When you remove folders from your Master folder and put them in the Vault, if you are using the Remove option in Lightroom then all of the work you have done on those images is discarded. Is that really what you want to do?
My suggestion would be for you to COPY the folder from Master to Vault using your operating system (Finder or Explorer), and then in Lightroom right-click on the folder and UPDATE the folder location. You can point Lightroom to the folder on the Vault drive and then using your Finder or Explorer remove the folder from the Master drive. Using this method enables Lightroom to keep track of where the images are located and retains all of the work you have done on those images.
Oh no, I really screwed up! That is definitely not what I wanted to do. I guess I'm out of luck unless I have backups of the catalog? Even then, how would I recover only those folders that I removed without reverting to that catalog and losing all work that I have done since that backup?
The first thing I would suggest would be to restore your most recent backup. The folders that you have moved to the Vault will show "?" on the images, indicating that they are missing. You can right-click on the folders containing those images and update the folder location. Point Lightroom to the folder on the Vault drive and Lightroom will then link up with the photos.
You have to remember that the adjustments you make using Lightroom are not part of the image file. They are stored in the Lightroom catalog. If you want copies of your images containing those changes then you need to export copies.
Jim gives the proper method. More details and screen captures of what to do here under the section entitled "Part 2 — Updating Folder Location" Adobe Lightroom - Find moved or missing files and folders
As a side note, I don't like the workflow of putting photos on one disk, performing work, and then copying/moving them to another disk. This is just unnecessary work and a chance for error to creep in. I would advise that you just put the photos in their final destination right out of the camera, no moving or copying after you import them. There are plenty of tools within Lightroom that can allow you to separate the "Master" from the "Vault", such as smart collections which can select all photos (for example) captured in the last 3 months as "Master" and everything else as "Vault", this happens automatically as the calendar changes. But in this workflow, there really isn't a distinction between "Master" and "Vault", again I think you have made unnecessary work for yourself.
I agree with those suggestions. The only time I found it necessary to actually move folders was when I added an additional external hard drive and wanted to control the usage of each drive. It really is best to import the images once, placing them on the drive where you want them, and leave them alone. The images themselves are never modified. They are always in the state they were in when downloaded from the camera. I don't see any advantage of working on the images on one drive and then moving them to another. The catalog is the folder that contains all of the work. I replaced my C Drive with a solid-state drive, and that's where the catalog is located. My images are on external hard drives and I never find any need to move them now.
The reasons I did it this way are:
- The internal 512 GB SSD on my iMac isn't big enough to store all of my images
- I do audio recording and I require a completely silent environment, so I can't have an external drive with a fan that makes noise on for most of the day
My solution was to get a 1 TB external LaCie Little Big Disk for active photos that is always connected, since it has no fan and is completely silent. Then I have an external USB 3 drive in an enclosure with a fan for the Vault photos that I only connect when I'm not doing audio recording.
I agree that this is a cumbersome setup, and in fact it has caused problems just as you suggested it would. I permanently lost some photos as a result of moving folders around and them not being properly backed up to my backup drive and cloud backup solution.
I think I will just move all photos to the external Vault drive, and only work on photography stuff when I'm not doing audio recording and can thus turn on the drive despite the noise it makes.
When Apple finally updates the iMac next year (presuming they do), I plan to buy one with as large an SSD as possible so I can hopefully store my photos on it. I have about 650 GB of photos now so a 2 TB drive should be enough, at least for a while.
How do I export a copy of an image with adjustments, as you suggested?
There's really no point in putting photos on an SSD drive. That's awfully expensive real estate to put your photos on, and you will never see the speed improvement, which will be so small you can't detect it. Put your photos on your slowest hard disk. However, you do want to put your catalog file on the SSD, that will result in a speed improvement you can detect.
That's good to know. Maybe the best solution is as I indicated, just move all the photos to my 4 TB hard drive connected via USB. It makes noise, but I typically don't record audio and work on photos at the same time so maybe I can live with that.