What’s a catalog in Lightroom?

If you are new to Lightroom you might not know all of the terminology yet and catalogs are a essential part of Lightroom. So today we will cover some of the basics around what Catalogs are in Lightroom. First one of the great things about Lightroom is when you are editing your images it’s totally non-destructive. That means that all edits are not done to the original file but are layered on top of the file. Knowing this concept really helps in having an overall understanding of Lightroom and with your catalog important. Your first thought on what a catalog is would be a collection of all your photos however this isn’t the way that Lightroom is setup. Your catalog is simply the database that holds everything together. This Lightroom catalog contains your photos metadata, attributes, develop settings and other data related information for your photos.

When you launch Lightroom for the first time it will create a default catalog for you titled Lightroom (version number).lrcat. At first you might think keeping this default catalog and storing all of your images in there would be the easiest thing to do, however for most of you having multiple Lightroom catalogs can be a benefit. When your Lightroom catalog starts to get large (15,000+ images) this will start to slow down your overall Lightroom performance. To help keep things speeds and also just overall organized I split out my catalogs into the type of shooting that I do. For me I primarily shoot weddings, portraits and my own personal work. Since weddings can hold thousands of images I have a catalog for every year (i.e. Weddings 2014) and also one catalog for Portraits and Personal. If you want to add a new Catalog just click File –> New Catalog.

new lightroom catalog

You can have as many catalogs as you would like and switching between catalogs is easy, just click File –> Open Catalog to switch between different catalogs.

One negative part about having multiple catalogs is when you are searching for an image Lightroom can’t search across multiple catalogs so having them named and organized in a way that makes it easy for you to work with is a key.

Quick TIP: If you have a current folder that is big in a collection you can Export this collection as a catalog, check out our link for more info.

Questions? Let me know below…


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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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