Lightroom could not import this catalog because of an unknown error

When I travel for a shoot, or work on organizing a new project in Lightroom, I often create a new separate catalog just for a particular set of images. The smaller catalog runs faster and keeps things simple. When everything is processed, I’ll then import the smaller catalog into my master catalog by going to: File — Import from Catalog:

Lightroom -- Import from Catalog

Recently I encountered an issue with this workflow — when trying to import one of these small working catalogs into my main Lightroom 3 catalog I got an error message that said: Lightroom could not import this catalog because of an unknown error:

Lightroom could not import this catalog because of an unknown error
Not a very helpful error message, huh?

After some troubleshooting, I figured out the conditions that cause this error to occur, and how to fix it. The problem occurs if the catalog you’re trying to import was upgraded from Lightroom 2 to Lightroom 3, and there are photos in the catalog that are offline or missing, as indicated by the question-mark icon in Library Grid View:

Lightroom Library Grid View question mark

The question mark indicates that you’ve moved or deleted photos outside of Lightroom, and Lightroom no longer knows where to find the file. To remedy this situation, click the question mark and locate the file, or turn on the external hard drive where the images are stored. If the files have been deleted, you can click delete and remove the images from the Lightroom database.

When you have resolved all of the images that are offline or missing in your smaller catalog, you will be able to import the catalog into your master catalog. If you haven’t created extensive collections in this catalog, another solution would be to create a new catalog for these images in Lightroom 3. Catalogs that are native to Lightroom 3 don’t seem to have this problem (i.e., catalogs native to LR3 with offline or missing images will import into another LR3 catalog just fine). If you choose this fix, make sure to write your metadata changes to XMP so you don’t lose your work.

I hope this bug fix saves you time!

Note: I’m running Mac OS 10.58 10.64 with Lightroom 3.0.

Update: I ran this issue by Victoria Bampton, The Lightroom Queen, who let me know that duplicate files can also cause this error message (i.e., the same photo is in both catalogs). Hopefully this issue will be fixed in LR3.2.

Update: Tom Hogarty, the Product Manager for Lightroom at Adobe, let me know they’re working on a fix for this issue.

Update: According to a reader’s report, this issue looks to be fixed in Lightroom 3.2 (release candidate).

Update 8/29/2010: I found another variation of this bug. I was trying to import a working catalog that I recently created in LR 3.0 into my master catalog. The Library — Find Missing Photos command did not yield any images, but I kept getting the Lightroom could not import this catalog because of an unknown error message. Turns out there were 3 images that WERE missing, but Lightroom wasn’t finding them. Here’s how I figured it out:

  1. In the working catalog, go to Library — Show Photos in Subfolders, and make sure this feature is unchecked. This will give you an image count for each individual photo in your catalog.
  2. In the Grid View, make sure you have Index Numbers turned on to count the actual thumbnails. You can turn on Index Numbers by right clicking a thumbnail in Grid View, choosing View Options, and then checking Index Numbers.
  3. Now go through folder by folder and match the folder image count on the left, to the index number count in the Grid View. In my case there were 3 TIF files that Lightroom was not seeing.
  4. Next I saved the metadata to the files in the folder with the missing images by going to Metadata — Save Metadata to Files.
  5. Highlight the folder on the left, right click, and select Remove to temporarily remove the folder from your catalog.
  6. Now go back to the file menu and choose Import Photos to re-import the folder. In my case the image counts now matched up, and I was able to import the working catalog into my master catalog.

Wolf Ridge Night Photography Gallery, and Lightroom Tips

Wolf Ridge, downstairs, San Francisco view -- by Joe Reifer

Wolf Ridge, downstairs, San Francisco view — by Joe Reifer

I’ve just posted a gallery of night images from Wolf Ridge in Marin.

If you’re interested in taking a trip up to Wolf Ridge, check out Andy Frazer’s photography guide for this great location.

A Few Notes on Organizing Your Photos with Lightroom, and Exporting for the Web

Finding the images from Wolf Ridge in my Lightroom archive was easy — all of the shoots from Wolf Ridge have file and folder names with the same structure: wolfridge_YYYYMMDD_01.CR2. In the Grid View in Lightroom I selected Text — File Name — Starts With — wolf. Next I clicked on Attribute and selected a rating of 2 stars or better. I made a rough edit for the gallery by hitting the B key to add images for the gallery to a Quick Collection. After making the final selections, I proceeded to post-processing.

I was able to do post-processing for almost all of the images without bringing them into Photoshop. The image above was the only exception because I needed to do more complex tonal corrections for the sky and fog that required masking. When outputting for the web from Lightroom, I use a combination of capture sharpening in the Develop module (the Sharpening settings under Detail), and Output Sharpening under File — Export (typically set to Screen — Low).

A good starting place for capture sharpening with the 5D and 5D II is about 28% at .6 Radius, with Detail at 80 and Masking at 40. By zooming in to 100% view you can check the Detail and Masking settings by holding down the Option (Alt) key and dragging the sliders. The Masking control is really useful for night photography — just drag the slider until you only see star trails in the sky. This masks the areas of the sky with no detail — protecting you from enhancing any noise that may be present in the sky.

I hope you enjoy the new gallery, and that these Lightroom tips are useful!

