How to Copy Referenced Files into a Photo Library?

Shreyas Patil SEO
Shreyas PatilUpdated :
How to Copy Referenced Files into a Photo Library

Copying referenced files into a photo library allows you to consolidate your images into one organized location, while still maintaining links to the original files. This prevents duplication and saves storage space.

When Would You Want to Copy Referenced Files?

There are a few instances when copying referenced files into your photo library would be useful:

Consolidating Project Files

If you have images scattered across multiple folders from different projects or events, copying them as references into your main photo library gathers them in one place for easier access without losing connection to the original files.

Editing Images Non-Destructively

Referenced files allow non-destructive editing - you can apply edits and filters without overwriting the original. The library links to the source file location.

Saving Storage Space

Instead of importing files and creating duplicates, referenced files point back to the originals, so you save storage capacity.

Step-by-Step Guide to Copy Referenced Files in a Photo Library

Copying referenced files into your photo library only requires a few simple steps:

1. Navigate to the Files You Want to Reference

Open your file browser and navigate to the folder location that contains the files you wish to reference. Select the files.

2. Drag Files into Your Photo Library

Open your photo library and find the desired destination album or project folder. Drag your selected files over the photo library.

3. Choose "Link" not "Import"

A dialogue box will open - make sure you select Link rather than Import. Linking creates a referenced file, while importing makes a copy.

4. Confirm Reference Files

Double check your photo library destination folder to confirm the files show up and are properly referenced. You'll see a small icon indicating they are only referenced.

And that's all there is to it! You've now successfully copied referenced files so you can access them conveniently within your photo library without duplicating the data.

Quick Tip to ensure your videos never go missing

Download PicBackMan

Videos are precious memories and all of us never want to ever lose them to hard disk crashes or missing drives. PicBackMan is the easiest and simplest way to keep your videos safely backed up in one or more online accounts. Simply Download PicBackMan (it's free!), register your account, connect to your online store and tell PicBackMan where your videos are - PicBackMan does the rest, automatically. It bulk uploads all videos and keeps looking for new ones and uploads those too. You don't have to ever touch it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Copying Referenced Files

How do I tell referenced files from imported files?

Referenced files can be identified by a small icon next to the filename within your photo library. They also won't show previews or metadata until clicked.

Can I view or edit referenced files?

Yes, you can open, edit, and apply adjustments to a referenced file. But any changes get written back to the original file location, not a copy within the library.

What happens if I delete the originals outside the library?

If the original source files get moved or deleted, the referenced files in your library will show as missing links. It's best practice to maintain the folder structure.

Is there a file size limit for referenced images?

There is no specific file size limit. Your photo editing software and system capabilities are the limiting factors when working with large megapixel images.

How do I convert a referenced file to an imported copy?

To convert a reference to an imported file copy, right click on the referenced photo and choose "Consolidate" or a similar command. Check your software docs for specifics.


Referencing files by linking rather than importing is a great workflow technique that keeps your assets organized while minimizing storage usage. When adding images into your Lightroom catalog or Capture One library, leverage the option to reference files whenever it makes sense. This allows you to incorporate images from various locations while keeping management simple. Just stick to the key steps: navigate, drag, link (not import), and confirm the references. Your photo library will stay consolidated without any unnecessary duplication.

World's #1 Photo/Video Uploader

Backup & Transfer your Photos in Minutes

Automate backup & migration of your photos & videos with support for all top services.

(283 reviews)

Trusted by users in 125+ countries.

95,000+ PicBackMan Users

95,000+ Users Trust PicBackMan To Backup Precious Memories

money back guarantee
Kip Roof testimonial Kip Roofgoogle photos flickr
PicBackMan does exactly what it's supposed to. It's quick and efficient. It runs unobtrusively in the background and has done an excellent job of uploading more than 300GB of photos to 2 different services. After having lost a lot of personal memories to a hard drive crash, it's nice to know that my photos are safe in 2 different places.
Julia Alyea Farella testimonialJulia Alyea Farella smugmug
LOVE this program! Works better than ANY other program out there that I have found to upload thousands of pictures WITH SUB-FOLDERS to SmugMug! Thank you so much for what you do! :) #happycustomer
Pausing Motion testimonialPausingMotionsmugmug
I pointed PicBackMan at a directory structure, and next time I looked - all the photos had uploaded! Pretty cool. I use SmugMug and while I really like it, the process of creating directories in is pretty laborious when you need to make 80+ at a time. This was a breeze. Thank you!
Gavin Whitham testimonialGavin Whithamflickr
PicBackMan was really easy to setup and has been running for 3 days now backing up all my locally saved photos to Flickr. My photos are really valuable to me so it's great to be able to have them easily backed up to a secure location.
 Jim Griffin testimonialJim Griffinsmugmug
It's AWESOME!! I have tens of thousands of pictures...and they are now successfully uploaded to SmugMug, where they are safely backed up, and I can edit and organize them. If you are hesitating about using PicBackMan, hesitate no longer...try it...and you'll be glad you did!!
close icon
World's #1 Photo/Video Uploader

World's #1 Free Photo/Video Uploader

PicBackMan has everything you've ever wanted to backup your photos or migrate/transfer from one account to another. No feature left behind!

(283 reviews)
Trusted by users in 125+ countries.
  • Maintain Folder StructureMaintain Folder StructureUpload to your online accounts & keep your folder structure as you have it.
  • Sub-folder SupportFolders & their sub-folders are automatically picked up.
  • Smart De-dupeDe-dupes photos before uploading so you don’t have duplicate copies.
  • AutomaticPicBackMan monitors & automatically uploads from connected folders.
  • PrivacyPrivacyAll uploaded photos & videos are always marked as private by default.
  • RAW FilesComes with support for RAW files for uploads as well as transfers.

“Your pictures are scattered. PicBackMan helps you bring order to your digital memories.”

the wall street journal
close icon
One Uploader for All Services

One Uploader for All Services

PicBackMan is the only tool you will need to backup to one or more of the top online photo and video services.

(283 reviews)
Trusted by users in 125+ countries.
Google Photos

Google Photos







Google Drive

Google Drive