn’t get it to work :/

  50. Thanks for this tip! Had a similar issue and step 2 did the trick. Lifesaver!

  51. Hi Adam, I was freaking out about this yesterday but thanks to you and these awesome circumstances, it is WORKING OMG! Thank you so much for compiling an easy fix as well, not an essay with loads of rambling! Just what I needed, saved the day! Cheers :) :) :)

    I’ve been pulling my hair out (that’s just a phrase, because I don’t have any) for months. I’ve started using a different computer and moving files to other systems to try and deal with the issue of not being able to import. This worked by just doing step 1 for me, so thanks again!!!

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