Before you can take advantage of Lightroom’s full potential as a photo editing software, you have to understand how the catalog system works. For someone who has never used Lightroom before this can be quite confusing, but we made 3 tips to make understanding the catalog system easy. Having a good understanding of how the Lightroom catalog system works is the first step in having an efficient Lightroom workflow. Check out the video and article below for the tips.


When you import your images to a Lightroom Catalog, Lightroom doesn’t import the images files into the catalog, instead it references the images from the location the images are stored. This is important to understand because if you move the images to another location Lightroom will not know where the images are moved to and the references will break.

broken reference
While this is easy to fix it’s also easy to avoid. If you keep your Lightroom catalog and your respective images in the same folder, and move that folder altogether, the Lightroom Catalog will always know where to locate the images.


In the image above you can see an example of how I include my Lightroom Catalog in the same folder my images are in. This way if I move the “00 Exercise Files” folder from my desktop to my hard drive and onto another desktop, the Lightroom catalog within the folder will always know where to reference the images because they’re in the same folder.


When you choose to backup your catalog you’re only backing up the changes you are making to the images, but not the images themselves. Processing changes, attributes, metadata, ratings, and other adjustment will be saved but there are no additional copies of the images.


Many people make the false assumption that backing up their catalog means they are backing up their images, but that is not that case. We always recommend photographers make back ups of their images in case of hard drive failure, so be sure not to rely on the catalog back up as a solution for backing up your images.


In Lightroom you can only have one Catalog file open at a time. This means if you store travel photos in a “Travel Photo Catalog” and wedding photos in a “Wedding Photo Catalog” you can only have access to one of those Catalogs at a time. If the Travel Photo Catalog is open, you wont have access to the Wedding Photos Catalog, and if the Wedding Photos Catalog is open you won’t have access to the Travel Photo Catalog. You will only have access to the catalog that is open at that time, and if you choose to open another Catalog Lightroom will close the Catalog that is open.


  • 1.1 Intro and Welcome
  • 1.2 What is Adobe Lightroom?
  • 1.3 Lightroom Strengths and Limitations
  • 1.4 3 Keys to Understanding the Lightroom Catalog System
  • 1.5 Our Two Recommended Catalog Workflows
  • 1.6 7 Steps and Best Practices in the Production Workflow
  • Getting Started

  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Creating Our First Catalog
  • 2.3 3 Simple Steps to Understanding Importing
  • 2.4 3 Ways to Skin Every Lightroom Cat
  • 2.5 8 Interface Components and Shortcuts
  • 2.6 Module and Shortcut Overview
  • 2.7 Taking Lightroom Images to Photoshop
  • 2.8 The Basics of Exporting
  • Customizing Lightroom

  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 6 Ways to Customize Your Interface and Views
  • 3.3 My 3 Favorite Loupe View Metadata
  • 3.4 Customizing Grid View Attributes
  • 3.5 Customizing the Identity Plate
  • 3.6 Customizing Panel End Marks
  • 3.7 How to Create a Watermark
  • 3.8 Additional Interface Customization
  • 3.9 Using Neutral Desktop Background
  • Key Library Features

  • 4.1 Folders and 10 Tools to Manage Them
  • 4.2 5 Reasons Collections Rock
  • 4.3 Why You Should Use Publish Services
  • 4.4 The Histogram and Quick Develop Panel
  • 4.5 Everything You Need to Know About Keywording
  • 4.6 The Basics of Metadata
  • 4.7 3 Ways to Rate and Cull Images
  • 4.8 3 Reasons the Filmstrip is Awesome
  • 4.9 3 Methods to Filter, Unlimited Possibilities
  • 4.10 My 5 Favorite Library Toolbar Functions
  • 4.11 Stacking and Why I am Not a Fan
  • 4.12 How and When to Rename Images
  • 4.13 10 Must Know Library View Shortcuts
  • 4.14 14 Must Know Library Function Shortcuts
  • A Professional Workflow

  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 5 Tips on Your Shooting Workflow
  • 5.3 3 Pieces of Hardware to Optimize Lightroom Speed
  • 5.4 Wide Gamut IPS Displays and Color Correction
  • 5.5 9 Key Settings to Optimize General Preferences for Workflow
  • 5.6 3 Key Settings to Optimize Catalog Settings for Workflow
  • 5.7 Creating a Soft Import Develop Preset
  • 5.8 Creating a Vivid Import Develop Preset
  • 5.9 Creating a Standard Metadata Preset
  • 5.10 Creating a General Import Preset and Importing
  • 5.11 How to Sync Camera Capture Times
  • 5.12 How to Keyword a Wedding Catalog
  • 5.13 Rendering Previews Prior to Working
  • 5.14 The 3 Pass Workflow Overview
  • 5.15 Our 3 Step Logic to Culling
  • 5.16 Simple Culling Out Example
  • 5.17 Simple Culling In Example
  • 5.18 Syncing Functions
  • 5.19 Process by Scene
  • 5.20 Rename Prior to Export
  • 5.21 Creating Our 4 Most Used Export Presets
  • 5.22 Archival
  • 5.23 Refer to the Workflow Checklist
  • Tips & Advanced Functions

  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 How to Use the Auto Import Function
  • 6.3 How to Import via Tethered Capture
  • 6.4 Export, Import and Synchronize Catalogs
  • 6.5 Export with Previous
  • 6.6 Export to Email
  • 6.7 10 Useful Shortcuts You May Not Yet Know
  • 6.8 Use View Modes to Navigate Modules
  • 6.9 Using XMP Sidecar Files
  • 6.10 RAW vs. DNG
  • 6.11 Advanced NAS and Smart Preview Catalog Setup
  • 6.12 Conclusion