Shapefiles do not support raster files, so I created a geodatabase and made feature classes of the points. I then added a column titled "photos" and added the photo as a raster to the point. I now have several .lyr files with rasters attached to the attribute table and ideally I would like to merge all of these layer files together so the photos (raster files) will all be contained in one .lyr file. I guess I should have merged the point shapefiles first, then made it into a feature class and add the raster files as photos to the merged file and created one .lyr file, but we didnt do it that way and I'm wondering if there is a shortcut to merge the .lyr files instead of attaching the raster files all over again. I am using Arc 10.3.

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    What do you mean by wanting to merge the layer files but not the shapefiles? A layer file essentially is a pointer with symbology and such to a dataset on disk.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 17:58
  • As Paul points out, a lyr file contains no data, just information about how to symbolize data. And from what I can tell in a quick documentation search, shapefiles don't support raster type fields - only geodatabases. They could use hyperlinks, which do have some issues with breaking when merging (etc.). Could you provide a little more info on exactly how you've added the photos to your point file? What version of Arc are you using?
    – Chris W
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 18:53
  • I have edited the question and hopefully it is more clear what the problem is?
    – Morgantz27
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 18:47
  • .lyr files contain no data or attributes, they just store symbology (and some other stuff). Even if you were to manipulate the .lyr files and merge them, a .lyr file points at a single data set (in your case feature class) at a time. If your rasters have been loaded into the attribute tables of point feature classes, then merging/appending/whatever those point classes into one should also keep those same raster attributes. In theory any one of your .lyr files would then correctly symbolize the result, if you used the same field names.
    – Chris W
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 18:21
  • Actually there may be a cheap shortcut to do what you want, sort of (I'm still not clear on exactly what that is). If you add all your .lyr files to one map/.mxd, then group those layers, you can export a new single .lyr file of the group. But that still won't store the photos themselves in one file, just the symbology for all those individual feature classes.
    – Chris W
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 18:09

1 Answer 1


You can use the Merge tool to combine the shapefiles. Then you can pull the new larger shapefile into ArcMap and work with that.

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