Lightroom Tips

Q&A Day – Multiple Catalogs and Lightroom

It’s Q&A day again. I’m actually leaving for Knoxville, TN this afternoon for the Great American Photography workshop I’m teaching at this weekend. I’ve got a sold out workshop and we’ll be shooting the Great Smoky Mountains all weekend. I’m psyched and I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone this evening. If you ever get a chance to go on one of these workshops (with me or anyone for that matter), trust me, you’ll love it. They’re always a fun, inspirational, and learning-packed weekend and I come back with some great new friends from every single workshop.

Anyway, on to the Q&A. Here it is:

Question: Why should I use multiple catalogs in Lightroom?Answer: There’s a few different reasons to explore using multiple catalogs. I’ll list the reasons as well as some candidates for multiple catalog use here. I’ll also tell you how to create another catalog at the end.

1. Your existing library is getting too big. When I say too big, I mean in the tens of thousands of photos too big. Originally, it seemed like 30,000 photos was thrown around as a limit for the catalog size before Lightroom started to slow down too much. I was actually talking with Tom Hogarty (Lightroom Product Manager) at Photoshop World earlier this month. Tom said that the 30,000 limit isn’t necessarily true. He’s coming across plenty of folks that have catalogs twice as large as that and Lightroom still runs just fine. At any rate, you’ll start to see things slow down if you get too many photos in there. If that happens, it’s a good idea to start breaking your catalog apart into another one.

2. You share a studio and computer with some one. This is another good chance to use another catalog. If you share a computer with somebody else then consider making a catalog for each of you. That way you won’t get mixed up or potentially do something to the other persons photos that they didn’t want.

3. If you’re a wedding photographer and you’re filling up your catalogs in a matter of weeks then multiple catalogs may be the way. A few wedding photographers I know actually make a new catalog for every wedding they shoot. It helps them keep the catalog sizes down as well as making it easy to keep things organized. There is a downside to this. Your keywords and collections and all that other fun stuff won’t be shared across multiple catalogs. So if you’re in the “Smith Wedding” catalog, don’t think you can search through to find photos from the “Miller Wedding” catalog. Not such a big deal for wedding photographers since you’ll typically want to keep things separated. That doesn’t work so well for me though, as I like to open Lightroom and find all photos that were keyworded with, say, ‘ocean’ no matter where they are. I couldn’t do that if I did the multiple catalog thing.

4. You’ve got lots of personal photos and lots of work-related photos. This is another great reason for multiple catalogs. I actually have a separate catalog for all of my work photos from photos shoots and trips etc…, then another catalog for all of my personal family photos, and finally another one that I teach from. That way, when I start Lightroom I can fire up the catalog that I need at that time.

Question: How do I create another catalog?
Answer: Lastly, if you’re not sure how to work with multiple catalogs just go to the File menu and choose New Catalog. Lightroom will ask you for a name and place to store this catalog (I choose my photos folder) and you’re set. If you want to switch between catalogs just choose File > Open Recent and your recent catalogs will be there.

Question: How can I move photos from one catalog to another one?Answer: No sweat. Open the catalog with the photos you want to move. Go to the File menu again and choose Export as Catalog. That creates a folder that I store on the desktop (that’s not where your photos will be stored though). Then open the new catalog that you want to put the photos into and choose File > Import from Catalog.

Well that’s it for Q&A day. I’ll be shooting and teaching a lot over the next few days but I’ll try to post some shots here. Oh and make sure you let me know in the comments if you have another way or reason of working with multiple catalogs. Take care!