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  • Writer's pictureJoe Klocek

Want to Find Your Images in Lightroom? You Should Have Exactly One Catalog.

Here's something a lot of photographers aren't aware of. Lightroom and Lightroom Classic are not predominantly editing softwares. They are actually organizational softwares that have had more and more editing tools added to them over time. It is not uncommon for photographers to believe that they need to take a more hands-on approach to organizing their images and that the best way to do this is to have multiple Lightroom catalogs. By doing this, the theory goes, they will differentiate their images effectively.

It doesn’t work. 

Here at My Lightroom is a Mess we work with clients to help them get all of their images organized. You can browse through the website and book a free 15 minute session with us so we can see what kind of organizational help your photography needs. 

And when we are working together we will always recommend having one singular LRC catalog. We argue that it is much more effective to have one Lightroom catalog and to manage the data within that single catalog. Let's explore why this is true. 

Consistency and Organization

One of the primary advantages of utilizing a single Lightroom catalog is simple accessibility. When photographers have their images indexed in multiple catalogs they inevitably need to remember which catalog houses which images. This becomes exponentially difficult as time goes on. 

Moreover, if you have the same image imported into multiple catalogs you have different edits of that same image inside of these different catalogs. Now you need to remember which catalog housed which image and which catalog housed the best edits of these images. There's no reason working with your photography should be that difficult. 

Maintaining a single Lightroom catalog promotes consistency in organizational structure and metadata management. By centralizing all images, keywords, ratings, and other metadata within one catalog you can find the right version of the right image every time.

Simplified Backup and Archiving

From a data management perspective, having a single Lightroom catalog simplifies backup and archiving procedures. Instead of managing backups for multiple catalogs scattered across different locations, photographers need only focus on backing up a single catalog file. Here's a quick piece of advice: many photographers will copy their Lightroom catalog file and then paste a copy inside of an online Cloud system, such as Google drive. This is easy to do when you have one catalog file. But it's annoying and time consuming If you're trying to do it with five or six or seven catalogs.

Collaboration and Sharing

Sometimes photographers work in a collaborative environment. A few examples might include work projects for the graphics or marketing departments of businesses or wedding photographers who are compiling their images together. A single Lightroom catalog facilitates seamless collaboration among multiple users. By consolidating all edits, annotations, and adjustments within one catalog, photographers can easily collaborate with colleagues or clients, ensuring that everyone works with the most up-to-date version of the project without the complexity of merging changes from disparate catalogs.

The Right Number is One

I have seen this misconception a number of times while helping clients. Many photographers really do believe that they're making things easier for themselves by differentiating Lightroom catalogs. But it’s not true. 

All of your images should start in Lightroom and should always start in the same single Lightroom catalog. The way that we differentiate subject matters and work projects and the like is through collection sets. Remember, a collection set is simply a large folder that holds collections and you can have as many collections and collection sets as you want. In future posts we are going to talk about collections and collection sets in more detail. For right now, you should know you can import one catalog into another by going to File > Import From Another Catalog.

And of course if you want to book some time with us to help get your images organized you can head over to the booking page. We can even start with a free 15 minute getting to know you session where we see what kind of organizational help you'll need.

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