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Lightroom Classic: Essential Training

Lesson 24 of 33

Managing Catalogs

Mark Wallace

Lightroom Classic: Essential Training

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

24. Managing Catalogs
In this session, Mark explains how to configure file locations, import images from existing catalogs, and back up your data.

Lesson Info

Managing Catalogs

as you use Light room Classic, you will start to have one or two or three or 10 or 20 or 100 different Light room catalog. And so there are reasons for that. And so we have to learn how to manage multiple catalogs and figure out sort of the best known method for working with all of that stuff. So to give you an example of how this can grow, I have imported an old hard drive here to my external hard drive and I've saved that into z old hard drive backups. And so we have my Mac pro folder. And if I open this you can see that I have. These are all catalogs. All of these are catalogs and they just go on and on and on. The thing with this is these are just the catalogs that I had on one hard drive, on one of my photo computers. And so the reason that you might have many, many different catalogs for me, I always had an external hard drive. So I have something like this. And when I go, I'm primarily a commercial and a portrait photographer. So when I would go into the studio to do a photo sho...

ot, I would create a very specific catalog for that one shoot. Or maybe that one product that I was photographing. If I was working on a commercial project, a catalogue only for that project, because I didn't want people to see all of the photos that had ever taken. I wanted to confine the world my catalog to the world that I was working in right then. And so for example, if I was shooting a tutorial for adirama tv, I would create a catalog for that specific tutorial. When we brought in the model, I would shoot all of that stuff in that one catalog. And because I'm shooting tethered in a studio with my computer on a tethered table and the hard drive connected, I'm gonna shoot everything into that one hard drive. And then during the shoot, I could choose winners. I could create some rough drafts of how I wanted those images edited quickly in the develop module. I could rate those photos. I could have my clients come over and take a look at those things. If I was working with a commercial project, I'd have one catalog and I would use an external screen, normally a really giant high resolution television screen. And so the art director and the client and the makeup artists and the wardrobe designer, like anybody that's working on that team could just look at that big screen instead of my catalog. So I don't wanna accidentally go to some other photo shoot. And so there are reasons that you might want to have multiple catalogs, but it can sort of spiral out of control. So what do you do when you have all those other catalogues? Well, let's talk a little bit about file locations and what's happening when you create several catalogs. So if I go back here to the fake hard drive, remember we created a folder with a new catalog. So inside this folder, this is the folder that contains the catalog that we're working on right now. And so it has the master catalog. That is our Light room catalog. But it also has things like the data that we've sink. So we sync data over to Light Room. Classic from from classic to Light room. So that saved their those previews and smart previews that we created. These are stored there. The different things that we've added in um to for an external editor um locking our catalogue so that we're working on a team, somebody doesn't accidentally overwrite your settings. All that stuff is in this catalog folder. This catalog folder doesn't have any of our images. Remember we're saving our images in this folder photos. So we have imported all of our stuff to a separate folder. So it's really important to remember that you have a folder with your catalog and all of its data. And then you have multiple folders or multiple external hard drives where that catalog is pointing to. So let's go to the teacher tron because this is a really important thing to remember. So if you have many, many, many catalogs, That doesn't mean that those also contain all of your files. So if we have a catalog. So let's say this is catalog one. And let's say that this is catalog to. So in catalog two, you have the catalog file and all the previews and the the locks and all that kind of stuff in catalog one, you have all that kind of stuff if you want to back up that data. Um, also these are pointing to here are photos and some photos over here and maybe some photos down here. Some photos over here. Maybe photos over here, photos on an external hard drive. So this guy right here might be pointing to these photos and these photos over here and maybe these photos over here. And then this guy might be pointing to these photos and it might also be pointing to these photos. You can have images in multiple catalogs and it might be going to this one and you can see how this can get really confusing. The point is when you're organizing your data and trying to make sure you get everything set correctly. It's important to have some kind of structure. And so what I always did when I had an external hard drive Is I would create one folder and inside that folder I would create a folder for the catalog and a folder for the photos. And so that one folder contained both the catalog and the photos. And so it was easy to just take that whole thing and back up everything, the catalog and the folders and to move everything around. And so that's how I did it. It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you know how you're doing it so that you can move and back up your catalog files in an intelligent way. So when I went and I backed up this Z old hard drive backup. So when you go in here and we look at all of this stuff, you can see that I have a folder. And in there we have the folder that has the uh the catalog. And we have this other folder. And then you can see we have all of the images in that. So this one folder has the images and the catalog itself. Now, later on in this session, we're going to talk about importing from an existing catalog. And so let's go back here to the teacher tron. And let's say that we have a third catalog. So let's say we have this catalog over here and I want to import from this catalog here and this catalogue here. What will happen is I can take the metadata and all the flags and everything from this. And it's going to go straight into my catalog and from this, and it's going to go straight into my