Sharing a Lightroom Database

by Johann Gudbjargarson

My girlfriend and I both have Macs at our home, and we are very much into photography and use both machines for working on our pictures. The problem we run in to is that Lightroom is a single user application - two users can't share a database and work on pictures at the same time.

Lightroom uses a database for storing all information about its Library, and it must reside on the machine you're working on (or on a hard drive connected to your machine). It can't reside on a network drive enabling more than one user to work on the same database. I know some users are copying the database file back and forth to use on different machines, but that is a solution I'm not very found of.


What I would like in the next version of Lightroom is a true multi-user environment where people can work asynchronously on the same Library.

I'm aware of the export/import feature in Lightroom, and it seems that it is the only solution for it now. Work on a collection of images on one machine, and then import them into the other machine, which would be like a master database for my picture collection.

I'd like to hear your workarounds to simulate a multiuser environment with Lightroom... while we wait to see what the future holds.


Sid Jervis
2007-05-15 11:27:54
IMO I doubt that you will see a true multiuser system in the near future. The thing that would drive the feature is money, if Adobe see a market for "Lightroom Collaborative" then they may get around to building it.
The Adobe Lightroom team are a finite resource, after a V1.0 release they must be working on bug fixes. So, that provides a second reason why there will be no multiuser database real soon; I doubt their efforts would be diverted from fixing bugs to producing a network version of Lightroom.
At present the underlying database (SQLite) does not support anything other than a single user, so workarounds will always have an element of risk or confusion.

The import / export process that you mention was in the beta phase of Lightroom, it was known as "Photo Binders", I would guess that the PB feature might be made available again in the future, why? - because we have seen it working in the past during the beta phase.
But "Photo Binders" doesn't solve the problem that you need fixing, multiuser network databases.

Why not use Lightroom in single user mode, is there that much benefit to merging two photographers images in a non business environment?

Jeff Youngstrom
2007-05-15 16:59:02
Even apart from the potential advantages of multi-user access, requiring that the database be on a local volume just doesn't work with the direction mass storage is going.

I want my precious data on a big old raid disk somewhere and I want all my computers to be able to access all that data. Requiring that I run Lightroom on my file server is just crazy.

2007-05-16 01:43:20
As Sid mentions below, SQLite is a single user database. If you do manage to connect two copies of Lightroom to it, you WILL lose your data at some point.

I believe that Lightroom enforces the use of a local drive because generally network file sharing protocols do not have sufficiently robust locking to prevent two people inadvertantly connecting to one database.

If you really want to put your Lightroom database on a network share, here is a slightly odd workaround. The trick is to get TrueCrypt (, which is a free volume encryption tool. Create a file based encrypted volume on your network share, and when you mount this volume using TrueCrypt, Windows thinks this is a local volume. In fact it is, because TrueCrypt is acting as a local filesystem driver. It's just storing it's data remotely.

BE WARNED: TrueCrypt will let you mount the volume on two machines at the same time. The documentation cautions you that the file should be read-only, but does not enforce this. It assumes you are a grown-up. Once again, if you connect two copies of Lightroom, sooner or later you will lose your database.

This is a Windows trick - I know nothing of Macs, so you guys are on your own. Sorry.

2007-05-16 02:37:55
I was wondering if placing Lightrooms database on a Mac's iDisk would work. I believe it appears as a local drive but then sync's down to apple's servers and up to other mac's that you have. I haven't tried this yet.
2007-05-16 08:18:38
On his Blog "Utiliser Lightroom"(French), Gille Theophile explains how to use a Firewire (800/400) drive to hold the library:

Have fun with the online translators ;D

2007-05-20 14:37:21
As far as I understood it is fairly simple to copy Lightroom's library to an external drive and point Lightroom to the drive's library upon the next startup by holding the alt-key (on a Mac). Then in the Preferences make sure that Lightroom uses the last library in use.

Still a workaround but better than copy and import.

2007-05-21 09:39:08
So a USB hard drive connected to my machine will still be ok? I was planning to get a network hard drive specifically for image storage with lightroom, but now it looks like I can save a few pennies as the network option won't work.
2007-07-03 00:11:23
While I think shared catalogs in a business situation is crucial as are other features still lacking in LR (such as offline storage), it appears to me that this feature has some merrit in a private scenario as well. In our home office we have a NAS disk where images are stored. It makes backing up practical and lets us browse photos regardless which workstation we are working from. The logistics of merging catalogs every single day are simply mind twisting. My biggest problem is simply this: LR is a formidable darkroom replacement but fails miserably as a DAM application.

As for TrueCrypt - ...I wouldn't! It's a wonderful utility with lots of potential but there are absolutely no sharing mechanisms making the risk of corrupted catalogs very high. It could be okay, I guess, if one computer mounts a volume as R/O, but that is also not allowed in LR yet.

2007-08-23 12:28:26
RE database robustness over a network, FileMaker Pro, for example, has let multiple users access a networked database for years (with objects such as images or anything else); the trick is that active fields are locked to other users until "released" by moving to another field or pressing Enter. Users cannot write to the same field, but they can write to a shared file. And obviously full-fledged SQL is built on the premise of shared data files.

As far as usefulness, what if you are not the originator of all your images? If you have a library of content and other people know more about the images, there's no way to let them inspect images or add/edit metadata unless they are sitting in your office. Our situation is that we get images for archiving from another state. We need the shooters to give us the metadata that would make the database searchable because we just don't know the particulars about each image.

As Lightroom is now, there's no way to export the images with all the meta tags in a group so outside workers can assess them (and get the updated metadata back into Lightroom) without saving the entire library to an external drive and send it to the remote location. Obviously we cannot do any import work while the system is "checked out" of our location for days.

What Lightroom needs is an option to export to web or PDF, for example, with all the metatags included with the captions, if the database can't be placed on a server for remote users to log in and edit.

2007-09-03 08:29:28
I for one am considering an alternate solution to LR, primarily due to it's restriction that won't allow my wife to access the database from her workstation and I to access it from mine.

We don't require concurrent use, although that would be excellent. We each simply want to use Lightroom from our own customized desktops, using our own preferred auxilliary software, our own keyboards (different), out own Wacom tablets (different sizes, differently configured), etc, etc.

I evaluated several DAM products and although I would prefer to use Lightroom and grow along with it as it matures as a product, I simply cannot due to this one major restriction at this early stage. Extremely disappointing.

2007-09-17 19:37:57
As an educator teaching photography, I was excited about the possibility of offering an Adobe DAM product—Lightroom.

Our lab environment however is one of virtual desktops where students log into a local computer (new iMac 20") and it pulls their desktop, documents and such from a server. Thus, all files they create are stored on the server.

I was very disappointed to find that Lightroom limits its Library file to a local drive. Not only is it useful for the business world, but also for the education world. I find myself now calling this a TURE DAM_ adobe application.

2007-10-14 02:51:51
You might try to map a network drive as local using the commandline instruction 'subst'. That normally works if programs can't use network drives...