Organize Yourself Further

By Roger (9 August 2014)

We left off, last week, deciding where to physically put our photo files. I recommend you put them all in one master folder. Decide how, or if, you want to use any sub-folders inside the master folder. We haven't started importing all the files, just located them in a single place to make them easier to find and back-up. 

Organization  doesn't have to be onerous. It's a simple matter of thinking through your options and choosing what works best for you.  The workflow that fits you best will allow you to maintain control over all your photos and implement it naturally.

For best results, organization.

For best results, organization.

Before we begin to import the photos into Lightroom, we have a similar decision to the one we made about file location: Do you want one catalog or multiple catalogs?

The Lightroom catalog is the database of your photo and video files. It does not contain your photo files, it links to their hard drive location and shows you a preview of the image. Backing up your photo files is different than backing up your Lightroom catalog. You need to do both. For the most efficient back-up strategy, I just put the Lightroom catalog into the same “Photos” folder as my photo files. You can make a sub-folder for the Lightroom files if you want to keep them all together. When my computer backs up the folder “Photos”, it backs up my files and my catalogs.

The question still remains: one or multiple catalogs? If you put everything into one big catalog, you can view, develop, and add amplifying information to your photos, without ever needing to open a different catalog. Adobe says there is no limit to the number of photos you can put into one catalog, and I've never seen it reach a limit. I have heard people say that performance gets sluggish after 100,000, but you never know if they had an old computer, with only 4GB of RAM. I believe Mark uses only one catalog since he is a big fan of creating collections inside Lightroom.

To me, the disadvantage of one catalog is the mixing of photos when I don't want them mixed. I have a main catalog and a family catalog. I receive lots of photos from my family – and I didn't make them – so I don't want them in my main catalog. Yes, I put the actual photographer into my metadata and could sort things out in one catalog, but I don't find it a problem switching between Lightroom catalogs. When my family members sit at my computer to look at photos, they usually aren't looking at my landscapes. They want to see photos of family members.

The main disadvantage to my method is when family members' photos were made in conjunction with other event photos. What if you went on a fun trip and were accompanied by family? Do I put all the photos in my main catalog, family catalog, or separate them when I import them to Lightroom? You decide, but I separate them. For example, my grandchildren went with me to one of the Gettysburg sesquicentennial shoots. If I wanted to make a slide show of everything that happened that day, I would have to get the photos from two different catalogs. I put the cavalry charges in my main catalog and the ones with the kids petting the horses in the family catalog. It makes the most sense to me, and, really, how often would I create a slide show? To date, the family has never asked me if I can create one, so everyone can spend the evening with my photos. ;-)

Cute snapshot from Gettysburg, but I don't want it in my main LR catalog.

Cute snapshot from Gettysburg, but I don't want it in my main LR catalog.

Have you decided on your approach to organize everything? Good, now stick to it for six months before you implement any big changes to your workflow. You can change your mind, but changing everything around is a waste of time that you could be using for making new photos. Whatever your plan, thinking through your options will make the task easier.