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Post Production Tips

How to Choose a Lightroom 4 Catalog System for Your Studio

By Pye Jirsa on February 7th 2013

The following is an excerpt from the SLR Lounge Lightroom Workflow System Workshop on DVD, a system designed to increase your post production speed by 5 to 10 times. Click here to learn more.


Now that we have fully introduced the Workflow System DVD in Chapter 1, we are ready to dive into Chapter 2, which consists of workflow tutorials involved in the importing process. In this article, we will discuss two different options for a Lightroom catalog workflow system for your studio and the benefits and drawbacks of each system.

Just to review, we want to remind you that nothing other than the image data is stored within a Lightroom catalog. The image data that is saved includes any develop settings, metadata, keywording, attributes, and any other image data. The digital images themselves are not saved within a Lightroom catalog file. Now that you know what is saved in a Lightroom catalog you need to decide what catalog system to use to store this information. By using Lightroom, you have the choice of using a single-catalog system or a multi-catalog file system. There are benefits and drawbacks to each therefore it is up to you to decide which system works best for your studio workflow.

Watch the Video

The Single-Catalog System

Adopting a single-catalog system for your workflow would mean that all of your images are stored in a single catalog. Since all of your images are in one catalog, all the organizational functions and features are available to all the images at the same time. Keeping your images together in one catalog can benefit your workflow because you have the ability to search and find any image you need with ease.

However, there are problems that often arise from using this system if a catalog becomes too large. Large catalogs can put a damper on overall studio efficiency because of large quantities of information constantly needing to be optimized. In addition, performing transfers from one machine to another can become very cumbersome with a large amount of image information.

The Multi-Catalog System

In our studio, we use a multi-catalog system so we store image information in separate catalog files for every single shoot. This can be organized according to different types of photography, different types of events, different clients, or however you choose to organize the images.

By using this system, we find that our overall efficiency is higher because of our studio circumstances. Since each catalog stays small, Lightroom runs quick and efficiently moving from image to image. Also, moving catalogs from one machine to another is very quick since the catalog files are small.

Of course, the main drawback of this system is that you can’t organize or sort images in a single catalog which would otherwise make locating and organizing all images an easier and quicker process.

Example Workflow Circumstances

You can also separate your workflow systems and use a different system for a different area in your workflow. For example, you may shoot thousands of wedding images, but only a hundred of landscape images each week. In this case, I would recommend having a single catalog for all landscape images and separate catalogs for each wedding.

If you are a more of a casual photographer, shooting around a couple hundred photos a week, I would recommend using the single-catalog system. On the other hand, if you are shooting thousands of images a week I would definitely recommend using a multi-catalog system to speed up your workflow.


Now that you understand the benefits and drawbacks of each system, it is up to you to decide which system works best for you. Whatever you choose, consider your own workflow and what is going to be best for your business.

To learn more about the SLR Lounge Workflow System Workshop on DVD or to purchase it, click on this link.

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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for posting

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  2. Nathan

    I am a casual photographer and In general I am shooting approximately 2000 – 3000 photos a year at the moment and then do not keep all of them. I keep my personal work in a catalog for the entire year. I am also a second shooter at weddings for a local photographer and generally put those images in their own catalog.

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