(Warning – Lightroom geek talk ahead)
For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with some different Lightroom catalog organizations, and today I reorganized it all again. (Note: Don’t try this at home, unless you are already comfortable with understanding the relationship of LR catalogs to folders on your hard-drive. I’m outlining my thoughts here to provide you with ideas for how to organize your work, not as a tutorial on LR catalogs.)
I have been using Lightroom since its first release in January 2006, which luckily for me, closely coincided with when I got back into photography as driving by the maturation of consumer-priced digital SLRs. (As an aside, my first digital camera was the 8MP Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D) which I used until the release of the second generation Canon 5D mk II in November 2008. In March 2012 I was an early adopter of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and I have been shooting Olympus OM-D models ever since.)
For all these years, I have been organizing my photos into folders by year and subfolders by date. This worked well for the most part, but catalog backups and Lightroom startup times were starting to creep up. In addition, as my library grew it was becoming more difficult for me to find specific photos (I’m not very disciplined at applying keywords). I also started to travel in 2011 and each trip would add another large collection of images that I would pretty much want to find by location. So earlier this year, on the suggestion of a friend, Carl – you know I’m talking about you, I went through and created a separate catalog for each trip. I also divided my large non-trip related photos into two catalogs, arbitrarily picking 2015 as the dividing line.
Breaking up my catalogs into smaller pieces certainly fixed the catalog sluggishness I was experiencing. It also was good for some very specific situations. Say I wanted to review all my images from Japan. I knew exactly which catalog to open. There was a one problem however. If I wanted to pull together a set of images that were not connected by trip or year, I would have to open and close several catalogs to gather together all my images as exports onto my hard drive. I could not use the LR collection function to pull together a loose set and then reorganize and cull from there. In other words, it was a pain.
So today, I decided to swing back the other way, back to larger catalogs again. I also decided to reorganize my folders by subject areas instead of just by date. Here is how it goes now.
Today, I now have 2 catalogs, General and Travel. Within Lightroom, I then rearranged the folders on my hard drive by category and then by date. Remember to do this within Lightroom so that you don’t have a mess of “?” unfound images when you are done. Heed my early note, “don’t try this at home” unless you really are comfortable with your understanding of the relationship between your hard drive folders and a catalog folders.
My Travel catalog goes to my “Travel” folder which has a sub-folder for each trip and subfolders by date under that. For example: Travel\Cuba\2013-01-30. My General catalog goes to my “General” folder which is organized into subfolders based on what I do most and then date-organized beneath each subfolder.
- Street SoCal
- Fairs and Dog Shows
- Film Scans
What will be most interesting is how this organization works out when I start to import photos. I will definitely need to be a little more attentive to the import dialog.
And hey, I found the image at the top of this post during this reorganization process. Sort of made it all worthwhile.