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Working between 2 computers

santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
Lightroom Version
CC
Operating System
  1. macOS 10.15 Catalina
I suppose this comes up a lot, but I can't seem to put together the right search terms, so...

For many years I have used Lightroom 6 on my iMac (with Catalina), but now my son has sort of taken over that computer :). So, I created a new workstation using my MacBook pro - all on the same wifi network. I quickly discovered that it was not possible to install Lightroom 6 on my MBP with Catalina because of the 32 bit installer issue. So, I kicked my boy off the iMac and upgraded to the Photography plan with hopes of being able to now have 2 computers with Lightroom Classic - which I now do. But, I don't want 2 separate lightroom catalogs and 2 separate original picture libraries. I was hoping to be able to seamlessly work on either computer and have the same pictures and edits sync between the 2. I quickly found out that is possible, but not easy. I realize that Lightroom CC is built for that very purpose, but I want the functionality of classic.

So, after reading solutions online, here is what I decided to try. I created a dropbox account on both computers and put the catalog from my iMac in it. So now, the catalogue is shared on both computers. Then I installed Jeffrey Friedl's "Folder watch" plug-in. My understanding is that this plug-in will allow my original photos to be shared between the 2 computers over the wifi network. Automatically updating as needed. So I set that up.

The result - wonky. It kind of worked with a couple test photos. But the 2 Lightroom's were not always finding the original photo and it is just inconsistent. But even worse, after a couple times back and forth between the 2 computers, the catalog becomes corrupted. So I go and delete it and start over. The dropbox catalog sync seems to be constantly syncing, even though I haven't done anything heavy. Wonky is really the only word to describe it - and it just will not be the solution. Unless I have set up something wrong which is very possible since instructions are not very precise. I am kind of guessing as to the use of the plug-in.

Anyway, and help would be appreciated.

Stefan
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
I have been doing something for many years that works for me. My catalog and all my files are on my studio desktop PC which as an 8TB SATA SSD that holds all my images organized into folders named the way I choose and with filenames that I choose that make sense when viewing in any file system.
I back that 8TB drive up to three separate 8 TB spinning HDDs using GoodSync.

When on the road traveling which is where I do all my shooting, I take a Dell XPS 15 4K laptop that is loaded up big with an i9 chip and 32 GB RAM. It handles LR Classic and my big files (GFX 100) effortlessly. I import the raw files to the folder on my laptop every night from my camera and edit in LR Classic as normal. I name the files, add titles, edit in the development module, and do everything I would at home. I have it set to create sidecar files. I may be on the road for a weekend, 2 weeks, a month, or even two months - it doesn't matter. I just keep building on that folder on my laptop, and back it up to an external SSD every night.
When I get home, I copy the folder on the laptop to an external SSD and then copy that folder (or folders) into my master studio PC folder system right where I want it. Then I go into LR and impost that folder into the catalog. I add it, not copy it, because the folder has already been copied to the PC's 8TD SSD. This entire process takes just a few minutes. It is really the same thing as importing the catalog but avoids all kinds of pitfalls where LR starts writing folders and adding things to your folder system you might not want. When you are done everything is there. All your edits from the Library and Develop module because the sidecar file is the same as it was in your laptop. The images are all part of your catalog, as ids the folder exactly as you named it with none of the LR date and time folders added (which I hate) or extra layers that LR tries to throw into your folder system.
The only thing you will lose is any flags you have put on the files because that info is not in the sidecar file. It is ion the catalog on the laptop that you did not import.
That is the way I do it and have for years. I may be the only one who does it this way and I'm sure there is a way to import the catalog without polluting my folder system with a bunch of LR-added folder names and layers I don't want. But the way I do it gives me absolute control of my base folder system, which is huge and covers 45 years of shooting.
Another advantage of my way is it keeps you off the cloud and allows lightening fast edits on the road and you dump your files into your master system when you get home. I absolutely DO NOT want my catalog in the cloud and I damn sure don't want 100 to 300 MB raw and huge rendered DNG files crawling around up there. Maybe someday - but not now! Not the way I travel and shoot.
For example, I was just in Mexico for 19 days and shot with the GFX 100 and Leica Q2. I shot every day and imported all my files every night into two folders:
1. San Miguel Mexico Feb 2020 GFX 100 (RAW)
2. San Miguel Mexico Feb 2020 Leica Q2 (RAW)
I edited those files in LR on my laptop everyday just like I would at home. When I got home, everything had already been done. My edits were complete, and I just copied those two folders into my desktop filing structure and imported (added) them into my master desktop system. Took no time at all and there is never a glitch. Then I can fine-tune edit further on my desktop using LR with the big 4K IPS color calibrated 32 inch pro monitor. You see thinks there that you might not see on your smaller 4K laptop screen.
I posted 250 (times 2) full-size jpegs at 90% quality from that Mexico trip on a Q2 and GFX 100 folder on my Flickr page, and I did that on the road using my laptop and LR Classic.
Greg Johnson, San Antonio Texas
 

santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
I have it set to create sidecar files. I may be on the road for a weekend, 2 weeks, a month, or even two months - it doesn't matter. I just keep building on that folder on my laptop, and back it up to an external SSD every night.
When I get home, I copy the folder on the laptop to an external SSD and then copy that folder (or folders) into my master studio PC folder system right where I want it. Then I go into LR and impost that folder into the catalog. I add it, not copy it, because the folder has already been copied to the PC's 8TD SSD.
Thanks a lot for the info. The quoted part above is what I am having trouble following. But, I may not understand the inner workings of LR. I am under the impression that you need to import a catalog and the original images. Not sure what a sidecar file is. What about the original images?
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
More later but get into LR help system and it is imperative that you know what a catalog is and what a sidecar file is. Study it. I can't write it all right now. The image files are something totally different. The sidecar files and/or the catalog relates to those images and provides instructions to LR and stores all of the editing info. The image file itself is unchanged and thus the edits are all non-destructive, which is the beauty of a raw editor like LR. You can edit it and save it a million times and it does not alter the base file or reduce/damage it in anyway. Go into the introduction chapter of Victoria's books and let her teach you about what LR is and does....
For example, when you add images to your catalog, you are telling LR where they are so they can relate to them. If you move an image outside of LR, LR can't find it. Sometimes we import images into the catalog and you are also at the same time copying the images to a location that you tell it to. So you are adding the images to your catalog and also copying the images to a new location, like when you stick your SD card from the camera into your computer and import the images to the catalog and copy the images to your computer. But if the images have already been copied into your computer, they are already there. Then you hit import and tell LR where the images are on your computer, and it adds them to the LR catalog without moving them. I tell LR to create a sidecar that is always associated with the image file. It holds all the editing instructions so if you ever close your catalog or open a raw file outside of LR the instruction set is there forever.... Sidecar files are to me the most important thing LR does. You have your unchanged raw file forever, and you have all of the Adobe LR editing data and EXIF right there on the sidecar file. You could import that image file into LR ten years from now and it would grab those instructions even if you catalog was gone. All the edits you do in the development module and the library for all the file naming, titles, captions, EXIF edits, etc....
 

santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
While I appreciate you taking the time to try and help me, I'm sorry you typed all that. I understand how Lightroom works - what it is and what it does. I've been using it since version 2. I was just under the impression that the catalog is where the edits are stored as opposed to a sidecar file. So I guess a mixup of terminology. I am still trying to digest the process that you do. Let me put it in my own words and if you could tell me if I'm right I would appreciate it. I'm still hazy on some of it.

So, I should get a dedicated external drive for my laptop which I will only use for LR. Then, I will use lightroom as usual - having created a new and different catalog pointing to this external drive. I will go into the catalog settings on my laptop and select "automatically write changes into XMP." Then, I will take that external drive to my other computer and move only the XMP file to my computers lightroom folder right into the 2nd computer's catalog folder. Then, I am going to open LR, select import, and then select the XMP file and add it to the catalog.

I am still not sure how the original RAW files get into the 2nd computer - seems like I am only importing an XMP file.