catalog. And then I can just point this catalog to the existing file locations. I don't have to move them anywhere. And now you can see that all of this stuff gets to be sort of crazy. This catalogue now has all the metadata from catalog one and catalog to and it's pointing to all of my uh images that are in these different places. So for me, that's why it was nice to have the catalog and the images all in one Master folder and then keeping those all on one master hard drive. So it was easy to cross over and mix and match and and import catalogs to different places because everything was self contained. You can do it however you want to do it. Just make sure that you have some kind of method to your madness so that in years to come, you're not losing your mind. Now I'm saying this because the images that I just showed you span a span of I think it's 15 years. So there are over 250,000 photos in that folder that I just showed you. So it can get very, very large very, very quickly. Or in my case over a 15 or year period of time. But you have to manage all that. So, okay, the good news is that we can remember that we have those import functionalities that we can clean up things. Remember, we could say go to this folder, copy them all over, reorganize them by date or by folder or whatever. So if things get too out of hand, you can use light room to manage all of that stuff. Okay, let's talk about importing from an existing catalog. Why would you do that? Well, remember um I was talking about shooting with a an external hard drive. So one of the things that I did quite frequently was used to shoot do model shoots about once or twice a week. So what I would do is I would take a hard drive, an external hard drive like this and a laptop into the studio on this hard drive. I would create my folder for that specific model. So it'll be like Diana toolbar or somebody else, uh Carisa or Karen or whoever that might be. And I would create their very own folder, their very own catalog. And so as I was shooting, I'd be importing that into that one catalog. Well, at the end of the day when I went back from my laptop to my desktop, my Mac Pro and I had a big raid with multiple terabytes of data and I wanted to manage all of my photo shoots in one place, I had one master catalog. So let's go back here to the teacher Tron. And what I'll do here is I'll clear this out so you can sort of see how this works. So what I would do is I would have let's say a a catalogue all, let's change this color. That's really bad. Let's say we had a catalogue of um here we go catalogue here of Karen that says Karen and a catalogue here of Varano Cindy and a catalogue here of whatever. And they each had their own files attached. I didn't want to have to go and bounce between this one and this one and this one to share my developed settings and all of that kind of stuff. I just wanted one master catalog, had everything. So at the end of the day, at the end of each photo shoot, what I would do is I would just go in and I would import from the catalogue, import from the catalog, import from the catalogue. So I had every single photo shoot that I've done for years and one gigantic catalog and that made it really easy to go in and build a portfolio and share with clients and all that kind of stuff. Now, the difference between importing from a normal file and importing from a catalog is that in a catalog, if you set it up correctly on your external hard drive during a photoshoot, you've marked your favorites, You've rated those things. You've done some basic edits, you've done, uh some metadata, you've done all kinds of stuff, you don't want to lose that. So if you just say import and you go directly to the files, a lot of that stuff isn't going to come in. If you say, import from the catalog and all of that stuff that you've done during your photo shoot while you're on, you're on the road or whatever. All of that then comes into the new catalogue, all those keywords, all the descriptions and everything. And so you preserve all the work that you've done. And if you shoot into multiple catalogs like I do and then import into a master catalog, it's brilliant. So let's show how you can import into from an existing catalog. So I have over here on my hard drive, I have some light room catalogs that I pulled out. So, Annabelle and Annabelle the second shoot. I've already imported those. And so if we go over here to my all photographs, so I did this previously while we were on a break, you'll see that I have. These are pictures of annabelle, this is animal here and some of them have star rating. Some of them are flagged if I say none notice we still have a bunch of photos of Annabelle and some of those are developed. Some of those are excluded. We have all this stuff. And the way the reason we have all this stuff is because I imported it from a catalog so that I could preserve all that stuff. And even for example, this is a a Photoshop file. So it imports the Photoshop files and all the edits. I've done it does everything and it just brings it right into your catalog. So let me show you how to bring in a new one. So I have in here Karen and Machu Picchu. So we're gonna import from this catalog. This is a Machu Picchu catalog. So what I'll do is I'm going to go from file import from another catalog. Okay, so I'm going to click on that and then I'm going to go to my light room catalogs. And this could be any catalog. I'm gonna go to Machu Picchu and I'm gonna click on Machu Picchu dot L. R Cats, Machu Picchu catalog. And I'm going to choose that. I will get some options here. So the options are which folders do you want to choose from? So I'm going to choose all my folders. This only has one but some of them have many, many folders. And then it's going to ask what should I do with these files? Should I add them without moving them, copy them to a new location and import or don't import anything. So I'm going to just add them without moving because I don't need to move them anywhere. They're in a good place. I like where they are on the hard drive. And I'm going to say everything import and now what will happen is this is pretty fast because it's not moving any anything on the hard drive. It's not having a copy any kind of uh image from one place to another. Stuff that takes a long time specifically coming from an external hard drive or an external Cf card and bringing it in. Making look over here in light room Classic. And you can see that everything is pretty much already in this catalog. And so I can go in and I can see the things that I have marked as a winner here. And we see that we have things that are already edited and cropped and ready to go. And I could