On the second week of my Digital Darkroom Lightroom course, I explain how to set up a catalog outside of the desktop computer hard drive. When Lightroom is first opened, even to just to “look” around at the interface, the program nests itself inside of the “pictures” folder. That’s fine if you are at home and are learning how to use LR from home, however in a classroom setting, leaving your catalog in the classroom computer is not so helpful, right? Ideally, one wants to keep their catalog and the master photos associated to it and not leave them in a public space like school. They are valuable assets and belong to the photographer.
In this post, I would like to do my best to list how to make a LR catalog mobile. The directions explain how to set up on an EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE (500gb – 1tb is enough space). As long as a computer has the Lightroom program, catalogs can be viewed and edited. Lightroom users will be able to access all of the master images and edited versions. We are talking a lot of pictures – thousands of photos. This set up is ideal for students and travel photographers because bringing a computer everywhere may not be a realistic option.
Setting up your own personal Lightroom catalog is easy if a few simple steps are followed. Really simple because we are making a bunch of folders. The trick is to know what goes in each folder.
Follow these steps:
- Make a folder and call it your name and “LIGHTROOM” inside an EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE.
- Ex: Firstname_Lastname_ LIGHTROOM)
- WHY name it this? So that you know THIS is the Lightroom folder you have created. It is not one Lightroom created when opening the first time.
- With in that “Firstname_Lastname_ LIGHTROOM” folder make a LIBRARY folder
- Ex: Firstname_Lastname_ LR_LIBRARY
- The Library is where the master files will live. During import, Lightroom organizes the imported files behind the scenes by date into this folder.
Now its time to open the Lightroom program
- From within the Lightroom program, navigate to the File menu tab and click “New Catalog” from the drop down
- Navigate to Firstname_Lastname_ LIGHTROOM inside of the EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE.
- Make a new folder: Firstname_Lastname_ LR_CATALOG
- Name catalog file same as folder: Firstname_Lastname_ LR_CATALOG
- Click “Create”
- The Program will re-open as the new catalog with it’s new name and folder. Check the top of your LR window when opened to see the name of the catalog like this:
This is what it looks like inside the EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE:
There is one more step and it’s important because I tangled up my catalog way in the beginning of my using Lightroom (2007), so please learn from my mistakes and DON’T FORGET THIS STEP!
- “Add” the “Firstname_Lastname_ LR_LIBRARY” folder that was just created by clicking the “+” next to the “Folders” panel to the right of Lightroom’s Library Module interface.
- See below:
The external hard drive (my HD name is “FIRECRACKER”) and “Fristname_Lastname_LR_LIBRARY” folder to show up like this:
The main reason to “add” is LR thinks that the first imported folder is the ROOT folder therefore it will not allow for backward folder moving. In other words, if the first file was “11 Feb 2013” and I wanted to put that file inside of another, I couldn’t. I would only be able to place folders inside of “11 Feb 2013” which would not make much sense to me later on when it was time to re-organize or archive. Tell LR this “Firstname_Lastname_ LR_LIBRARY” folder is where you want to begin. You will be telling Lightroom “this is the root” or the top level folder. This will allow Lightroom’s interface to show the folders imported as it looks from inside the library folder. SOOoooOOOOoOoO, if you want to re-organize or change how the folders look inside of the LIBRARY folder on the external hard drive, you can. One caveat THIS IS IMPORTANT: it must be done from with in Lightroom’s Folders Panel so that Lightroom recognizes the new place by creating a new link to it. If a link is broken, the dreaded “?” will appear. The link will break if the library folders are moved around on the back-end (inside external HD rather than LR). Don’t worry, the re-organization and folder name changes will happen inside of the external HD also. You can visit the folders, but do not move them or the file will come up as “offline or missing”. This step seems small, however will avoid future headaches.
Dear Lightroom user: RESIST THE URGE to re-organize or move files from with-in your hard drive (out side of Lightroom). Adding the folder will make moving files around much easier when that time comes. Remember that it must be done from with-in Lightroom.
What is the difference between the Lightroom Catalog and the Lightroom Library?
If it matters to you: I am a photographer and adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technologies in NYC. I teach the Digital Darkroom course as part of the Photography Certificate program. From the course description listed at school: “This course offers an in-depth study of the workflow necessary for the storage, editing, and output of digital photography. Students are introduced to computer-aided tools and techniques that apply to the production and aesthetic concerns of photography in the digital environment.”