Also, since I am not starting from scratch, I still have about 25,000 photos on my 2nd computer that I cannot see on my laptop.
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
Stefan - You are shooting raw right? We are talking raw files here - not jpeg.
What system are you using? Fuji raf files? Canon CR2? Nikon?
Glad you already know all of that but new users don't and it is a bit hard to get your head around at first. But you are not a new user. But you do need to read all about sidecar files and decide if you want to use them. There is no harm in telling LR to use them and in my opinion they can only help you and never hurt you. The xmp file is the sidecar file to a raw file (not jpeg, TIFF or DNG - the metadata is written directly to those files (which I hate by the way but it has to happen). That one reason alone is why OI hate DNG files. They drive me crazy because every tiny edit on my Leica Q2 (Leica uses DNG unfortunately) ends up being a total 50 MB file rewrite and also causes a complete file resync vs just updating the xmp sidecar file. Anyway....

And as far as transferring your files from your laptop to LR or anyplace really - use any storage device you want. Use a thumb drive, external spinning hard drive, flash drive or SD card - whatever you want. When I'm on the road my laptop has a 2TB M.2 PCIe SSD and I attach a 1 TB external SSD to it for backing up and moving files around. Or I use a big 256 GB SSD UHSII card and move files wherever I want (from my laptop to my PC).

I can shoot a month and not come close to filling a 1TB SSD even with GFX 100 uncompressed 16 bit raf (raw) files, which are huge. Storage is cheap and fast these days. So use whatever you want. Use an SD card or whatever your camera has as a removable card. What is your camera?

When you import raw files to LR from the camera there is no sidecar file yet - just the raw files. But I work those files on my laptop while traveling and an xmp sidecar file is created by LR for each raw file the moment I import them to LR from the camera's SD card. When you then later (when you get home) copy your raw & sidecar files to your home PC and then add them to your master cat, LR grabs the sidecar file too and all your edits are there and you just keep on editing on your home system. Everything is written to the sidecar file and the catalog. Good to have both. But I'm confusing you. Look at Victoria's videos and read her many writings on importing a catalog to your PC from your laptop. She imports the catalog which is what most everyone does, but I just copy my raw files (and their sidecar files) into my folder structure on my studio PC and then add them to my master catalog on my PC. Either way is fine. The result is the same. Except in one regard. The sidecar files does not have everything the catalog has, like when you tag a file. If you don't import the catalog and just use the sidecar like I do, you lose the tag. No big deal.
The point is, I'm not trying to work off the cloud in LR. Don't put your catalog in the cloud Man. I have a very powerful PC and a very powerful laptop, and I want them working hard on my edits on the full files and I'm not waiting on slow internet on the road. I'm working on my laptop on the road, and when I'm home I'm working on my PC and those raw files are all on my internal very fast M.2 PCIe SSDs on my laptop and PC and the files end up on my 8TB SATA SSD. And my catalog is on the fastest place I can get it.... Not floating around in the cloud.
Maybe I'm behind. Can you even put the cat in the cloud? That's crazy. Who wants to write up and down and back and forth to the cloud via slow internet somewhere in the world while trying to blast through LR edits?
I might be missing something here.
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2007
Messages
991
Location
Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Lightroom Experience
Advanced
Lightroom Version
Classic
I suppose this comes up a lot, but I can't seem to put together the right search terms, so...

For many years I have used Lightroom 6 on my iMac (with Catalina), but now my son has sort of taken over that computer :). So, I created a new workstation using my MacBook pro - all on the same wifi network. I quickly discovered that it was not possible to install Lightroom 6 on my MBP with Catalina because of the 32 bit installer issue. So, I kicked my boy off the iMac and upgraded to the Photography plan with hopes of being able to now have 2 computers with Lightroom Classic - which I now do. But, I don't want 2 separate lightroom catalogs and 2 separate original picture libraries. I was hoping to be able to seamlessly work on either computer and have the same pictures and edits sync between the 2. I quickly found out that is possible, but not easy. I realize that Lightroom CC is built for that very purpose, but I want the functionality of classic.

So, after reading solutions online, here is what I decided to try. I created a dropbox account on both computers and put the catalog from my iMac in it. So now, the catalogue is shared on both computers. Then I installed Jeffrey Friedl's "Folder watch" plug-in. My understanding is that this plug-in will allow my original photos to be shared between the 2 computers over the wifi network. Automatically updating as needed. So I set that up.

