In the last post, we finished gathering information about the catalogs and created a plan of action. With all of the information to hand, you’re ready to start merging catalogs.
- Open Lightroom and go to File menu > New Catalog. This will become your new Master catalog, so give it a sensible name and choose the location carefully. Where you choose to store it is up to you, but choose a fast hard drive where possible, and make a note of the location.
- Go to File menu > Import from Another Catalog and navigate to the oldest of the catalogs you’re going to merge. We’ll leave the catalogs with the most recent edits until last. (Note that we’re importing the metadata from existing catalogs rather than importing the photos using the standard Import dialog. There’s a big difference!)
In the Import from Catalog dialog, set the following:
- Check the All Folders checkbox in the Catalog Contents section.
- In New Photos > File Handling, set the pop-up to Add new photos to catalog without moving (if it’s available).
- In the Changed Existing Photos section, set the Replace pop-up to Metadata and develop settings only (if available).
- If some of photos are duplicated in more than one catalog, and you decided you want to keep both versions of the settings, check Preserve old settings as a virtual copy. This creates virtual copies of each of the different sets of settings, so you can go back through later and decide which to keep. It means you don’t lose anything, but it also results in more cleanup work later.
- (For more information on the available options, see page 496 in my Lightroom Classic – FAQ book.)
- Back up the new Master Catalog, so you have a backup of each “step” along the way. This way, if you make a mistake or end up with an unexpected merge result, you don’t have to start back at the beginning again.
- Repeat step 2 with each of the other catalogs until you’ve imported them all.
Once all of the photos are all in a single catalog, you can finish cleaning up – removing duplicates, merging different versions of photos, tidying up your folder structure, and more. We’ll start cleaning up in the next post, Merging Catalogs – Stage 4 – Cleanup.
For extensive information on Lightroom Classic, see Adobe Lightroom Classic – The Missing FAQ.
If you have the Photography Plan, then as well as Classic you have access to the Lightroom cloud ecosystem including the mobile apps and web interface. For more information on these apps, see Adobe Lightroom – Edit on the Go.
Note: purchase of these books includes the first year’s Classic or cloud-based Premium Membership (depending on the book purchased), giving access to download the latest eBook (each time Adobe updates the software), email assistance for the applicable Lightroom version if you hit a problem, and other bonuses.
We also have a special bundle offer for the two books. This includes Premium Membership for the first year as described above for the whole Lightroom family!
Originally posted 8 May 2017, updated for latest Lightroom versions March 2020.