In the previous tutorial, we covered that Lightroom Catalogs are stand alone, you can only search for and edit images that are in the Catalog that’s open. So this leads to an important question, how many Catalogs should you have? Is just one catalog the way to go, or should you have multiple Catalogs for different purposes? Check out our recommendation in the article and video below.
ADVANTAGES OF A SINGLE CATALOG LIGHTROOM WORKFLOW
EASY TO USE, QUICK TO ACCESS
The benefit to having a single Catalog workflow in Lightroom 5 is that all of your images are in one place. You can search through your images, access and edit them all within the same Catalog. This makes image management very simple, everything is in one place, and everything can be accessed quickly.
TWO DISADVANTAGES OF A SINGLE CATALOG LIGHTROOM WORKFLOW
1. SLOW CATALOG SPEEDS
Adobe may not admit this, but the more images your Lightroom 5 Catalog contains, the slower Lightroom will run. It will slow down when you load the catalog, search, or batch process images.
This will only be noticeable if you are a high volume photographer. We are a large studio and push through nearly 1.5 Million images within our Lightroom workflow yearly. Every bit of performance is important, in our studio if we save 1 second per photo, that’s 400 studio hours. An extra second or two per image may not be a problem when you’re editing your latest landscape or travel images, but it will certainly add up when you are pushing to process 10,000 wedding images in a timely manner.
2. DIFFICULT TO ARCHIVE AND TRANSFER
The more you add to the catalog the bigger the LRCAT file becomes, this makes tasks such as archiving or moving the catalog to a different machine slower and more tedious. If you are a studio like us, then to work a catalog completely through the system takes 2-3 full transfers. For example, we transfer the files first onto a safe, network accessible redundant storage system. We highly recommend Synology and the two units we use are the Synology DS1513+ and the DS1813+.
However, these drives are only for data safe storage. When we are ready to work on the catalog, it is pulled down to the local editing machine. Then when it is completed, it is prepped for archival and transferred back to one of the archival Synology NAS devices.
So in our workflow, a catalog is transferred 3 times before it is archived. With a single Catalog system you can’t move around individual jobs with that kind of ease because that Catalog along with it’s images would exceed several hundreds of gigabytes or even terabytes within just a few months.
A single catalog workflow offers easy and simple image management., but that simplicity and ease comes at the cost of decreased performance and transfer times.
MULTIPLE CATALOG WORKFLOW: ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES
THREE ADVANTAGES OF A MULTIPLE CATALOG WORKFLOW
1. Performance and Speed.
Simply put, Lightroom 5 runs faster when there are less images in the Catalog. When you break each job into its own Catalog (with less than 10,000 mages) you insure that Lightroom will run smoothly while you are processing the images.
2. Moving the Catalog from location to location is easier.
Since the amount of images are lower, the size of the catalog is smaller. This means that you can move individual Catalogs around or transfer them for archival purposes much faster than a single catalog that contains all of your images.
3. Each client or shoot has its own catalog.
This means you will not be distracted or slowed down by images you have taken from other shoots. It helps keep you focused on the task at hand, and makes it easier to locate other shoots.
DISADVANTAGE OF A MULTIPLE CATALOG WORKFLOW
The biggest disadvantage of the multiple Catalog workflow is that all of your images are in different places, which can make it a pain to search for or pull specific images. In order to export any images you have to first find the Catalog it’s located in.
Using multiple catalogs brings you great performance and speed within Lightroom, but that comes at the cost of being able to quickly search and access your entire library of images.
OUR TWO RECOMMENDED LIGHTROOM CATALOG WORKFLOWS
1. RECOMMENDED FOR MOST PHOTOGRAPHERS: SINGLE CATALOG WORKFLOW
While the benefits of using multiple catalogs are almost a necessity for a large studio like ours, the majority of photographers will not shoot enough images for them to see much , if any, performance increase.
We even have a number, if you shoot less than 1,000 images in a week, then a single catalog workflow will suit you best. If you feel like the catalog is slowing, and you are shooting quite a bit, then move to a 1 catalog per year style workflow. Either way, if you aren’t shooting large volumes of images, then the convenience of having everything in one catalog may be paramount.
2. RECOMMENDED FOR HIGH VOLUME PHOTOGRAPHERS: MULTI-CATALOG WORKFLOW
If you are shooting and processing significantly more than 1,000 images per week then we recommend that you go with a multiple catalog workflow. The time savings and ease of transferring files really make a difference when you are dealing with a high volume of images. If you find that you need a Multi-Catalog workflow we recommend using what we call a dual catalog system.
A dual Catalog system is where you keep a single catalog for your personal photography and individual catalogs for all of your professional shoots. This system allows you to quickly access your personal images while still getting the performance advantages of using multiple Catalogs for your professional jobs.