The result - wonky. It kind of worked with a couple test photos. But the 2 Lightroom's were not always finding the original photo and it is just inconsistent. But even worse, after a couple times back and forth between the 2 computers, the catalog becomes corrupted. So I go and delete it and start over. The dropbox catalog sync seems to be constantly syncing, even though I haven't done anything heavy. Wonky is really the only word to describe it - and it just will not be the solution. Unless I have set up something wrong which is very possible since instructions are not very precise. I am kind of guessing as to the use of the plug-in.

Anyway, and help would be appreciated.

Stefan
Just a couple of comments.
LrC is a single user application and a Catalog file can only be opened on one computer at any point in time.
When you are working in LrC as far as Lightroom is concerned the info is in the Catalog file.
There is an option to allow LrC to write xmp date to the file, the primary reason for this option is to allow Photoshop / Adobe Camera Raw to read the info from the work you do in LrC.
LrC will read info from the xmp file at initial import, however it will not read info from the xmp file automatically, if this is needed it has to be initiated manually.
Trying to have your son and yourself access the same Catalog file at the same time is not a good idea.
Just my opinion.
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
Denis,

You said: "LrC is a single user application and a Catalog file can only be opened on one computer at any point in time."

I say, well said. You said it way better than me.

You said, "When you are working in LrC as far as Lightroom is concerned the info is in the Catalog file."

Yes, but it can get there via the sidecar, which is a very powerful tool. Catalog mergers and import are a mess because it creates folders that most people do not see because they don't care. I care.

You said, "There is an option to allow LrC to write xmp date to the file, the primary reason for this option is to allow Photoshop / Adobe Camera Raw to read the info from the work you do in LrC."

That is one reason and important. But the sidecar is also a permanent way to store your edits if the catalog fails or is lost. It also allows you to avoid the messy and problematic importing of the catalog from your laptop to your PC which can create folder havoc as LR tries to take over your filing system and naming conventions. I have tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands probably) of raw files and they all have sidecars files with them. Unless it is a cursed DNG file. God I hate DNG files.... I hate DNG files with a passion. It almost make me not like Leica.

You said, "LrC will read info from the xmp file at initial import, however it will not read info from the xmp file automatically, if this is needed it has to be initiated manually."

Unless I misunderstand you, that is not true. You don't have to tell it to do it. It reads the sidecar info if there is one on import and it does it every time no matter what. At least it has for me for the past decade.

You said, "Trying to have your son and yourself access the same Catalog file at the same time is not a good idea."

Exactly. Well said.

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santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
Stefan - You are shooting raw right? We are talking raw files here - not jpeg.
What system are you using? Fuji raf files? Canon CR2? Nikon?
Yes, Raw. Canon CR2. Right - I'm not a beginner at LR, but I do appreciate the lesson on sidecar files. I've spent some time today reading up on it. Seems there is some disagreement about whether nor not to use them. If it works for you, that great. I'm not sure I understand why I can't accomplish the same thing by just using the catalog, and not the sidecar files. I don't plan on using lightroom for anything other than CR2 and I don't plan on trying to use my photos in other programs. I know that if I edit with Photoshop (which I do very little), the sidecar file will automatically accompany.

Yes, apparently you can use a cloud service like dropbox for the catalog. I ended up deleting my dropbox though because as I said, it was wonky. Plus, for some unknown reason, it added 80 GB to my mac. I have no idea how that happened or what the files were. It was mostly nonsense file names. So screw that. I might just do something like what you're doing. Just use an external drive of some type and take it back and forth between the 2 computers. I'm sure I'll run into issues before I have that all figured out.

Anyway, thanks again.
 

santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
Also Greg, you and I are doing different things. Seems like you just use a laptop temporarily when you travel but you primary workstation is home. For me, I’m trying to create 2 primary workstations. I want to be able to view and edit from either computer which both stay at home. That’s why I was trying to come up with a way for the 2 computers to sync. And I don’t want to use CC. Even though it’s designed to do just that.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2010
Messages
13,132
Location
West Sussex, UK
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Advanced
Lightroom Version
Also Greg, you and I are doing different things. Seems like you just use a laptop temporarily when you travel but you primary workstation is home. For me, I’m trying to create 2 primary workstations. I want to be able to view and edit from either computer which both stay at home. That’s why I was trying to come up with a way for the 2 computers to sync. And I don’t want to use CC. Even though it’s designed to do just that.

