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Post Production Tips

2 Ways to Organize Catalog Files in Lightroom 4

By Pye Jirsa on February 13th 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 view more details

How you create your catalog folders may seem like an insignificant detail, but the method you use can affect the organization of these catalogs and the ease with which you can access them. Two of these methods include 1) creating the folder from the drop-down menu in Lightroom itself, and 2) creating the root folder in your operating system, then creating your Lightroom catalog and saving it to that file.This may sound confusing at first, but hopefully you will find that both approaches are pretty simple as we go through and explain both methods in this article.

Watch the Video

Watch the tutorial in video format, or read the written article below.

The first method is very straight-forward. In Lightroom, go to the “File” drop-down menu and select “New Catalog”. This allows you to create a new folder through which you can access your catalog.


Suppose you name the catalog “Catalog Example 1” and save it onto your desktop as shown below.


This action simultaneously creates a folder on your desktop titled “Catalog Example 1” and the catalog itself, by the same name, within that folder. The “Catalog Example 1” folder contents are shown below.


Example #2 : Create the Catalog Folder on Your Operating System

The second method has an extra step involved, but is still pretty simple. Begin by creating a folder in your operating system. For instance, you could create a folder directly on your desktop called “Catalog Example 2”.


This folder initially has nothing in it because you are essentially just designating an empty space to which you can save the work relating to your catalog. The next step is to create a new catalog within Lightroom by utilizing the drop-down menu and selecting “New Catalog”.


Save the new catalog to the folder you have just created, which in this case is “Catalog Example 2”.


Then name your catalog and save. In this example, we named it “Catalog”, but you may want it to be more descriptive.


It may seem like we have just added an unnecessary step to the process, but proceeding in this way has an advantage: the visual organization is much cleaner and simpler because your catalog and previews will all be neatly contained within the initial folder you created. For this reason, this is the method we prefer in our studio.

Here’s a visual representation of the folder contents:

Example #1


Example #2




Now you have a couple organization options for your Lightroom catalog system. Whichever you choose, make sure that you keep it consistent. Stay tuned for the next article.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa


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  2. Robert Sheppard

    I used to shoot catwalk fashion shows which generate a lot of files, say 5000-10,000 images per show, shooting up to 15 shows per day. I found it useful to organise my files with the catalog and raw/jpg files under the same root folder (new catalog for each show – set-up before hand with dummy files to initiate the catalog). I would then select my picks and export to another folder under that root (they would then go off to the picture editor for whatever mag I was shooting for or the designer).

    Why this is useful is because once my laptop’s HD got near full, I could copy each of the “root” folders off to offline storage, say a USB drive. Then if I did need to revisit an image, say to select a replacement, I could just find the “root” folder for that show, and open the catalog, and there would be no issues with images not found or Lightroom thinking they had moved, since Lightroom knows the images are in the raw folder which is at the same level relative to the catalog folder.

    i.e. like this:
    – LondonFashionWeekSS14
    – catalog
    – raw
    – export
    – ShowABC
    – catalog
    – raw
    – export

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