Lightroom catalog organization

New Here ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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I’m new to Lightroom Classic but not new to editing Nikon NEFs.  I’ve been using Nikon software for editing and am considering moving to Lightroom.  Up to now I’ve organized my photos by date and have over 500 subfolders and 22,000+ photos all contained in one large “Photos and Videos” folder (250GB) which resides on an external HDD.  

 

I need advice.  I believe Adobe recommends using a single catalog for managing photos.  Alternatively, I could organize photos edited via Lightroom by setting up a separate catalog within each subfolder for just the photos within that subfolder.  Photos edited by Lightroom for a given date or date range, would be managed by the catalog in that subfolder.  Is this crazy, i.e., should I just use a single Lightroom catalog for all photos edited by Lightroom as Adobe recommends, or is my idea (brainstorm?) a workable alternative?  The potential advantage of using multiple catalogs, one per subfolder, is if I want to move photos to, say, another disk or flash drive, I can just move the photos and their corresponding catalog as a unit. I have not yet explored using Adobe Organizer because I would prefer to have only one scheme and software application for managing photos rather than having Adobe managing photos I take from here on and photos I’ve taken in the past managed by my good ‘ol “manual” method.  Comments please.  Vic.   

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Being "new"- just be sure we are always talking about LIGHTROOM-CLASSIC (Not the Cloud/mobile/desktop version)

"a separate catalog within each subfolder"

No. Don't do it! Thats my best advice. (It would end in chaos and tears!)

ONE Catalog only, that references -  every photo, every folder, every hard-drive, where photo files are stored.

"if I want to move photos..."

This can ALL be done in the ONE Catalog! And more!

I suggest you download and read the free eBook from here-   https://www.lightroomqueen.com/

One or Multiple Catalogs?-  https://www.lightroomqueen.com/one-or-multiple-catalogs/

 

Regards. My System: Lr-Classic 10.3, Photoshop 22.4.2, Lightroom 4.3, Windows-10 Nikon DSLR.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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You really only need a single catalog. If you want to create a lot of chaos and countless headaches then go ahead and try to manage multiple catalogs, especially the way you have explained you want to do it. With Lightroom Classic, one method would be to create a separate subfolder within the catalog for each year if that suits your fancy. I do it that way just because I prefer that way, but others don't see the need for that. The real key to organizing images is to learn to assign keywords to the images. Really, it might seem cumbersome at first, but if you can discipline yourself to assign meaningful keywords to your images as you import them, you will quickly understand one of the most powerful search capabilities Lightroom Classic has to offer as soon as you need to search for images. You don't have to do it, but you will be cheating yourself out of one of Lightroom's great benefits if you choose not to.

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Engaged ,
Mar 12, 2021 Mar 12, 2021

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Hi,

I would definitely recommend only one catalog.

Search capabilities in LrC are really great, using metadata (keywords, title, location, camera info, etc...).

Collections are also a good way to quickly access sets of photos. In normal collections, you add specific pictures. Smart collections show pictures based on filters.

Even in a single catalog, you can move photos to other folders or disks, all from within LrC. And should you need to, you can export specific photos/folders as catalogs, that you can share with other people.

Hope that helps,

Michael

_____________

Michael Niessen - Photographer, photo-editor, educator

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LEGEND ,
Mar 13, 2021 Mar 13, 2021

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Alternatively, I could organize photos edited via Lightroom by setting up a separate catalog within each subfolder for just the photos within that subfolder. Photos edited by Lightroom for a given date or date range, would be managed by the catalog in that subfolder. Is this crazy, i.e., should I just use a single Lightroom catalog for all photos edited by Lightroom as Adobe recommends, or is my idea (brainstorm?) a workable alternative?


Crazy, definitely crazy. Do not use multiple catalogs without a good reason, there are few benefits to multiple catalogs and many disadvantages. In your case, with one catalog, it takes one mouse click and maybe one second of delay to see the photos in a any selected folder. With multiple catalogs, you have more mouse work, and a lag of maybe 15 seconds before the next catalog opens. In addition, Lightroom Classic does not present a long menu that will show all of your folders if they are in different catalogs; but if they are in one catalog, there is such a menu. And of course, many many other disadvantages of many catalogs.

 

The potential advantage of using multiple catalogs, one per subfolder, is if I want to move photos to, say, another disk or flash drive, I can just move the photos and their corresponding catalog as a unit.

 

This can be done using one catalog, simply by moving the photos to a new disk, using the proper Lightroom Classic method, without having to move the catalog. I think you are imagining advantages that don't exist.

 

I would prefer to have only one scheme and software application for managing photos rather than having Adobe managing photos I take from here on and photos I’ve taken in the past managed by my good ‘ol “manual” method.