By far the easiest and most simple method is to put the catalog and the images on a single external drive which you can then switch between computers as needed. Many people use this method. All is explained here: How do I use my Lightroom catalog on multiple computers? | The Lightroom Queen
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2007
Messages
991
Location
Republic of Trinidad & Tobago
Lightroom Experience
Advanced
Lightroom Version
Classic
Gregg you said,
“You said, "LrC will read info from the xmp file at initial import, however it will not read info from the xmp file automatically, if this is needed it has to be initiated manually."

Unless I misunderstand you, that is not true. You don't have to tell it to do it. It reads the sidecar info if there is one on import and it does it every time no matter what. At least it has for me for the past decade.”

What I believe happens is the image will be flagged to indicate that there is a change in the info in the file and your Catalog and you will have to decide to update the info in the Catalog. There is potential for errors to take place, which do wish to change the info in the file or your Catalog.
I just have a workflow without xmp and DNG, that way I know the info is in the Catalog file only, over 95% of my images are raw files.
By folder structure with original image files and Catalog file are backed up to two external disk drives.
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
Denis and Jim,
This is getting interesting and Jim forgot more about LR yesterday than I will ever know. I have to be careful about sounding authoritative because my solution might not be best practice, and if there is one thing I know about photography work flow is that you can always learn and best practices always change.
I bet if Jim or the Queen could sit with me for 10 minutes at my home PC where my cat resides and I had just come home from a big trip where I shot for a month using LR in my laptop every night, that they could show me how to export the catalog and the image files to an external drive and then import it to my PC without creating crazy layers of new folders in my PC's folder structure, which I like to very carefully manage.
My solution is I copy the raw files and their sidecars into folders I create on my PC and then just add those images to my master catalog in my PC. Once the images are copied onto my 8TB SSD internal to my PC, adding them to the catalog takes about 20 seconds. What happens (I think) is that all that info from the sidecar files is copied into the catalog. Then any further edits made over time to the images are of course stored in the cat but also written to the sidecar file.
So having a sidecar file can't hurt. It is merely a separate file that is forever associated with its parent raw file with all of the EXIF and LR dev module edits stored in it - everything LR does to provide reading instructions to that raw file.
The catalog still does all the work and has all the info in it to operate the relational data base that is LR. The sidecar file is just kind of a backup of that info related to that file.
Anyway, I operate my way because when I'm home, I work off my PC 100% of the time On the road, my laptop. My laptop is a temporary container and tool. When I get home, I transfer (copy) the folder with all the image files and their sidecars from that shoot from my laptop to my PC and then simply add them to the catalog using the import feature. You just add the images (not copy to a new location) to the catalog in the import function because the images are already on your drive.
Then I delete all the images from my laptop using LR so I have a clean road catalog. The only catalog that matters is the one on the PC.
Anyway, I find very interesting the other methods and LR is flexible.
I would like to learn how to import a catalog from my laptop without it changing anything on my PC's folder structure except to add the folder that I already created on my laptop and no other layers or weirs date-name folders that I don't want....
 

santwarg

New Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2020
Messages
13
Denis and Jim,
This is getting interesting and Jim forgot more about LR yesterday than I will ever know. I have to be careful about sounding authoritative because my solution might not be best practice, and if there is one thing I know about photography work flow is that you can always learn and best practices always change.
I bet if Jim or the Queen could sit with me for 10 minutes at my home PC where my cat resides and I had just come home from a big trip where I shot for a month using LR in my laptop every night, that they could show me how to export the catalog and the image files to an external drive and then import it to my PC without creating crazy layers of new folders in my PC's folder structure, which I like to very carefully manage.
Just so you know, Greg, I highly appreciate your time - even if it won't be the exact solution for me. You helped me to learn something new.
 

GregJ

Member
Joined
Jul 11, 2011
Messages
91
Location
San Antonio, TX
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
Thank Jim. That link is extremely helpful.
It is easy, but unless you do some things and have computers with the latest connectivity, it's going be slow for a while longer.... I would not want to be working in LR off of an external drive especially if its a spinning HDD...
 
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