Lightroom Medic




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WARNING: There are dozens of ways to organize Lightroom.  My goal is to show you the way that I’ve found to be most useful personally.  It’s not the only way, and it may not even be the best way, but it works.

WARNING: Before you do any step of this video, backup your Lightroom catalog, presets, and all your photos on a separate device.

WARNING: This is not the class for learning Lightroom from the ground up.  We aren’t going to edit even one picture.

Goal: Every photo you’ve ever taken should be findable in 60 seconds or less, and the risk of losing a photo should be minimized to nearly zero.

5 Rules for an Organized Catalog

  • Every photo you’ve ever taken is on the same drive
  • Every photo is in one catalog, and that catalog is on the computer’s internal drive
    • Jeff Harmon – 48 to 52 milliseconds to get image table from 60k to 300 photos
  • Every raw file, your catalog, and presets are backed up on at least at least one disconnected and separate drive
  • Never change anything outside of Lightroom
  • Every “keeper” has appropriate cataloging data attached

Quick Fixes

  • Automatically write XMP files
  • Don’t store presets with catalog
  • Solo mode
  • Show parent folder
  • Automatically detect faces in all photos (Preferences > Catalog)
  • Backup every time Lightroom exits (Preferences > Catalog > General)
  • PLEASE press i
  • Don’t store presets with the catalog
    • I used to recommend this
    • Sometimes it loses presets
    • Makes it so some presets are stored in two places.  Ugh!

Merging Multiple Catalogs

  • Rens van Gennip Please cover merging multiple LR catalogs from different drives (like my internal drive catalog and external drive catalog in to one drive
  • Traveling laptop and home-base desktop
  • Also the EXACT METHOD you’ll use if your current catalog is split into multiples
  • Two ways to do this
    • XMP method
      • The way I’ve always done it
      • This method will NOT bring virtual copies in the transfer, or pick flags
    • Catalog import method
      • This is what I’m switching to.  I think it’s better.
      • Right click on folder in Lightroom and go to export as catalog
  • Q&A – Wojciech Rudobrody Can you touch on catalog sizes and when (if ever) it makes sense to split it up to multiple ones?

Moving and Renaming Folders

  • The reason we use Lightroom is because folder organization is not a great way to organize thousands of photos, so my preference is to not rely on folders as our primary organizational tool.
  • Paul Flacco – Also when I change files or names or folder on the hard drive then LR tells me can find catalog and when I try to reimporting it says already there. It is a mess…so anything there will be helpful.
  • How to fix an exclamation point in Lightroom
    • Jeana Tener Caywood How to fix it when you delete or move the files from the hard drive. LR can’t find them so you can’t access then again without reloading the original files.

Making Photos Easily Findable

Folders Are My Least Favorite Way to Organize a Catalog

  • You have to import into some folder, and not always will you have the entire import be the same shoot, so you have a bunch of work to do if you want to name each folder with something descriptive
  • Q&A – Amy Helmick – I have lots of photos that I’d put on my hard-drive in “my own” filing system; I’d like them all changed to the same system in LR (by date). I need to make the switch. I also have several on a lap-top from preLR days. There are folders and sub-folders: on my! What a mess! Please talk about the way to save them properly so it stays organized.

My star rating system for culling

  • Lots of adopters
  • I prefer it to pick flags because just as fast, but much more granular and not proprietary to Lightroom


  • Don’t go crazy tags and metadata is the primary way to find a photo
  • Smart collections
    • 5 star photos
    • Certain tags
  • Q&A
    • Anthony Fuccella Sometimes I’ll edit a group of photos and come across one that I find to be amazing. When putting a portfolio together I can never remember where that image was. What is the easiest way to send that image to a collection for just portfolio worth images? As opposed to trying to filter by stars or flags.
    • Patrick Schmitz – I often put images from a shoot in a collection and then I add keywords describing the subject of the photo. But you could also create collections based on a subject. Like I do with, for example, sunset photos. It seems both are a different but sometimes overlapping way of organising.


  • Keywording should be the first and last thing you do
    • First on import, last because only those that need keywording
  • Always add the “s”
  • Types of keywords
    • Genre keywords – family, landscape, portrait
    • Technique keywords – macro, long exposure, flash,
    • Specific keywords – location,
  • You can only search when in mosaic view in the library module – crazy!
  • Q&A – Radhika Dixit – How do I start keywording when my Lightroom collection already has thousands of photos. Any non painful ways to approach this?

Facial recognition

  • Put into collections of 2,500 or less
  • I can do 5,000 photos in about an hour with this system
    • First remove non-faces
    • Second approve giant patches
    • Next, approve correct names
    • Reset everything
    • Type in names last


  • Thomas Joseph How do you keep images shot for Panos and bracketed HDR images organized?


  • Backup is not a question of “right” and “wrong.”  It’s a matter of deciding on matching risk to your risk tolerance.
    • 22% of hard drives will die in their first four years of use, after that the numbers climb significantly
    • Only 1/3000 people will have a house fire in which the entire house burns down
    • It’s almost guaranteed that at some point you’ll accidentally overwrite a photo, delete a photo you didn’t intend to, delete your Lightroom catalog, fail to back up something before moving to a new computer, etc.
  • The gold standard: 3-2-1.  Nearly impossible to lose data.
    • Why it’s impractical–two different types of media
  • How Lightroom stores photos and the catalog file
    • Example of the card catalog
  • How to back up your Lightroom Catalog
    • Erica Brown: How exactly do I back up my Lightroom catalog?  When I look in my folder there are many folders: backups and many LR Cat Previews and a lot of temporary files. The whole Lightroom file is huge, but am I supposed to backup the whole thing? Inside the backup folder there are backups for many folders with dates. Am I able to delete old ones?
  • How to back up the PHOTOS referenced in your catalog?
  • Stephen Hale: What do you do as your lightroom library grows and eventually becomes bigger than your Hard Drive?
  • Could be as simple as an external hard drive if all your photos fit in one place
  • Kent Dolezal After I import my images from my card, should I keep a copy of the RAW files before I format the card ?
  • Outgrowing the computer
    • RAID yes, NAS no
    • Be certain your computer has a high-speed data port (thunderbolt, USB3, USB-C)
    • Drobo or Synology are probably your best bets
      • Multiple options for number of drives.  You can probably start with a two-bay
      • Buy two
        • Expensive, but you can use the drives you already own
        • If buying new drives, consider the Seagate REDS
  • If everything fits on your internal drive, use Carbonite.  If you have crazy fast internet, consider backblaze.  Normal internet?  Amazon prime.

Smart Previews

  • Solves the “I don’t have my NAS attached right now” problem, but doesn’t solve the “Two computers trying to work on the same Lightroom catalog” problem

Two Computers, One Catalog

  • Why this doesn’t work
  • Work-arounds
    • Put catalog in dropbox
    • Microsoft Sync-Toy to sync database between computers
  • Only do this if your level of interest in Lightroom is “adventurous”

Managing Presets and Brushes

  • Backing up presets and brushes
  • Organizing presets and brushes so they are easy to find
    • Naming conventions
  • Setting up a testing ground and culling presets


  • Digital Negative Graphics
  • Has some nice potential benefits — built-in XMP and open source and slightly smaller file size
  • Problem is that it’s slow and the conversion takes too long


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