How To Fix: Mac Firewire Drives Do Not Mount on OS 10.4.11

Yesterday I booted up the ol’ G4 for an exciting day of scanning 35mm sprocket Holga negatives for an upcoming show. I fired up the external Seagate Firewire backup drive that sits on top of my computer, but the drive didn’t mount. The machine is running OS 10.4.11. Here’s what happened next:

  • Checked the power and Firewire cable — OK — rebooted the machine. That didn’t help.
  • Booted an old laptop that’s running 10.4.5 — the Seagate external drive mounted and worked fine.
  • Powered down the G4 and tried a different Firewire cable. The drive still wouldn’t mount.
  • Unplugged all other peripherals except the keyboard and mouse, rebooted, tried the other Firewire port. Still no go.
  • Next I did some searching on the Internets and found lots of other people had this same problem with OS 10.4.11 and various versions of OS 10.5. Not a lot of fixes were listed, but the first one that I tried worked great. Thanks to Rolf Nordahl who posted the fix.

Here’s the fix that worked, by booting into open firmware:

  1. Power down your machine and completely unplug the power cord. Make sure the power cord is not attached to your computer. Pull it out. Let the machine sit for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Restart the machine while holding down command-option-o-f (that’s “o” as in lmnop, f as in frank)
  3. At the command line type in: reset-nvram [return]
  4. At the command line type in: reset-all [return]

The machine will now boot up. Try plugging in your Firewire drive and booting. If the drive mounts OK that’s excellent. Try rebooting the machine to make sure the drive will mount on a subsequent reboot to make sure.

Both my Seagate backup drive for my G4, and MacGurus Burly hotswappable multidrive backup for my photo archive can use Firewire and USB (Firewire 800, 400, and USB2 on the Burly). Firewire is faster (especially Firewire 800), but I’m glad I’ve got drives that will run on a USB connection for backup.

Update: If you’re running Leopard instead of Tiger and your Firewire drives won’t mount, and you’re on an Intel machine instead of Power PC, you might try a different procedure for zapping the PRAM as outlined here.

Posted in DAM

Photography News: DAM Videos, 1D III, 580EX II

  • My review of Peter Krogh’s DAM Book Workflow Video Training CDs is now available over on The Online Photographer. If you haven’t read The DAM Book, it’s highly recommended.
  • Just in from rob galbraith and dpreview.com: Canon has announced the EOS 1D Mark III, a 10 megapixel camera with a 1.3x crop sensor. Sports and wildlife shooters will drool when they hear it can shoot 10 frames per second. A few other key improvements include: Dual Digic III processors, integrated cleaning system, ISO 6400, a 3.0″ LCD with live preview, and a wider brighter viewfinder.
  • The 580EX II and 16-35/2.8L II have been announced. I can’t wait to see the performance of the new 16-35mm lens on full frame. And the 580EX II has an external PC jack, which means it’s compatible with Pocket Wizards — no adapters required. And if the 16-35/2.8L II is sharp in the corners, I’ll be able to do 90% of my shooting with 2 lenses (the other one being an 85/1.2L).

Copyright: Preparing your images

Because many of my images are 6-8 minutes long, I don’t shoot a huge volume of photos every year. In 2006 I shot about 6000 digital images. Last year I also started converting my RAW files to DNG. In addition to the huge benefit of accurate previews, the DNG workflow can also save time when preparing images for copyright registration.

A DNG file contains a large JPEG preview that reflects your RAW adjustments and is fast to extract

I register images as 400×600 jpegs. With a RAW workflow in Photoshop, this would mean using the Image Processor to resize each RAW file into a web sized JPEG. This takes about 8 seconds per file. Let’s say I register my images quarterly, and I have 1,500 images to send in. At 8 seconds per file, that’s 200 minutes (3 1/2 hours) of jpeg conversions in Photoshop. Ouch. That’s a deterrent to registering your work.

Using the Convert Image command in iView Media Pro to extract web sized jpegs is incredibly fast compared to Photoshop. With the DNG workflow, I can use iView Media Pro to extract the embedded jpeg inside the DNG in under 1 second per file — about 10 times faster than Photoshop — 20 minutes.

I made an interesting discovery yesterday when preparing my final 2006 registration. Running iView’s Convert Image on Canon CR2 files is way faster than on DNGs — a folder of 150 CR2s takes about 15 seconds total to churn through on my Mac. Let’s review: 8 seconds per file with CR2s in Photoshop, 0.8 seconds per file with DNGs in iView, or 0.1 seconds per file with CR2s in iView.

By using Convert Image on CR2s, I could convert the 1500 images for the registration in a few minutes, fill out the registration form, and prepare my Fedex envelope — all in under one hour. Once you’ve got the registration form setup as a PDF template and the US Copyright Office’s address in your Fedex settings, this could be done in half an hour.

Here’s another important discovery I made yesterday for iView users converting CR2 files on a Mac:

When using Convert Image on a Mac, iView uses Quicktime to make the conversion. Depending on what version of iView you’re using, you may get an error when trying to convert. If you uncheck the Preserve EXIF box it will work fine. According to iView, this is a Quicktime bug.

I am considering adding a step to my workflow where CR2 files are converted into a copyright folder on a shoot by shoot basis — it only takes a few seconds.

I hope this information is helpful. More information about copyright coming up later this week. Stay tuned.