As you may know, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom creates a searchable index of your photography. Unfortunately this index, your Lightroom Catalog, can only be used on one computer at a time. Sadly, your Lightroom Catalog cannot be stored on the “cloud” nor can you launch your Catalog from a network attached drive.
These limitations on the way that Photoshop Lightroom functions are not a problem if you only use one computer for your photography. These limits on how Photoshop Lightroom operates are not an issue for those who do all of their photography at home or in a studio. But these limitations present a big challenge for those who want to travel with Lightroom using one computer and then resume their work on a different machine when they get back home.
It is no secret that I dislike the idea of creating multiple Lightroom Catalogs. In my humble opinion, creating multiple Lightroom Catalogs usually creates unnecessary confusion and reduces productivity. In today’s tutorial I offer four options for those who want to use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom on a laptop while they are out traveling and then merge their new images into their main Lightroom Catalog when they get back home.
My preferred solution is to keep my Lightroom Catalog, and all of my images, on an external hard drive. By running everything from a high-quality high-speed external drive I can use the same Catalog either on my desktop or my laptop. Using an external drive for my Catalog and image storage keeps things simple. But if your goal is to travel with just a laptop, and to leave your main Lightroom Catalog / image storage drive at home, then perhaps this is a place where creating a second Lightroom Catalog is a valid choice. Should you decide to go with the most complicated option–creating a second Lightroom Catalog for your travels–then please follow these rules of the road.
Rules for your Travel Lightroom Catalog:
- You must turn on the Automatically Write To XMP preference switch which lives in the Catalog Settings Menu. Failure to save your metadata down to the file level while traveling will result in lost work and productivity when you get back home.
- You must not use Pick / Reject Flags, Collections, or Virtual Copies while traveling since these features cannot be stored in your image’s metadata blocks.
- Use a single top-level image storage folder on an external hard drive to hold all of your new images while traveling. Build an Import Preset> in your Travel Catalog so that Lightroom will automatically divide your new images into folders based date of capture using the numerical YEAR/YEAR-MONTH-DAY folder naming structure for you while traveling.
- Make backups of all your new images while traveling or leave your new images on your memory cards until you have safely transferred everything to your main storage drive back home.
- Do not sync your new Travel Catalog with Lightroom Mobile if you are already using the Lightroom Mobile service with your main Catalog back home. Remember that Lightroom Mobile can only sync with one Lightroom Catalog at a time.
- Try to do as little work as possible while on the road. Adding keywords, star ratings, colored labels, and map data is fine but save the careful sorting, editing, printing, and sharing of your new work until you get back home.
Yes, this is pretty complicated stuff. No, this multiple Catalog and multiple computer workflow is not beginner friendly. This is one of the places where Lightroom really does not easily meet and exceed our expectations. But it can be done and again there are three much easier method that you can explore before you descend down the rabbit hole of multiple Lightroom Catalog madness.