say there's my Machu pichu shot and it's wonderful. And I did all this stuff when I was in Peru in a hotel room and I just wanted to bring it into my catalog so that I can print it and share it with the world. It's done. I don't have to redo all of that work. So that's really wonderful. Okay, let's do one more import notice. If I go down and say import and use the import box, it doesn't show me the catalogs. So I can't do it that way. I need to go from the file, menu file and then say import from another catalog. And what we're going to do now is we're going to go back to my light room catalogs. We're going to go to Karen when I say let's choose Karen and then it is going to look at all of these things and again, I'm just going to say, just import them from their current position, import. And so those are going to come right back in and so this is really, really fast. Alright, so while that is importing what I want to discuss next is the next bullet on our little presentation here and that is backing up your data. Remember we have two different things. We have our catalogue and we have our photos. And so one huge mistake that you can make. I'm gonna go back over here to the teacher tron and get this set up. Give me a second here matt so I can lead that. Okay now I'm ready. So um one of the things that you can do when you're backing up your data, one of the mistakes that people make is that they have um we have let me get a new layer here. There we go. We have our catalogue and I need a black pen. Give me a black man. There we go. Okay, we have our catalogue and then we have our photos. So that's the photos. That's the catalog. Light Room asks us all the time do you want to back up your light room catalog before you're exiting? So when you're closing your catalog, when we went through those preferences, it says how often you want to back up Light room once a week, once a day, etcetera. So one of the mistakes that many new photographers make is they assume that it's backing up all of their photos, but it is not. So we go back to the teacher Tron. It's just backing up. This is just backing up our catalogue and nothing else. So the backups of the catalog are fantastic. But that is just storing and it should say backup. It's just storing our metadata and our choices and you know, the things that we've done to develop presets, those types of things. It's not saving our photos at all. So the way to back up your photos is you're going to need to do that manually. You're gonna need to go in to find her. And this is another reason that it's a really good idea to keep a good structure of your photos and you're gonna have to go in there and use dropbox or google backup on an external hard drive or a raid or whatever strategy you have to back up the photos themselves. This is why it's a really important, a really good idea and it's really important that as you're importing you can make a duplicate to send that to a separate hard drive so that you always have a backup your photos right on import, You can automatically back those up. The nice thing is if you delete things from your Light room catalogue, it only deletes them from the catalog. So let me go back to the teacher tron here. So if I went in and let's say that there was a a photo in light room. So here's a photo that's a photo and I say I don't like that. And Light room has it as a reference and I say delete that from the catalogue. It only deletes it from the catalog. The photo is still here on your photos folder. It just deletes the reference to it. So the only way you're gonna delete that is if you physically go in and delete it from your photos um folder. So let me show you exactly what I mean. Let's go back over here to light room. You can see Karen has finally uh come in. If I hit delete, it's going to give me a question. Do I want to remove this photo from Light Room? What you want to delete it from the disk? And so normally you just remove it from light room and so it just doesn't show up. If you delete it from the disk then it's gone forever. I'm gonna cancel this. I don't want to do either one of those things. So that's just the thing that you need to be aware of when you're managing those backups. If you're trying to make sure that you keep track of where everything is, The best thing to do is make sure you always keep your photos in a folder that you know where they are. Back that folder up regularly and keep your light room catalogs in a specific place and allow light room to back up those full the their catalogs regularly and you'll be just fine. Okay let's keep talking about managing catalogs. Let's talk about these three things. Finding missing files. Synchronizing folders and why we should have multiple catalogs. I think we ought to talk a little bit why we have multiple catalogs. But what we're going to do here is let me go back again to the teacher Theron. I'll reset this so we can there we go. So here's something to keep track of. And it's really important. Let's say that we have a catalog and that catalog here, it is. This is our catalogue. And we have a folder. This folder is our photos. All right. And then in this folder of photos we have photo one and we have photo too. We have photo three and etcetera. We have all those files and folders there, catalog remember is referencing this photos folder. What happens if we go in and I'll move this over just a little bit. What happens if we have a second folder? So here's another photo over here. And so this is photos too. What happens if we go in and for some reason we accidentally take this and we move that, that photo to a different place. What's happening is now there is a missing photo. So light room here is looking for a photo and the photo is not where it's supposed to be. What do we do? So we can fix all of those things. There's one other thing that could happen. Let me go back here. What happens if we add a photo? So here's a new photo that didn't used to be in this folder. So now we have an extra photo. What do we do there? So how do we synchronize all of those changes that are happening on the hard drive? Well, the good news is light room Classic. Does a good job of keeping things and sink. Occasionally things happen. We rename a hard drive, we rename a folder. We changed the name of our photo, Something like that can happen. How do we re sync things? So let's go in and figure this out. So we have, let's go to something that's really, really easy to manage. So I'm gonna go to a very, very simple folder here on my Light room catalog. And that is Carisa. We only have eight files in the chorus a folder. So I'm gonna right click and I'm going to say show and find her so we can see what