Q I just upgraded to Lightroom 4 and something happened with my flags in collections: they are gone! Where the xxxx are they?

A Well, they are not completely gone. But they are very hidden indeed.

As background, in Lightroom versions 1-3 the Pick and Reject flags were local to the folder or collection of pictures. So in one collection of pictures you could mark an image as a Pick, while in another collection it could be marked as a Reject. While many found this useful, many found it unnecessary and confusing – and I think it’s important to acknowledge both sides here.

So in Lightroom 4 Adobe made these flags global, but they did so without letting you save flag data out to XMP or do anything which might have made the change more palatable. Potential compatibility with other apps remains just pie in the sky.

Because of the change to global flags, you’ll find you only see any flags which you assigned to images in folders (or in smart collections). If you had assigned flags to images in dumb collections in Lightroom 3, at first when Lightroom 4 upgrades your catalogue it will look like the flags are gone and your selection work is lost. That’s not quite true though. When a catalogue is upgraded, there are extra menu items available in each upgraded collection.

“Select Old Contextual Flagged” and “Select Old Contextual Rejected” could benefit from their names being in Plain English – something like “Select the items I xxxxxxg flagged” – but they do at least allow you to images in collections which had been flagged and rejected in LR3 or earlier.

It’s important to add that this only happens if you let LR4 upgrade an LR3 catalogue – it does not apply if LR4 imports an LR3 catalogue via File > Import from Another Catalog. So if you want some access to your LR3 collection-specific flags, make sure you upgrade the catalogue.

Also see Lightroom 4 – global flags and local stacking, a suggestion for how to amend your workflow for the change to flags.