Adobe Lightroom Folders


The second topic I will touch on for using Adobe Lightroom 4 is the use of Folders.

Last time I introduced Catalogs, the database files which store everything that you do in Lightroom.  The foundation for the Catalog and your editing is the set of Folders and the images held within them.

When you import images into Lightroom you are essentially bringing their parent Folders with them.  You can choose to import one, some, or all images in a folder, but in any case the folder itself comes with them into the Catalog database.

Pretty much everything else that you do in Lightroom is "virtual" in the sense that it only exists within the realm of the Catalog database.  But the Folders you have are your true links to the physical (which drive) and logical (where on that drive) location of your base image files.

My Lightroom Folder strategy is very simple:

  1. Create new folders for each roll of film I scan or digital series of images (ex. one day or event of shooting)
  2. Name the folder on the disk in the format "yyyy mm dd topic camera film" where the day and film are optional (see above screenshot)
  3. Keep the folders in one of two places: initially a local drive Library location, and then once my edits and online publishing are done I move it to a Library location on my network storage drive

You can freely move your Folders around on the drives of your computer, network storage, etc.  However, when you do so Lightroom indicates via greying out the folder name that it has lost track of where it is.

When that happens simply right click on the folder in Lightroom, select "Find missing folder…" and the browse to and select its new location.  This will update the Folder and all images within it to its new location and is pretty painless.

I keep my Folder strategy to essentially a linear timeline of rolls/shoots, even if the images in those folders are split into multiple purposes.  My next topic will be Collections which is really where all the magic happens in organizing your images inside Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom Catalogs


This is the first in a series of posts about my experiences introducing Adobe Lightroom 4 to the core of my photographic workflow.

I used to have a very manual workflow based on an old version of Photoshop and absolutely no image management aside from moving files around folders on my computer and network storage.  It was tedious, I had trouble keeping things consistent, and when I wanted to find something I had to hunt around.

I heard good things about using Lightroom from film photographer Sean Galbraith.  I also occasionally shoot digital and was looking for a means to use RAW files without introducing a dedicated application such as Nikon Capture.

Lightroom is a parametric image editing application, which means that all of the edits that you make to your images are stored in a central database rather than applied directly to your original image file.  The Lightroom Catalog file is that database, so it contains any color balance changes, touch-ups, cropping, etc. as well as keywording, rating and other metadata changes you make to your images.

There are some photographers who use multiple catalogs, perhaps to separate personal work from their job or one client's images from another's.  But the key point is that when you use Lightroom you are only operating with one catalog at a time, they are completely separate databases.

I have decided for now to use only one catalog for all of my images.  I don't shoot a lot of images and I often mix different kinds of shots (family, landscape, cameras, etc.) together on the same roll of film.  Keeping everything together in one catalog lets me import everything into one database and then use collections and keywords to manage them as needed.

The last thing I will mention about catalogs is that you need to back them up regularly.  It is theoretically possible for them to get corrupted, and of course if your computer fails you could simply loose the file.

Treat your catalog(s) just like your images and implement a proper backup procedure.  If you lose your catalog you have also lost all your edits to your images!