Lightroom Holiday Catalogue Setup

Lightroom Holiday Catalogue Setup

Some time ago a friend asked if I could help him setting up a LightRoom Holiday Catalog. He explained that his main catalog and all pictures are located on an external disk & he doesn’t want to take that disk while traveling. The idea was to have a new catalog for traveling/holidays and when back import all the pictures from that catalog into his main catalog. 

Even though I do this a little bit different these days, I do see the benefits of having dedicated catalogs for various functions. There could be a need to have a “wedding” catalog where people store their wedding photography pictures, or a Work and Private catalog. Or when catalogs get to big – maybe you just want to have a few separate catalogs. After helping out my friend, I thought it might be a good idea to create a quick post that might help other people. 

Folder Layout

As explained in this article, I use a very strict folder structure. This to help me understand where the catalog is, where the catalog backups are and where I store my pictures – for a specific catalog. 

If this all would be on a single disk, be it your internal [PC/Notebook] disk or external [USB/Lighting] disk – I use the following folder structure. 

../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/catalog/
../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/backups/
../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/PicturesGoHere/

Where the catalog folder contains the catalog files, the backup folder contains the backups LightRoom can create for you when it closes down and PicturesGoHere contain all your image files. Obviously the <catalog name> is the name of the catalog you want to create, in this case we used “HolidayCatalog”. 

By using this same structure for all my catalogs, it’s very easy for me to manage my data, including backups or copies. 

The big question now was – was it smart to have this structure on his Internal Laptop drive or on an external disk. Most people do use external disks, as they run out of space on their internal drives. No different this time, so the first thought was to create this new catalog on an external disk. Although this is not wrong, I believe there is a little bit of a better and more secure way for this. 

Catalog on internal disk, with pictures and catalog backups on external disk

The way that I proposed to create the holiday catalog for my friend, is to actually have the catalog on his internal laptop drive, but store pictures and catalog backups to an external drive. There a couple of reasons for this:

  • The internal drive on his laptop has space to store a holiday catalog
  • In general the internal drive on your laptop is the fastest drive you have access to – hence working with a catalog on your internal drive works faster than when a catalog is on your external drive
  • You can configure LightRoom to make backups of your catalog to the external drive, for obvious reasons you want catalog backups to different drive. 
  • External drive will have enough space for all your images. (the main reason why people want the catalog and pictures on the external drive)
  • By using the preview and smart preview options in Lightroom, you can work on your pictures even without having the external disk connected. 
  • By having the catalog on the internal drive – you remove the risk of corrupting the catalog files on an external disk, which can happen if the cable of the external disk by accident gets disconnected without ejecting the disk properly. 

So, how would this look? I would propose to still use the same strict folder structure – but partly on the internal drive and partly not the external drive. 

Internal PC/Laptop drive:
../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/catalog/
External USB drive:
../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/backups/
../pictures/LightRoom/<catalog name>/PicturesGoHere/

This using the SAME <catalog name>. In this way when you see the contents of either drive via Windows Explorer or Mac Finder – it’s clear what each folder contains. 

How to do this?

Practical to set this up, is quite straight forward.  Within Lightroom, select the options “New Catalog..” from the file menu.  This will open a window that allows you to create a new folder for the new catalog. Per default the folder created will be the same name as the catalog you like to create. So, use the window to navigate to your pictures folder on your internal disk, then type in the new catalog / catalog folder name and  hit the create button. 

Lightroom will then ask you to backup the catalog that is currently used (up to you if you want to create backup), then closes that catalog, creates the new folder and new catalog files. It then restarts opening the newly created catalog.  In our holiday catalog  example, this means that the following structure has been created. 

../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/holiday catalog.lrcat
../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/holiday catalog previews.lrdata

It’s now time to move the catalog into it’s right folder and create the folders on the external disk. Close Lightroom, so that you can move the catalog files.  Then create the catalog folder on the internal drive, and them move the two files created by Lightroom in that folder. This should now look like:

../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/catalog/holiday catalog.lrcat
../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/catalog/holiday catalog previews.lrdata

After this – create the folder structure on your external drive. This would look like: 

../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/backups/
../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/PicturesGoHere/

Once that’s done start Lightroom again – it will most probably give an error that it can’t find the catalog. This is due to the fact that you have moved your catalog files into the catalog folder. Simply select “choose a different catalog” and then again “choose a different catalog” – this enables you to browse to the location where the catalog files are located. Simple browse and open “../pictures/LightRoom/holiday catalog/catalog/holiday catalog.lrcat” (choose the “.lrcat” file). Then say open. Lightroom will now start with your catalog. 

Two things left to do – setting the backup location and defining where Lightroom will store your pictures. 

First go to Lightroom > Catalog Settings. Make sure you select “Every Time Lightroom exists” for the back up catalog function. This results that Lightroom will prompt you to do a backup every time, but you can still skip it. Then when you exit Lightroom – you will be promoted to Back Up Catalog. Use the browse folder to select the backup folder you created on your external drive.  This setting will be saved and used in future. 

You can now start using Lightroom – just make sure that when you import your pictures, you store them in the “PicturesGoHere” folder on the external drive. 

Finishing note 

Just be aware that when you store your images on external or internal disk, Lightroom backup doesn’t backup the these image files – you have to do this manually. Especially when traveling this can be a bit cumbersome as you might not have access to a good backup solution like a local NAS Device or Cloud Based storage.  In this scenario, I would recommend to either keep all your images on the SD cards – this gives you a second copy, or if that doesn’t work (to much images, not enough cards) copy the images to a second external drive ever couple of days. (when your SD cards are all full).

Hope this all helps – if you have questions, please do contact me and ill be happy to have a chat 🙂



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