Lightroom Tips

Friday Tip and Some Weekend Reading

Happy Friday afternoon everyone. I’m a little late on the post today because I had an early flight to Las Vegas this morning and, like always, I waited until the last minute to pack. But hey, I’m here right? Anyway, I’m in Vegas for some work on Sunday and Monday but my wife and I decided to come out early and have a little mini-vacation (no kids! woo hoo!). Here’s the tip and stuff.

The tip, and the link below, really centers around backing up. When it comes to Lightroom there are 2 main areas that need to be backed up. The first is your catalog and the second are your photos.
1) The Catalog: This is all the “stuff” about your photos. The changes you’ve made to them, collections, metadata, etc… You know, the stuff. You can back this part up by going to the File menu and choosing Catalog settings. Make sure you’ve got a backup scheduled under the Backup area. That will backup the catalog file which is the first part. However, just backing it up onto your computer’s hard drive does no good in case of a disaster. You’ve got to backup the backup. So make sure you store this backup on to some sort of external hard drive, CD or DVD (click the Show button at the top of the Catalog settings dialog to have Lightroom show you the folder where your catalog is stored).

2) Your photos. This should already be done. You should always be backing up your photos as soon as your put them into Lightroom. But how about your Lightroom library of photos (I call this the working library). Surely that can differ from your entire photo backup that you make right after the shoot. Here’s what I do. I store all of my photos (when I import them in to Lightroom in the Import dialog) into one folder called “Photos”. That’s where Lightroom will always look for the photos that it manages. That way, I only have one folder to backup and restore if ever needed. So you can just drag this folder (your working library of photos) to a backup device and you’re set.

Here’s a recap:
Lightroom library catalog (.lrcat file) + Your photos folder(s) = Lightroom’s library.
If you have both backed up daily then all you ever need to do is restore them in case of a disaster.

Ok, last thing if you’re interested in some weekend reading. I found a cool article the other day about backing up online. I’ve been tossing the idea around for a while so I found it a really interesting, yet quick read. My take: Basically, I think I’m holding off from any online backup for now. I have another external hard drive that I keep at the office so I essentially have 2 backup devices in case 1 gets stolen or something like that.

Enjoy your weekend folks. My wife has allotted me $50 to gamble with this weekend. Truth be told I’m going to try to sweet talk her into $100. I just know that if I can start with a hundred it’s a sure bet I can turn it into a least $30,000 or $40,000. Seriously, I feel it. I’m on a roll. How can I lose!? 😉 Wish me luck.



  1. Rob Jelsma 29 December, 2008 at 05:37 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    When your´re backing up the files during import from a device. The backup folder and Lightroom´s library will be out of sync after selecting the picks. I mean the backup folder holds all the photos of the shoot. The ´Lightroom´ library where the orinal photos are stored contains only the ´picked and selected´ photos of the specific shoot. Is there a standard workflow for this challenge. I´m a Sportphotographer and my picks are less than half of the initial shoot. I know I should shoot better and trash less shoots …. hahaha
    By the way I love your site, it realy helps me in my day to day digital operations.

    Rob Jelsma, The Netherlands

  2. Ryan 17 June, 2008 at 12:40 Reply

    I am so close to figuring this all out… I have years worth of photos on my pc and it is time to back them up and straighten things up a little. I have all of my files randomly on my computer in different folders in different locations but all on the same drive. Some are Jpeg, a lot are raw files. I think I have imported most of them into lightroom. The problem I am having now is that I have run out of room on my hardrive and want to move all of my files onto the external harddrive without losing the original files or the changes I have made to them. Once I have them on the external harddrive I will back them up online to mozy or something similar, make some DVD copies and then delete the files from my computers harddrive. I can’t quite understand how to move the original non-destroyed file to the external harddrive while having the changes I have made to the photos move as well…I want to be able to work off the external harddrive… Can someone try and explain this to me please?

  3. Sniper 13 February, 2008 at 14:17 Reply

    I use another tactics.
    all settings of photos stored with pictures in xml format
    if i transfer folder with pics that i’ve recently was edited – i can import pics into catalog and all changes i was made would written into my new catalogs, any way after that i can use Sync folders in Lightroom menu to make sync data.

  4. Gerry 12 February, 2008 at 21:40 Reply

    Great tip about backing up. Having a back up routine has saved my behind more then a few times. Once you get into the habit it’s like reading Lightroom Tips, you just do it all the time. I also have a question. Is it possible to upload photos to an existing web gallery and/or manage that gallery without creating a new one in Lightroom?



