Newbie Import question

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I am completely new to Lightroom, I installed it yesterday, and am eager to get started. I have not used Lightroom or any other image database software before. My question is; My images are stored on a hard drive in year order, a folder for each year and subfolders within those. Should I create a new Catalogue in Lightroom for each year or Import all my files into the default All Photos catalogue? If I Import in to the All Photos catalogue how do I then separate my photos in to years, via Collection? Wouldn't this take a long time? I am only an amateur photographer, each of my year folders on my hard drive contains about 3 or 4 thousand images. I have watched several How To....... videos but only got more confused. Any help and advice would be most welcome. Many thanks.
 

Conrad Chavez

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It will help to clear up some terminology first:
A Lightroom catalog is a database file. You mentioned “the All Photos catalogue,” but All Photos isn’t a catalogue, it’s a collection within a catalog file (notice that it’s under a Collections heading). A collection is a virtual list (like a music playlist).

It sounds like you already have a carefully organized hierarchy of folders. If it works well for you, when you import use the Add option. That will import all your existing folders as is, without moving or re-organizing anything. In Lightroom Classic you will then be able to go through your images by folder, in the Folders panel, using the same familiar hierarchy you’ve been using on the desktop.

If you are unhappy with your existing folder organization, you could use the Copy mode of the Import dialog box as an opportunity to have Lightroom Classic make a new copy of all your files, reorganized in folders by capture date.

It’s better to use as few catalogs as possible; a lot of people are good using just one catalog. There are many reasons for limiting the number of catalogs you use, which Victoria has already covered on this website:
Should you have one catalog or multiple catalogs?

Once you have a catalog of everything you already have, you can configure the Import dialog box to control how to automatically organize new imports.
 
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I would strongly urge you to use only one catalog as my understanding is that Lightroom can only handle one catalog at a time. If you are working with images in one catalog (call it Catalog A) and want to access images in another catalog (call it Catalog B), then you have to close Catalog A and open Catalog B. Similarly, if you are working in Catalog B and want to access and image in Catalog A, then you have to close Catalog A and open Catalog B.

A lot will depend on the type of photography you do as I know some wedding photographers use a catalog for each wedding, but if you are just photographing images on a general basis, as I do, then one catalog will provide you with the least amount of confusion and grief. I have over 70,000 images in my catalog and Lightroom handles this load very efficiently. I have heard of a one professional who has over 250K images in a catalog with no problems.

I would encourage you do two things as you start out: 1) make very liberal use of keywords for each of your images and I do mean liberal. This will give you a broad ability to find any image in your catalog in a few seconds, even as your catalog gets bigger; 2) learn to use Collections, particularly Smart Collections. For example, I do a lot of landscape photography, often more for the clouds then the landscape itself, so I have a Smart Collection called "Clouds". This Smart Collection is set up so that every image that I take that has the keyword "cloud", or "clouds" attached to it, is included in that Smart Collection, so if I want to look at my cloud images, I just have to go the Smart Collection and I don't have to do a search of my images every time I want to find a cloud image. Because I use a Smart Collection for this topic, every image that enters my catalog that has either key word attached to it is automatically included in the Collection.

There are lots of YouTube videos on both Key-wording and Smart Collections on the web, however, should you run into problems, post a question here and someone will provide you with an answer.

Hope this helps.
 
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Thank you so much for your replies. Very helpful indeed and explained perfectly! I know have a much better idea of how to Import my images. Great stuff! I guess as a newbie I will have more questions to ask, very happy to have found this Forum. Again, many thanks.
 
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Another vote for one catalog. I'd also look at assigning metadata and keywords to your imports. That way you can easily find photos you are looking for.
 
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