Using Multiple Catalogs

by Michael Clark

A nice feature of the new Lightroom catalogs is that you can have multiple catalogs. I have been playing around lately with exporting and saving catalogs for individual photo shoots which I then archive along with the raw images. It seems natural to save the Lightroom catalog along with the raw images so that if I ever need to work on those images again I have everything as it was the last time I worked on the images and all I have to do is select that catalog when I open Lightroom.

To set up Lightroom so that you can select the catalog you want to work with, go to the preferences panel and choose Lightroom > Preferences, then under the Default Catalog settings in the General panel choose “Prompt me when starting Lightroom” as in the screenshot below.


Now, when you open Lightroom it will come up with the dialog box (as below) asking which catalog you would like to open. You can also create a new catalog if you are importing a new set of images and want to keep everything separate.


When I am on the road with my laptop I normally create a new catalog for the images I am working on. This way I don’t have to export a set of images when I get back into the office (to load the catalog onto my G5) because they are already in their own catalog. All I have to do to transfer those images to my imaging tower back in the office is copy and paste the Lightroom catalog and images - then select the new catalog when opening Lightroom.

As we saw with the last Lightroom post on using Lightroom as a Digital Asset Management (DAM) tool, the number of images you can efficiently run with in Lightroom depends on many factors. Hence if you have a slower machine it might make sense to have multiple catalogs, I you have a speed demon computer then multiple catalogs may not be something you ever worry about. Either way it is great to have the versatility of the catalog structure. Kudos to Adobe for working out the catalog structure so nicely.

That’s it for this session. See you next week….

Adios, Michael Clark


2007-09-03 04:15:32
Good idea! I used to import my photos into one catalog and then it got slower and slower(my notebook is an old one). But now things have solved successfully! Thx for your brilliant idea~
2007-09-25 18:06:40
This may be one of the most important features usually overlooked in all the LR reading I have done so far. Thanks for this info as i have been struggling with LR slowing down to a snail pace with the 1,000's of images I already have. It makes sense to only deal with the folders of images that relate to a theme or category. Virtually all of the LR information sidesteps this issue and what you say makes so much sense. In a 'real' library, you search firstly for the type of information you want - fiction, non-fiction, arts, science, etc. so you are already looking in an area that you further refine by for example going to the 'Photography' area of the cataloge - then refing that even further. BobM
2007-10-23 09:02:41
Okay, I did figure it out. Stupid me. I found the "open catalog" under file and there it was. I am relieved. Now all catalogs are showing in the prompt.