Lightroom: Catalogs within Catalogs (or Master Catalogs)

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  • Updated 6 years ago
A simple idea to solve the problem of fractured catalogs. Having multiple catalogs helps system performance and is often very desirable. And yet having everything split up can be a real pain.

The idea is to allow the import of one catalog into another. Edits made in the embedded catalog are reflected in the master catalog and vice versa. This is achieved by having the master catalog reference the actual catalog file for its embedded catalogs. If the embedded catalog file is offline/unavailable, editing is also turned off to prevent things from getting out of sync.

It may be necessary to make a new kind of Master Catalog, which only holds other catalogs, just to keep things clear.
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Thorfinn Tait

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Posted 7 years ago

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Joseph Rivera

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I'm finding as I get deeper into using Lightroom (which is an AMAZING product, by the way), a use case keeps cropping up for me:

I have a general Catalog where I keep all of my one-off photos and stuff I shoot while putzing around. I have tens of thousands of images in there and it serves its purpose well.

However, there are times when my photography is event based (a major trip, a thematic set of photos) where one shoot may garner 4-5k shots. In these instances, my instinct is to dedicate a separate catalog — so I can focus just on those images and create smart collections, keyword sets, etc. that are only relevant to them.

OK, no problem, I can totally do that. But, it'd be great if all of my catalogues could be virtually linked so that, when searching or creating smart collections, I could check a box to search all catalogues vs. just the one I have open. This is useful for portfolio building or year-end slideshows where I am putting together a list of the best of my work and need to see everything.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom: Catalog Linking.
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Heinrich Helmbold

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I would love to see better catalog handling in Lightroom. I would like to be able to create a catalog for a single client and have several "sub-catalogs" for that client. Selecting a sub catalog will only show the relevant photos, but selecting the "main-catalog" will display all. Adding filters to photos is too much of a pain to try and organize photos.

Having a "master-catalog" displaying ALL photos would be great if there were tools like face detection etc. Looking for that one great photo taken sometime at some event might just be easier to find if you could view all photos.

Network support for mapped network drives... PLEASE. Maybe a "check in / out" option for working on a shared catalog to give a person read only access if someone else is working on a catalog?

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Lightroom: Improved catalog and file handling.
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Rob Cole

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Why not just use subfolders instead of subcatalogs? Or subcollections...
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Mikey_

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The biggest pain point for me of having multiple catalogs -- as has already been suggested -- is the inability to search through Keywords/Collections.

Having 1 catalog would solve the keyword search issue, but with a Catalog already 2GB in size, I had to break it down to 4 different catalogs in order to:

1. Improve performance
2. Decrease chance of Catalog corruption (and losing EVERYTHING)
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Rob Cole

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My catalog is 4GB and has fast performance: all catalog access is random, meaning catalog size has no impact on performance, *except* when you are doing whole catalog searches... I turn on the "show metadata for target photo only" option, which improves performance.

Do you have good reason (i.e. based on fact) to believe a larger catalog is any more likely to become corrupt than a smaller one? If so, then perhaps that is a good strategy. My strategy is to restore a backup if catalog becomes corrupt, so I'll never lose everything. And of course save xmp and backup other critical files regularly too...
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TK

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One huge catalog ->
1. Too many eggs in one basket. Something goes wrong (and as we know Lightroom, something will go wrong, just give it time) and the entirety of your work is at stake.
2. Backups only partially address issue #1 since you can never be sure which parts of your catalog have been affected so you may carry a faulty area from backup to backup. As a result it becomes very cumbersome to recover from a problem while not losing all the work you have done since the problem first occurred.
3. Huge catalogs make it harder to navigate. Folder and Collection lists get longer and longer. Small, dedicated catalogs make it much easier to find particular images. Certain presets may make sense for particular catalogs only, so there is another potential for reducing complexity.

Sometimes, however, it would be nice to able to search in all one's images. Hence I support the notion of a "super catalog" which would virtually combine as many sub-catalogs as required. The "virtual" super catalog is superiour over a regular one that you can compose yourself already because any updates to sub catalogs would be reflected in the super catalog (whereas they are not in a regular aggregate catalog).
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Rob Cole

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I think it's right for people to be concerned about the integrity of their data. Lightroom's track record is not impeccable.
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john beardsworth

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Let's stay away from the genitals, Rob.... Fear Uncertainty Doubt, if you don't know.
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TK

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Regarding "FUD":
1. I've had first experience with Lightroom screwing up my catalogs in more than one way. And I'm not stress testing Lightroom by any stretch of imagination.
2. Browse the internet a bit and you'll find numerous "help" posts from people with corrupt catalogs.
3. Ask Dan Tull how many catalogs he has hand fixed for desperate users.
4. This last point is conjecture, but quite possibly a number of catalogs are corrupt without their users knowing about it. The catalog may be slowing down LR (this happened to me once) or behave normally at best most of the time but one day the corruption will prevent access to some images.
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john beardsworth

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"A number", sure. And is this anecdotal number so significant Adobe should put resources into should help people adopt suboptimal workflows? Nowhere near. So as one who has stressed the database, and has plenty of experience breaking databases, I'd say the FUD cap fits pretty tightly.

That said, backup time is an issue with big catalogues and Adobe could do things like incremental backup, to the cloud if necessary, and enabling rollback.
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Foto VI

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Dividing into several catalogs is still the way to go.
The task of the main catalog is to reference these exported catalogs
and keeping the metadata to all the images incl. small preview.
-> no "giant backup" issues.
-> separate catalogs stay unharmed
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Mikey_

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The points brought by everyone are all valid, and I believe that the core point of this thread is the inability to search across catalogs. There are pros and cons to having 1 vs many catalogs, and the biggest con is the search functionality. I hope for Adobe to address this in a future revision soon.

My gosh, waiting for a 2GB backup to finish daily was annoying at times, but a 4GB+ one would be nightmarish. I keep multiple backup versions on the hard drive (and it's in a fast RAID 0 configuration), with backups of all backups (and the production ones) copied to 2 NAS every night. You can imagine the amount of time wasted each day. Granted, I do my backups overnight.

I can't imagine how things would be if my main catalog reached 8GB..
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Foto VI

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The point of the main catalog is to reference and catalog images, their location and metadata, not to contain all the images.
Your main catalog wouldn't grow to xxl GB.
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Foto VI

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IN SHORT: I suggest an archive capability that allows you to keep track of archived images.

1. Keeping all images in one catalog, over time will slow it down, clutter it.
So, from time to time I export them into archive catalogs on external drives.
These drives can be plugged into the computer, mapped to one drive letter (A:).

2. Problem:
I loose track of all the images because they are not in one central place.
Finding the exported disk / catalog is the issue.

3. I suggest that for the exported catalog a mount point is created in the main catalog.
That way exported images can stay in the original catalog with
a preview proxy and
a reference to the catalog/disk that they were exported to.

The archive disks should be named uniquely, the archive catalogs, too.

This way you can easily find images, plug in the referenced disk
and access the images.

This reply was created from a merged topic originally titled
Archival location/drive mountpoint support in Lightroom.
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Foto VI

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CATALOG MANAGER
A catalog manager instead of an "open catalog" dialog will give better overview, already.

In this manager view
  • available catalogs can be organized / optimized
  • master collections can be added, referencing images from catalogs
  • content between catalogs can be transfered

The hassle of catalogs in catalogs is avoided.
For the end user, Lightroom functionality and visible value is added.