Lightroom Video: Create a Lightroom Catalog and Other Tips

The video above shows how to quickly create a Lightroom catalog. When you first start up Lightroom after purchasing it, it will prompt you to create a catalog because you can’t really use the software without doing this step. Below are a few frequently asked questions about Lightroom Catalogs.

What is a Lightroom Catalog?

A Lightroom catalog is where information about your photos and about how they were edited is stored. Your actual photos are not stored in the catalog; it is solely reserved for metadata. The actual photos remain on your hard drive, untouched. You get to specify where you would like your catalog stored. If you don’t tell Lightroom where to put the catalog, the default is your Pictures folder.

Lightroom is a very non-destructive editing program since none of the changes you make are recorded on the actual photos and are just stored in your catalog. If you navigate to the photo on your hard drive, you won’t see the edits done in Lightroom until you export them. This is helpful if you ever need to go back to a photograph and do something different. You won’t have to undo your previous work and can start anew.


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Why Would I Want Multiple Catalogs?

That is completely up to you and a personal preference. For me, I use different catalogs for different types of photography solely for organizations sake. Some people will use a catalog for personal work and another for work with clients. If you take a lot of photographs in one year, it might be a good idea to have a yearly catalog. There is no hard and fast rule here, do what works for you and your workflow.

Lightroom Tutorial How to Create a Lightroom Catalog

Can I Move my current Catalog?

Sure can! But first, back up your files before you attempt to move anything! This is important. You don’t want to lose any work, right? 

  1. Make sure Lightroom is closed.
  2. Find the folder where the catalog is being stored, if you let Lightroom decide when you first set the program up, this should be your pictures folder.
  3. Copy these files: catalog.lrcat, Previews.lrdata, and Smart Previews.lrdata and paste them in the new folder you would like them stored. Maybe you want your catalog on an external hard drive so that you can work on images on a second computer. No problem! Next, open the catalog.lrcat file in Lightroom after moving it to make sure all copied over correctly.
  4. Tell Lightroom to use that catalog upon opening the program. You do this by going to Preferences and select the catalog in question from the drop down box that says: “When starting up use this catalog.


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Missing Photos in your Catalog?

If you’re missing any photos, you can see this by the filmstrip exclamation point, seen above in the photo. To find those photos, click on that exclamation point and a new dialog box will appear that says, “Would you like to locate it?” Click on Locate and follow the prompts (Refer to the image below for a visual guide) to locate the files on your hard drive and hit select.

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Tip: Having “Find nearby missing photos” checked helps if you have multiple photos from the same photo shoot that are missing!

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Optimize your Catalog!

If you notice that Lightroom begins to run a bit slow, it will be a good idea to optimize it by going to File and then Optimize Catalog. Click the Optimize button and wait until Lightroom completes the process.

Lightroom Tutorial How to Create a Lightroom Catalog-3Back Up Your Catalog!

It is important to take note that when you back up your catalog you are only backing up the information stored within it and not your photos!

Make sure you have other back ups in place for your photographs such as multiple external hard drives or cloud storage. You can also set it to optimize after backing up, which takes care of two tasks in one click!

Before you go:

Stay tuned for more Lightroom Tutorials on my YouTube Channel! If you’re craving inspiration, take a look at my portfolio!
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