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Exporting collection as catalog and importing it back to main catalog when back home.

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New Member
Jul 19, 2022
Paris, France
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  1. macOS 13 Ventura
I work on a big large catalog that contains all my archives. It stays on a SSD drive that I plug to iMac or Macbook depending where I am. The latest raw files are on the SSD, all archive RAWs are on separate hard drives that I do not carry with me.
I worked few weeks back on a subject (and imported everything in big catalog, culling, editing etc...) and need to travel to the same place again soon.
To make things easier, I would like to have a simple catalog with this specific subject. I can export the collection as catalog, move it to internal HD of MacBook and work from there on the move. Then, when back, import that catalog back to the big catalog.
Question is: how to deal with current existing raw files ? if I export the collection with raw files attached that would be ideal to work but I have no idea what how to deal with the pre-existing raw files when I come back from the trip.
Any advice greatly appreciated to get a smooth and efficient workflow !
Have a great day,
LR is smart enough to handle that issue, and in fact it was how many of us worked in similar scenarios. So File > Import from Catalog asks what you want to do with any adjustments to those "pre-existing raw files" - create a VC or update the existing files.

I'd suggest testing this whole workflow for yourself on a small collection.
As John has mentioned Importing a "Travel" catalog on return was how many of us managed before there was an Adobe cloud. I would often make a copy of my catalog with no images and use that on my travel laptop. This had all of my keywords, collections, and publish services. If I wanted to work on images that were already imported into my Master Catalog, I included a copy of my Smart Previews folder. The Smart Previews provides enough detail for use in the Develop Module.
Since Adobe released Lightroom and stores images in the Adobe Cloud, I no longer use the "Import from anotherCatalog" but instead use the cloudy version of Lightroom (included in your Photography Plan Subscription) when I travel. When I get home I just sync the images stored in the Adobe Cloud to my master catalog and it includes any edits that I may have done while traveling . If I need to work on a collection from my master catalog while traveling, I make sure that collection has ben sync'd to the Adobe cloud. This sends a Smart Preview to the Adobe Cloud and is suitable for additional edits just like those images in the Smart Preview folder.
Thanks @John and @Clee for your answers.

Smart previews seem to be the way to go, meaning:
I will do something like:
Export Collection Set with the past images to catalog
Work on that catalog when away. Editing smart preview if needed (I will mainly be dealing with keyword, caption and creating sub-collections)
Import the travel catalog in the main catalog when back home and apply the metadata changes.
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