A few weeks ago I discussed using Lightroom as a Digital Asset Management tool and while answering some questions posed by readers I had the idea that giving each project its own catalog might be an interesting concept. The pros are that you can then archive the Lightroom catalog with the XMP metadata files and along with the images. And hence the catalog would always be available at any point in the future to re-adjust those images - and the previews would be saved as well. Also, since there would be a relatively small number of images in each catalog this would help Lightroom to work as fast as possible.
There are not really any downsides to using this method. You would lose whatever DAM functionality you got from Lightroom - but for my work that isn’t a huge downside as I have my images organized very well. So for this blog post I thought I would like to walk through my methods for creating individual catalogs for sets of images.
First, you’ll need to go into the preferences and change the Default Catalog settings to “Prompt me when starting Lightroom” as in the image below.
Changing the preferences as above will allow the following dialog box (below) to pop up each time you start up Lightroom. In the dialog box you can simply click “Create New Catalog” and then name the new catalog and tell Lightroom where to put it. In this case I would generally put the individual catalog in the folder with the images so everything is easy to find. I would also name the catalog with a similar name as the images will be labeled with. This way I can tell which catalog goes with which images.
Now you can import images into your new catalog just as you normally would. Since I usually don’t have more than a few thousand images for each job Lightroom should stay pretty zippy.
If for some reason I want to switch to another catalog I can go to File > Open Catalog or File > Open Recent and choose a recent catalog as in the two images below. Lightroom version 1.2 is set up to easily switch between catalogs and can do so without exiting the application.
Now I can already hear many saying “why would I want to do this?” It is a good question. I’m not saying this is “the” way to go but it is one option that the Lightroom catalogs offer. In my normal workflow I normally keep the total number of images in any one catalog under 5,000 so that Lightroom doesn’t slow down. One of the great features of Lightroom is that it allows you to edit extremely fast and I want to maintain a certain speediness with the software to lessen my time in front of the computer. Hence this is a new option I am exploring.
For my normal workflow there are no downsides to creating individual catalogs for each project. At the moment, I normally delete folders out of Lightroom after 45 days or so anyway. To view those images or work with the processed tiff files I go to Bridge and work with them in Photoshop after the 45-day period. And if I need to reprocess an image then it is simple enough to open it in Adobe Camera Raw 4.2 (CS3) instead of having to re-import that image into Lightroom again. But with this new way of using the catalogs I can just open the pertinent Lightroom catalog and be right back to where I was when I processed the images - along with all of the virtual copies I made as well.
The only possible downside to this scenario is if as Lightroom keeps improving and as new versions come out those catalogs become unreadable. That remains to be seen. Either way, I think I will slowly move to this system as it also makes it easy to deal with images that are downloaded to my laptop then transferred to my office imaging computer.
That’s it for this session. See you next week.
Adios, Michael Clark