um we're looking at here. So we have all of these edits by the way from Photoshop. But here are the files that light room is looking at. Um this is what this is referencing. So what would happen if I'm gonna go and open a new window here? What would happen if we had um So we can just do this year. I'm going to create a new folder. I'm gonna say moved files. What happens if we take I don't know bunch of these and we moved them to a new location? Right? These are now no longer where Light room expects them to be there. Now moved. All right immediately we get a warning sign inside of light and you can see that showing up in the corners here. If I click on that, it's going to say uh I don't know where this file is, I don't know what's going on. So all we have to do is click on this locate button. And what we're going to do here is we I can click on options and I'm gonna locate this file. DSC Any f it said it used to be here. Where is it now? The most common reason that this happens is that you add a new hard drive and the hard drive is named differently or the master folder is named differently. And so knowing where it used to be, helps you find out where it is. So the other thing I have here is find nearby missing photos. So what it's saying because we have a bunch of photos that are missing. Once I find one, it can probably figure out where the rest of them are. So I'm going to always leave that check unless I have a reason not to. So I know they're in moved files. So where is 717? It is down here right there there it is. So those two match I can say select link. And now what will happen is light rooms going to go Are these matching, yep, yep, yep, yep, they're all good and now light room has fixed everything. Our warnings have gone away and everything is back and sink. Okay, so that scenario one, that is what happens if we accidentally move a file to a different location or we rename a folder. How do we get light room to realize where those images are? We just go in say locate and then re connect the dots? What happens if maybe we shot a bunch of images of Carisa and we forgot and we didn't import everything or something happened? So we have extra files and we want light room to go and take a look and see if they're extra files that it forgot about. Let's go and take a look at that. So now I'm going to go here to this moved files folder and let's go into our light room hard drive and I'm just gonna go grab some some images here. That's what we've moved those files. I'm gonna go to um where's my there's my fake hard drive and some photos and I'm just gonna go into chile. I don't know this date. I have no idea what these are but I'm just gonna choose these files and then I'm going to copy them and I'm gonna paste them into this. Think so now we have new files that didn't exist before. So if I go over here two Carisa you can see I have these moved files that mimics my hard drive. I can right click on that and I can say synchronize folder and it's going to say should I import these new photos that just showed up? And if so should I show the import dialogue so that you can select how to import those? Should I scan for missing metadata updates? Yeah, I do all that. I don't need to see the import dialog. Let's just bring those in so I can say synchronize and it's going to go out there. It's going to look for all that stuff and look, here's some full some files that uh, I didn't have in the catalog that are going to show up there. Now if you notice, we go in here, there were some other files that I put there that aren't showing up here. Why they're duplicate files. So they are already in the catalog in the chilly folder. And so by default, I'm telling Light Room. Hey, if it's already in the catalog, don't bring it in again, I don't want duplicates of duplicates of duplicates. So Light Room is smart enough to look when it synchronizes and say, is this here in the catalog already? If so it just ignores it. So if I did check show the import dialog, I could have overridden that and brought those in. But I like how, how Light Room is smart enough to know to see, Hey, I don't need to worry about those files. They're already here. Okay. So that's how you sort of synchronized and find missing files and all of that stuff. So let's go to the next thing and that is understanding the difference between the Light Room Classic catalog system and the Light Room catalog system. Light Room Classic allows you to have infinite numbers of catalogs, but Light Room Only allows for one catalog. It's a huge difference. So let me just sort of help you understand the difference here. If you're like me and you're going to be shooting over many, many years and you're going to have Tens or hundreds of thousands of images. So I have about 50 terabytes of images that I've shot over the past 15 or 20 years or so. And so that is just way too much to store in one light room catalog. So for me, the argument is if you have light room only and not like room classic, you're gonna have to be importing and exporting and adding and removing quite a bit. So you keep that catalog to a manageable space. If you have a light room Classic, you can keep things manageable by creating smaller catalogs that are specific to jobs, locations, trips, vacations, weddings, clients, etcetera. And then you can just go to those catalogs when needed. It's a much more manageable system and so that it can help you decide if you're wondering should I get light room or light room? Classic. My answer is probably both. The other thing that's really important to understand is that when you're sinking between light room Classic and light room, Light room can only sink from one light room classic catalogue. This is one of the reasons why I have many multiple smaller catalogs on external hard drives and like that. And I bring those in to a master light room catalog that I used to build my portfolio and share my work with the with the world because that master catalog that imports from the other smaller catalogs is the one that I sync with light room. So I have one master catalog and usually the only thing that I'm sinking to that is my are my picks, my winners, my five star images. Those that have been um edited in Photoshop, the ones that I want to include in my portfolio and show my work. Those are what go into the master catalog. Those are the images that I sync with. Light room, and those are the images that make it out to the Web into social media and into my portfolio. So I hope that helps you understand the myriad of different ways of configuring light room catalogs, managing them, sinking them and understanding the differences between light room and light room Classic.

