How to Delete Photos from Lightroom

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My Lightroom Classic library shows that I have taken somewhere in excess of 60000 photos over the last few years. It’s all too easy to just take one more photo when you are out in the field, thanks to the storage capacity of modern memory cards.

But eventually, you come to realise that these thousands of extra photos are just taking up space on your hard drive, and taking too much of your time to organize, and so you want to know how to remove photos from Lightroom, or even how to delete photos in Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom is a powerful piece of photo organizing and editing software, with many different ways to perform most basic actions. This can make it difficult to know how to delete photos from Lightroom in the easiest way.

In fact, there are numerous ways to remove photos from Lightroom. This article will cover how to delete files from Lightroom library in a straightforward, simple way, including how to delete rejected photos in Lightroom and the Lightroom shortcut to delete from disk.

How to Delete Photos from Lightroom

If you are only wanting to delete / remove one photo from Lightroom, you can simply select it in the library tab of Lightroom and press the ‘Delete’ key on your keyboard, or right-click and select ‘Remove Photo’.

This will bring up the dialog box below, asking you if you want to remove the photo only from the Lightroom catalog (by clicking ‘Remove’), or if you want to remove it from the catalog and from your hard drive (by clicking ‘Delete from Disk’).

But sometimes you need to know how to delete all photos in Lightroom.

How to Delete Multiple Photos in Lightroom

But it can be very time consuming to do this one photo at a time, particularly when you may have hundreds to delete at once, so how do you delete multiple photos in Lightroom?

The simple answer is to use the flag system: pick and reject flags.

While moving through your photos in the library tab of Lightroom, on your keyboard press the Lightroom reject shortcut ‘X’ to mark any photos selected as Rejected. This applies a rejected flag to the top corner, and the photo will appear grayed-out when it is not selected.

Pressing ‘P’ is the Lightroom pick flag shortcut (marked with a white flag), and ‘U’ is the Lightroom remove rejected flag (and all flags) shortcut.

How to Reject Multiple Photos in Lightroom

The Lightroom reject and next keyboard shortcut is to have the CapsLock on before you start rejecting photos. With this on, the current selection will automatically move to the next photo in your view every time you either pick or reject a photo using a Lightroom flag shortcut.

How to Delete Rejected Photos in Lightroom

Once you have rejected all the photos you want to delete in Lightroom CC, then you can use the Lightroom delete from disk functionality that we saw earlier, through a Lightroom delete photos keyboard shortcut.

To use the Lightroom delete rejected photos keyboard shortcut, just press Ctrl+Backspace (Cmd+Backspace on a Mac), and you will see the deletion dialog box appear. The keyboard shortcut for this option has changed with various versions of Lightroom, so if this does not work, the current command can be found in the ‘Photo’ menu from the top toolbar, and then you should see ‘Delete Rejected Photos’ at the bottom.

You will again get the option to only remove from your Lightroom library, or remove from the library and delete from disk. I would recommend only choosing the latter option for photos that are technically poor, ie. out of focus, too overexposed, etc. Remember that as you grow as a photographer, your tastes change and you may find that photos you previously rejected later become your favorites.

As proof of this, the photo below is one that I originally rejected, but didn’t delete. Looking at it a few years later with more developed photography skills, I realised that with some cropping and processing, I could turn this into the photo you see below.

How to Delete All Photos from Lightroom

If you found that there are no photos from an import that you want to keep, you may want to use the bulk delete Lightroom CC functionality to delete all photos in Lightroom.

Simply select all your photos in the current view with Ctrl+A (Cmd+A on Mac), or go to the ‘Edit’ menu -> ‘Select All’, and press ‘Delete’ on your keyboard. You can remove individual folders if that is more convenient, by right-clicking on the folder in the catalog tree in the left pane of your library, then selecting ‘Remove’. Bear in mind though, that this will not delete any photos from your disk, but will only remove them from Lightroom.

If you want to take this one step further, and delete your Lightroom library, you are best to do this by finding where on your hard drive the library is saved to, then moving this folder straight to the recycle bin. You can find the file path for your catalog by using the shortcut “Ctrl+Alt+,”. This can also be found in the ‘Edit’ menu from the top toolbar.

To keep your library, but empty it by deleting all photos in the Lightroom library, select ‘All Photographs’ from the left pane, then select all (Ctrl/Cmd+A) and delete.

How to Hide Rejected Photos in Lightroom

If deleting the rejected photos causes you a bit too much anxiety right now, you may instead want to know how to hide rejected photos in Lightroom.

You can do this in an ad-hoc manner, by setting a custom library filter on your view, as in the screenshot below. Choose a filter of ‘Attribute’ from the menu bar along the top of your view, then select both the Pick flag and Unflagged attributes. This will hide any rejected photos from your view.

This will only work on a folder by folder basis, and will not persist. If you want to always hide rejected photos, create a Smart Collection as shown in the screenshot below, with rules that only find flagged and unflagged photos. Smart Collections are dynamic and will persist, so you will only need to do this setup once.

You could also setup a Smart Collection in the same way to show only rejected photos, if you wanted to take a second look at a later date to confirm that you really did want to remove from disk. Unfortunately, you are not able to safely delete collections in Lightroom / delete photos directly from a collection (you can use Shift+Ctrl+Alt+Del, but be aware you will get no warning / confirmation and this will delete the files on disk), so if you wanted to do this, you may be better off using a custom library filter for rejected photos as described above, on all photographs in your catalog. This will give the same result as using a collection, but you will be able to delete the rejected photos.

Common Problems Deleting Photos in Lightroom

Should I Upgrade to Lightroom’s Latest Version?
If you are using Lightroom 5, Lightroom 6 or an older version, then your catalog might slow down when you have a very large number of photos. This is particularly true if you use a modern camera that produces large image files. Rather than deleting them, in this case you would be better off upgrading to Lightroom Classic which has better support for modern cameras and offers many extra editing tools. See the most recent Photography plan price, which includes access to Lightroom and Photoshop.

Lightroom won’t let me delete photos
Lightroom will not let you delete photos from within a collection or smart collection. Make sure you are in the catalog, rather than any collections.

Lightroom there were no rejected photos to delete
You have not set the rejected flag for any photos in the current folder / view. You must first add the reject flag to photos by pressing ‘X’, before using the delete all rejected photos shortcut (Ctrl/Cmd+Backspace).

Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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2 Responses

  1. charles
    | Reply

    I have 8,000 on my LR, and I am wanting to know if the large amount of photos with nearly 500 tags slows down or hinders the operation. I have LR5 from 2013, and am having trouble with my catalog. I do a lot of renaming and moving folders . I have considered upgrading to a $10 a month 2021 version, but I don’t want to loose the work on my catalog. I actually am using 2 catalogs to reduce the strain of the 1st catalog. Is it possible that I need to upgrade?

    • Tim Daniels
      | Reply

      I currently have around 50,000 photos in my main LR catalog and it doesn’t seem to slow anything down – LR is designed to work with large catalogs, but then I am using the most recent version. It could be that your hardware is causing the slowdown? Are you using an older computer? Regardless though, I would personally upgrade to the $10 a month version for the massive benefits in editing abilities over LR5. You can import your existing catalog and won’t lose any work you have done (the import will create a new version of your catalog that remains separate from your existing version, so you can easily go back if something does change).

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