Lightroom Organization & Workflow: 3 Keys to Understanding the Lightroom Catalog System
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.
TIP 1. CHANGES THAT ARE MADE TO THE IMAGE ARE STORED IN THE CATALOG, NOT THE IMAGE
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.
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.
TIP 2. LIGHTROOM’S BACKUP FUNCTION ONLY BACKS UP THE CATALOG, NOT THE IMAGES
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.
TIP 3. EACH CATALOG IS INDEPENDENT FROM ONE ANOTHER
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.