Lightroom 3 catalogs & how I use them…

In this digital age we need some type of software to print, and even just see our pictures anywhere else other than the back of our cameras. The software could be the built in image viewer that all operating systems have or could be something built into a printer that allows you input your images directly from the camera and then print them out.

This gets even more complicated if you shoot RAW since each camera manufacturer has their own specific RAW format (some have more than one). Plus you have to factor in if you want to just view/print the images, or do you want to make any edits? And what about organization? Most photographers can easily take hundreds of pictures a week. And if they are doing a photo shoot that could reach into the thousands for that day.

As I started to search the web for  items to help me learn photography I heard about a program called Lightroom. I watched a few videos from places such as Terry White’s Tech Blog Adobe Lightroom Killer Tips and and figured that I would give Lightroom a try for a number of reasons.

  • It could read the RAW format from my Nikon without any additional software
  • It would help me tag my photos as well as organize them however I wanted
  • It would let me do some basic edits to make the photos better

Once I started using the software I knew I had made the right choice. Over time how I have used Lightroom has changed though, and continues to change as I become more comfortable with the program and start playing with more of the features.

Lightroom doesn’t actually store you pictures, it stores a record of your pictures. It knows where they are on the hard drive and keeps a record of any edits you have made to the picture (non-destructive edits by the way). You can have any number of catalogs based on whatever criteria you decide to set them up as.

For about a year I put all my photos in just the main catalog. There are over 10,000 pictures in that catalog. Watching Kevin Kubota on the web show [Framed]-Post Pro changed my regular workflow for the better. In the episode I have linked to Mr Kubota talks about how he built a series of folders and lightroom templates that he uses for each project. I have modified that a bit to fit my needs.

My everyday photos and practice shots still go into my main catalog. But if I am shooting an actual project or ongoing series those photos go into their own catalog. Taking a page from Mr. Kubota I have built a series of folders and then a blank lightroom catalog that I can easily copy, rename and then begin using. I am still in the process of developing what truly fits my needs, but so far this process has helped me.

Here is how I have my project folders set up:

  • 1_lr template-the main folder
    • Blog folder-exports that I will be using online
    • DNG folder-this is where the dng files that lightroom creates on import are stored
    • Docs folder-any documents, contracts, storyboard items for the project
    • JPEGs folder-this is where proof jpegs are exported too
    • LR catalog folder-the Lightroom catalog for the project is stored here
    • Portfolio folder-any exports that I will use for my portfolio
    • Print folder-any exports that will be used to fulfill the customer (or my) print needs

The main 1_lr template folder is copied and then renamed to whatever the project is. When Lightroom imports the RAW files and changes them to the .dng format I tell it to save them in the DNG folder. Once I have made picks, rated and then edited the pictures I will then export them to a specific folder. Some get watermarks, others are will have the dpi set to a different number.

The biggest benefit I have found so far of this method is being able to find the pictures quickly. I could use tags and such to search by, but I know that all my splash picture are in one catalog so if I need one of those pictures I can go to that specific catalog, set a search on the criteria I use to rank pictures (a post for a later time) and then find the one I need. Speed is also a factor. Since the catalog doesn’t have to look through hundreds or thousands of pictures it can do so more quickly.

Anyway. That is a very high level of how I use Lightroom catalogs. I will do other posts in the future regarding how else I use Lightroom.

What does your workflow look like?


One thought on “Lightroom 3 catalogs & how I use them…

  1. I desparately need to improve the way I use Lightroom. I should break mine down into smaller catalogues. I might well use your suggestions as a framework. I just need to bite the bullet and do it. Thanks.

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