Mastering Lightroom - The Catalog

I love Lightroom.  I think it is pretty user friendly.  However, I also know that anytime you start using a new program there are questions and frustrations that come up. This blog series is intended as a resource to help you get up and running in Lightroom as quickly and as free of frustration as possible!

So, here we go!

The Lightroom Catalog.

As soon as you install Lightroom, it will create a catalog (or ask you to find an existing one.) This might seem confusing, after all isn’t a catalog one of those things you used to browse and purchase from in the old days?  

Lightroom’s catalog is the place that Lightroom will store links to your photos, previews of your photos, and all the developing info you do to your photos along the way.  Your photos ARE NOT stored in the catalog.  Your photos are stored on your hard drive.  You won’t be moving your photos anywhere by opening and using Lightroom. At any time you can go and find the photos on your hard drive.

Your catalog can be stored anywhere on your computer or even on an external drive.  If you store it on an external drive, that drive will need to be plugged in when you want to use Lightroom. The only thing that really matters is that Lightroom and you know where it is!  

How Many Catalogs Should I Have?

I have been using Lightroom since version 2.  I have only ever used one catalog.  I recommend you only use one, too.  All my client images and family images are stored in one catalog.  I choose to do this because I think it is frustrating to go between two.  I have LOTS of photos in my catalog and it still runs fine.

However, you may have as many different catalogs as you want if that works best for your workflow.  You could have a different catalog for different projects or even different clients.  To create a new catalog go to File>New Catalog.  To move to a different catalog go to File>Open Catalog.

Catalogs Don’t Discriminate.

Mastering Lightroom - The Catalog

Catalogs don’t care if you are using a Windows or Mac computer.  So if you currently use a Windows PC and eventually change to MAC you can use the same catalog.  You just need Lightroom.

Optimize Your Catalog to Keep it Running Smooth.

Mastering Lightroom - The Catalog

To keep your catalog running smoothly, every once in a while you may want to optimize it.  It is easy to do.  Just go to File>Optimize Catalog.  I typically only remember to do this every 6 months-ish and Lightroom still runs fine for me.  

Backing Up Your Catalog

Mastering Lightroom - The Catalog

Lightroom gives you options for backing up your catalog.  I suggest you backup your catalog regularly.  (And as a good practice, I recommend backing it up to a different drive than your main catalog is on!) However, backup catalog files are BIG FILES! REALLY BIG! So if you are backing up everyday, you’ll soon have many gigabytes of backups just hanging out on your hard drive.

To find your backups, look on the back-up reminder screen that pops up when you close Lightroom.  Listed there will be the location where your backups are stored.  Follow that directory and delete any old backups.

One Last Tip

Mastering Lightroom - The Catalog

Make sure that you have the “Automatically Write Changes to XMP” box checked in your Catalog Settings.  This makes sure that any changes you make to your photos is automatically saved.  To check this, go to Edit>Catalog Settings.  Choose the “Metadata” tab and you’ll find the check box about half-way down.

Follow this series and we will have you up and running in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom in 7 days!

Don't miss the Other Posts in this Series!

1. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Catalog

2. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Importing

3. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Library Module

4. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: The Develop Module

5. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Your Photos

6. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Developing Photos With Presets

7. Mastering Lightroom in 7 Days: Exporting and Everything Else