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Catalogs LR Classic catalogs and storage

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Tom Pula

New Member
Jan 2, 2018
Lightroom Experience
Lightroom Version
Operating System: OS High Sierra
Exact Lightroom Version (Help menu > System Info): LR Classic CC

This has likely been answered before, but my question is quite specific. I have decided a single catalog is best for me and it has worked well. I shoot mostly landscape on a semi-pro basis along with an occassional event.

And LR seems to be handling it well even with 60,000+ images. The thing that is concerning me is file storage. I have a 4T external drive for my storage, plus Backblaze for cloud backup. As I need something bigger, I will get a RAID or larger external drive. Not a problem.

But anything like that isn't practical or feasible to haul around on shoots. Is there a quick and easy way to download the photos into small external drive as well as import into LR (as when I'm out on a shoot in the boonies) and then later on transfer all that to my large hard drive at home without losing the LR adjustments, etc. I may have done while in the field? It's one of those fundamentals that should be evident to me, but isn't and I've had a hell of time trying to find the answer.

Like I said, this is probably answered elsewhere and I'm hoping this is in the LR Missing FAQ (on its way to me soon).

Use a 'travel catalog' on your laptop. When you return home, use 'Import from Another Catalog' to merge this catalog with your main catalog.
I'll be facing this in about two months but was not sure what to do. When I'm travelling I typically cull images using a different software and only import a few that I plan tp post.

The lrcat is set up on my laptop as per normal. Are you suggesting I create a new one called travel? I will be keeping all the files on an external drive.

I was just looking at the import page. I use the Select a source (being the catalogue on my laptop) and Add to my catalogue? Obviously I'll have to import all my files into my iMac the same way I did on the laptop.
If your workflow is only from the laptop into your home system (not taking images from home to the laptop to work on), you have a lot of choices:

As Johan has mentioned, you can create a (empty) catalog on the laptop, and import it when you return. It's necessary that the catalog you are importing be "working" meaning the paths in it point to the right places, either because you arranged it that way in advance, or changed it once you copy it over.

Or, you can have a catalog on the laptop, and when you get back you can "write metadata" to all files (this creates the sidecar XMP file), and then copy those to the home computer and import them. This also brings in all develop settings and individual image metadata, but will not bring across catalog related items like collections, virtual copies, stacking. I find this easier, as I just map the laptop drive to be visible on the desktop, and import/copy. Be sure not to apply a preset on the import that you already applied on the laptop.

Some people use different software during shoots, e.g. I sometimes just use photo mechanic on the shoot, and cull and crop, but not edit. I can also edit metadata, The culling can save a huge amount of time later when you import to Lightroom. I will sometimes do this because editing for color and exposure on my laptop is a bit problematic due to the screen. Many programs (Photo Mechanic is one) will write XMP files compatible with Lightroom, though it only applies for metadata and crops, not for edits. You do this as above, just import/copy over when you get home.

If you are going to do extensive edits in the field, and might use catalog features like stacks and collections, the catalog export is the way to go. If you just do simple and quick edits like culling, crops, metadata, you might find XMP or a separate tool easier.

One issue to be aware of in setting up the second catalog is that you need to make sure you have a similar environment, e.g. if you have saved presets (for edit, metadata, etc.) you may need them coordinated between both places. On the other hand, you also need to avoid using some twice (e.g. apply a preset, do some edits on the laptop, and have it reapply when you import on the laptop may overwrite your edits whether image edits or metadata). If you use camera calibration profiles, you have to keep them in sync, also file rename templates, etc. People who save a lot of such templates and presets have a more difficult time with the two catalog approach (and there are workarounds, some people find they can create a link to the presets folder and store it on something like OneDrive, so it is the same file for laptop and desktop -- a good solution but requires some care and computer knowledge).

And don't forget there's Lightroom CC (the new thing). I don't think of it as a real solution, but people have found ways to work with it and Classic together, e.g. ingesting and editing on the laptop in LR CC then the system automatically loads them into Classic for you. Bandwidth can be a real challenge in the field of course (not that you must have a connection, but that if you GET a connection it might bury it and/or cost a fortune if it's metered and you do not notice).
I like the idea of having a separate catalog on my laptop or on a small external drive. I tend to do a lot of edits in the field (mostly because I find it hard to keep my paws off them, particularly with images that excite me...), but after running some experiments, I have found the edits transfer quite easily. The upside is that this can force me to do some extensive culling early on before I transfer them to the big home external drive. That way, thingns don't get bloated in the catalog. Anyway, thanks for the answers. A lot of good suggestions.
Thanks for the detailed reply Linwood. I pretty much always cull using Canon's DPP before importing into LR. I'll review your suggestions and figure out which way I want to do this.
Thanks for the detailed reply Linwood. I pretty much always cull using Canon's DPP before importing into LR. I'll review your suggestions and figure out which way I want to do this.
My preference for culling is to use LR and not any other DAM tool. On Import, I create minimal previews and NO Smart Previews. As soon as the first image appears in LR, I begin culling. Often I can be half way through the culling process by the time the import process finishes. I think this is faster than first coping the images off of the camera card to the HDD and then copy/move them to the final destination on import
It is faster. I just really like the look off DPP in quick check - full screen mode.
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