  5. Kathleen 12 February, 2008 at 00:00 Reply

    I too could use more info on backing up. I backup pics and the catalog but I realized that the catalog is constantly changing. What if I have 1000 pics from a trip (Alaska) but then remove them from the library to gain more space. I backed them up and also backed the library catalog on a regular basis but if I don’t have a copy of the catalog with that exact set of pics then I am in trouble when at a later date I try to open the pics again. So on a regular basis after I make changes to my pictures should I hit command -S to have the metadata written to the pictures so that I don’t have to worry about the catalog and pictures being separated at a future date. How do you work this all into the workflow? Please clarify in future tips.

    I love your site and read it daily. Thanks for all the clarity you have given on LR. Thanks.

  6. Ron 11 February, 2008 at 19:41 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks i forgot i had that video. DUH
    and hey i took it one step further.
    i wanted my normal identity plate to be on the print also.
    so what i did was made the black background with the same
    text as my id plate on the bottom of the background. and since you would really never want to change opacity (why if you want it black)
    it is also on the printand i see it works in landscape or portrait layout too.

    well thanks again for waking up the creative brain cells.


  7. Bruce Johnson 11 February, 2008 at 12:54 Reply

    You’ve only mentioned two legs of a three-legged stool as far as LR backup is concerned. To restore everything if it all goes south, you also need to backup your presets and templates, etc. On Win machines, you’ll find them under your Documents and Settings folder. Don’t know where they are on Mac. Just copy the whole LR folder to a backup device periodically.

  8. Nicole Frantz 10 February, 2008 at 20:07 Reply

    I just have to concur here about the importance of backing up. I recently had a horrible mishap and lost all of my photos from last year (about 7,000 or more). This could all have been avoided had I backed things up religiously onto dvds and an external drive. Luckily a friend was able to recover all of my lost photos but from now on I will be backing things up all the time.

  9. Mary Kennedy 9 February, 2008 at 19:10 Reply

    I need more about backing up. I back up religiously but I recently discovered that I needed to call on the back up. I was suddenly missing a bunch of my presets and also a bunch of my star ratings. But I still had all my edits and meta data. Please do a tip that explains what the actual file names are that we need to back up, what info is in each file and where to find it and how to replace it when something like this happens.

  10. Jeff Franzen 9 February, 2008 at 16:11 Reply

    Thanks for that tip.

    Question: If I want to keep Lightroom at home and at work. What is best practice?

    I am running at home now. Do I copy library and catalog to office. But I assume I can only go one way from then on – only make changes, tags at home. Otherwise any changes, tags done at office will be overwritten?

    Maybe some new sync solution in 2.0.

    Best of luck and thanks for all your tips.

  11. Jason 9 February, 2008 at 10:17 Reply

    I also know you mentioned this at some point, but what backup program do you use? Is the Vista backup program sufficient?

  12. Jason 9 February, 2008 at 09:59 Reply

    I mainly shoot in raw and then convert the files to dng. I thought most of the settings for a particular photograph gets pushed into the dng file. Am I mistaken? What settings go into the dng versus the catalog?

  13. TIes 9 February, 2008 at 06:31 Reply

    Now this makes a lot clear about the library and catalog. Till now on, I always cancelled the backup window when starting up Lightroom, because I thought it would backup my entire Library… Glad to know that it’s only the catalog.

  14. Dilip Barman 9 February, 2008 at 05:15 Reply

    Have fun. I am a vegan and *heartily* recommend Ronald’s donuts, which carries mostly vegan donuts, and Go Raw — see below.

    I teach photography and one class is largely dedicated to backup. I have had good experiences using Mozy Backup; there are other online backups, too. I try to keep multiple copies on multiple hard disks, one of which I store at my parents’, and keep copies online. The key is to bake it into your workflow, backup regularly and in multiple locations, consider off-site backup for disaster recovery, and assume that each hard disk will eventually fail.

    Ronald’s Donuts, 4600 Spring Mountain Rd (1.5 miles W of Strip), 702-873-1032; 4a-2p Su, 4a-4p

    Go Raw Café – 2 locations incl. one 2 miles SW of airport (2381 E Windmill in Smith’s Plaza, 702-450-9007, M-Sa 10-9, Su 8-5) and another in The Lakes Center (western part of city; 702-254-5382, 2910 Lake East Drive, M-Sa 9-9)

  15. Mathew Wangrycht 8 February, 2008 at 19:41 Reply

    Hope you have a good time, our city has a lot more to offer than the gambling, hope you get out to some of the other sites besides the strip. Let me know if you need any “local” input. Enjoy the city!!!!

  16. Ian 8 February, 2008 at 19:03 Reply

    Good luck, Matt. Sounds like you have penny slots in your future. BTW, you can make that $50 into $100 real quick by betting all of it on one roll at the roulette table.

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