 

Adobe does not "manage" your photos, YOU the human user of the software perform all software management. Adobe simply provides a tool for you to use. But if you really want "one scheme" (by this I assume you mean your existing folders) all of this can be done in Lightroom Classic; and if the way this tool works is not satisfactory to you, then you probably want to use a different tool that has more satisfactory features.

 

One final comment: we have seen people in this and other forums who desperately want to do things "their way" and not "Lightroom Classic's way", and almost without exception, these people are very unhappy with the software. Please take the advice of myself and others and use one catalog, or find some other software, and avoid this unhappiness.

 

 

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 13, 2021 Mar 13, 2021

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@SoCal Diver wrote:

The potential advantage of using multiple catalogs, one per subfolder, is if I want to move photos to, say, another disk or flash drive, I can just move the photos and their corresponding catalog as a unit.


 

The potential advantage doesn’t exist, because you can already do that with a single catalog.

 

In Lightroom Classic, the Folders panel is tied to the computer file system. If you drag images or a folder between folders or volumes in the Folders panel, that change will be applied to the actual items on the computer desktop. So you can already do that within a single catalog.

 

What makes that possible is that Lightroom Classic can catalog images across multiple volumes. Each volume appears as a top level item in the Folders panel. Over the years, the Folders panel in my single catalog (over 100,000 images) has remembered file paths to multiple internal hard drives, multiple external hard drives, networked volumes (even other computers, when I have mounted them over the network using file sharing), USB flash drives, and optical media. This weekend I’m rearranging some images between two drives, in my one Lightroom Classic catalog.

 

And the catalog remembers them even if they are not mounted, which is a massive convenience: If I select a cataloged image but it cannot be edited because the actual file is on a disconnected external drive or optical disc on a shelf in the closet, Lightroom Classic will tell me it’s unavailable, so all I have to do is go get that volume and connect it to the computer. Lightroom Classic will notice that the file is now available, and now I can edit that image.

 

If you use one catalog per folder, your scope of operation is severely limited. You will never be able to use Lightroom Classic to see or find any images except the ones in the currently open catalog, since only one catalog can be open at a time. If that means one folder contains for example 150 images out of your 150,000, then as long as that catalog is open you are always blind to your other 149,850 images. Unless you would like to open catalog after catalog until you happen to come across the right one. No, it’s easier to open one big catalog where you can find anything, right now, no matter where it’s stored.

 

Read the last Lightroom Queen link posted by WobertC because it’s a standard reference answer to this question. And I have some more reasons to add to her list.

 

Each catalog comes with a few associated files, one key file is the previews cache (*Previews.lrdata). That can grow to a large size as you preview more files over time, but many of us occasionally free up storage space by tossing out the previews cache and letting Lightroom Classic regenerate it from zero. That is super easy if you have one big catalog; you just trash one big file. But if for example you have 379 preview caches associated with your 379 catalogs in your 379 folders, now you have to think about managing 379 preview cache files. And…

 

Lightroom Classic is on version 10. Every time Adobe does a major revision, we all have to upgrade our catalogs to the current format, which results in an upgraded duplicate. Again, no problem with one big catalog. We do a one-time format conversion, delete the old version of the catalog, and we are done.

 

Continuing with the above example, if you have 379 catalogs in each of 379 folders, and you go through another 5 Lightroom Classic major version upgrades, every catalog you open will ask to be converted with each upgrade, so after 5 versions you could end up doing a catalog upgrade and deleting the old version of each catalog potentially up to 1895 times…

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 13, 2021 Mar 13, 2021

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To the OP. However, if you are a complex database manager, and delight in creating databases to manage keeping track of Images, where they are located, when their catalog was last properly updated, and which version of Lightroom it is presently compatible with, if that is your passion, then by all means create separate catalogs for each folder. You will be spending so much time organizing and updating and trying to keep track of where your images are that you won't have time to create any new ones.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 13, 2021 Mar 13, 2021

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As. you can see from all the excellent suggestions, one catalog is definitely the easiest way to go. And yes, you can easily move a set of photos even with one catalog.

The ONLY time I create a separate catalog, is when I am running a test for someone else, or occasionally when I am doing a presentation and do not want all my photos available.And I plan to delete the catalog and photo files when I am done.

I do know several event photographers who do keep separate catalogs for each event. Those photographers often have the whole event on one external drive (backed up to a second external) with the LR catalog on that drive as well. They do keep the settings and preferences folder with the specific catalog also.

It gets really confusing even for them!

Much better to learn Lightroom, understand that it is a HUB for all. your photo activity, and use LR to sort, edit, and move files. In other words, dont use the FInder or Explorer.

 

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