Class Description


  • Understand how Lightroom keeps things organized – the catalog system.
  • Use The Library module: importing, keywording, metadata, organizing, and more.
  • Use the Develop module: Make global and local adjustments, use the tools, use and create presets.
  • Understand the Map module: Organize your photos geographically and use privacy settings.
  • Use the Book module: Create a book from scratch.
  • Use the Slideshow module: Create a slideshow, create presets, learn strategies for increasing your income using the slideshow module.
  • Use the Print module: Create prints, create proof sheets for clients, and learn other hidden features.
  • Use the Web module: Create galleries for online viewing.

In addition to the modules Mark will be covering:

  • Custom Presets for automating your workflow.
  • Watermarking your images.
  • Using Publish Services.
  • Integration with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Creative Cloud.


This class is a step-by-step walkthrough of Lightroom Classic, perfect for the beginner as well as those who have worked with Lightroom Classic previously. This class is everything you ever wanted to know about Lightroom Classic but were afraid to ask.

This class will give you an overview of Lightroom Classic and show you how to maximize its potential by creating a workflow for importing, keywording, adjusting, and exporting your images.


  • Beginner and Intermediate photographers.
  • Professional Photographers looking to streamline their workflow.


Adobe Lightroom Classic

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Class Materials

Tether Tools Pro Kit Discount

Tether Tools Starter Kit Discount

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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This is an excellent class to learn about Lightroom Classic. Since it's not the same as Photoshop, I found Lightroom Classic to be confusing and difficult to intuitively figure out. Mark Wallace is an expert and exceptional teacher for the program and I learned so much today in this free class presentation that I am planning to purchase the program so I can continue to have a solid understanding of Lightroom Classic basics. Thanks, Mark, for inspiring me to get back into computer photo editing with LR Classic!