Backing up the Lightroom Catalog to offsite storage

Today I am talking about one of the most important things you should be doing in Lightroom: backing up the Lightroom catalog to an off site location.

In a previous post I explained what the catalog was - the compilation of all the images you have imported into Lightroom. Not only is the catalog file (.lrcat) your virtual picture library, but it is also all the organizational systems you have created such as keywords and collections, and it is all the edit steps you have taken for each and every picture you've ever edited in Lightroom (and is still in the catalog).

Many people are backing up their catalog - the file with .lrcat ending - as directed by Lightroom and moving on with their day. However, the back up set up within Lightroom makes a folder in your Pictures folder on your hard drive and stores the back ups there.

You may be thinking "They are doing what they should. What is the problem, Amanda?"

The default back up is on the internal hard drive. What happens if the hard drive fails? What happens if the laptop falls in a pool (that did happen to someone I know)? What is the good in backing up on the same device?

A back up (or a copy of it) needs to be stored somewhere other than on the same computer as your Lightroom. The creators of Lightroom have built in back-up options so that you can choose how often to back up and where the back up is stored. You choose what works best for you.

To save the back up file to an off-site location you can do one of two things:

  • Let the catalog back up as it does by default, which creates a Lightroom folder in your Pictures folder and the back ups go there. Then, later you can copy the .lrcat file and place a copy in the off-site storage.
  • When the catalog back up options come up, instead of letting it go to the default Lightroom folder in your Pictures folder, click the "Choose" button and navigate to your off-site storage (like a thumb drive or cloud storage).

Backing up the Lightroom Catalog

Below shows copies of my Lightroom catalog in one of my Dropbox folders. (I don't use Lightroom on my Macbook Air very much, so there are not many back ups.)

Backing up the Lightroom Catalog

If your Lightroom is not prompting you to back up at exit, then you need to adjust the catalog settings. 

  • On a Mac click on the word "Lightroom" in the top left-hand corner, then down to Catalog Settings menu. On a PC go to Edit, then down to Catalog Settings.
  • When the Catalog Settings menu opens up, click on the option at the bottom to set how often the catalog is backed up (bottom image).

Backing up the Lightroom Catalog

Backing up the Lightroom Catalog

Backing up the Lightroom Catalog