Calling everyone with big Lightroom catalogs!


I’d like to get some ideas on how everyone here manages their catalogs. Do you have ones for separate years? or one giant catalog? Do you use a laptop and transfer your RAW’s to an external HD when you’re done with them?


I was having a big one but it was too slow so I split it by photo type and put everything on a cloud NAS, it’s now much more easy to handle!


I moved to lightroom about 2 years ago, so far one catalog. I move the originals to an external HD more or less monthly (within Lightroom), but I’m starting to run short on space on my internal drive and might need to adjust how I do things pretty soon. I don’t know if my catalog is “big”, though, about 90k photos, including a ton from my iPhone because I don’t know what else to do with them. :slight_smile:

I only have a laptop and a pair of external drives. I keep the external drives synced with each other, one is with me and one stays stored safely away. Time Machine and Backblaze back it all up. If I count correctly I’ve got at least 3 copies of everything.

My biggest space issue is previews, still learning how to manage those and balance speed in editing/culling with the space that 1:1 previews take.


I would really like some ideas on this question too.
I just switched from a Mac to a windows pic because I would like to have more control of my picture organisation. Until now I had very little success though…it seems my cloud services take control when I try to sync my different units.
Any suggestions on how to do this?


I use Lightroom and have photos going back to 2004. The way I have set it up is that I only keep the past 3 years worth of photos on my MacBook Pro. Everything before that is store on an hard drive that I can connect to at home via wifi. All those photos have smart previews so even when I’m away from home, I can still edit them and export (at a lower resolution) or wait until I get home to export the full-size. It’s worked pretty well for me.

I also backup to a Time Machine and Backblaze.


I have one of the last macbook pros that came with a DVD slot so my setup is as follows:

  • HD1 internal: SSD with OS X and Lightroom installed
  • HD2 internal: in place of DVD player I have a SSD with Lightroom catalogs (and smart previews).
  • HD3 external: 2TB HD with RAW files + mirror copy of HD2/archived catalogs
  • HD4 external: 2TB HD - mirror copy of HD3

On HD2 I keep the following catalogs:

  • current year - this houses all of my personal work for the current year and has smart previews.
  • commissions - this houses, you guessed it, commissioned work and smart previews.
  • master - all my catalogs get imported in there (stuff going back to 2004) without smart previews.


Some great info in here! I currently have one catalog going back to 2013. I have smart previews generated for some photos with all of the RAW’s living on a NAS drive. Does anyone have any experience storing their catalog on a NAS drive and running a it over WiFi?


It’s a no-no from Adobe, very probably due to the fact that Lightroom (and Photoshop too for that matter) doesn’t have any sort of way to make any network error checks.

We ran into this problem at a former job all the time, network would time out for a reason or another and their PSDs would disappear in the ether, followed by a lot of tears.

knowledge base article

No, you can’t store catalogs on a network but you can store your photos on a network. Smart Previews let you edit your photos in Lightroom even when you are disconnected from the network or when your computer is disconnected from the drive that contains your photos.


I didn’t know that you can run a catalog over a network. My issue is that my catalog, which is comprised of only previews at this point, is approaching 30gb. I can see that being a problem for my laptop seeing as it only has a 120gb ssd.


I separate them by projects and type

  1. Family Gatherings - this holds a bunch of holiday photos I’ll never look at.
  2. OCOL - an OCOL project
  3. Portfolio - General Stuff that I’m serious about.
  4. Prints - stuff for printing for shows, etc. I tend to lose this stuff in the big catalog.
    And a few others…

I use multiple Collection Sets and Smart Collections.

I keep all the photos in a single directory structure. Some are in more than one catalog, but edits may be different/out of sync. I keep them on a 1TB USB3.1 SSD (encrypted) that I use for desktop and mobile. I used a NVMe drive for a while, but needed to be portable and didn’t want to sync. Backed up to multiple NAS, and another external drive which is synced to BackBlaze/B2. I sync the backups with SyncBackPro on the win desktop. Used to backup to Azure Storage, but doing the sync takes forever. I still have nightmares about losing my work.



I have two 1TB SSDs in my MacBook Pro with the catalogue on the main drive and the raw and jpg files covering the last 4 years on the other. I have two Lacie Rugged 2TB firewire drives with the rest of my digital images and slide scans dating back over 12 years. I have two backups, one on an 8TB NAS and the other on external drives I keep off site.


One day I’ll split it up, but I have one large catalog stored on Dropbox. This allows me to use my desktop or my Surface Pro and keep the catalog synced.

The photos themselves are stored on a network drive organized by year and date.

The network drive is synced to a large internal hard drive on my desktop every 4 hours via SyncBackPro.

Then some of the folders are synced to Dropbox, and some folders are synced to Google Drive - just because I could only get 1TB from Dropbox.

I also have Google Photos scanning the internal hard drive for the jpgs and uploading those as compressed high resolution files so that storage is free and unlimited, for quick access, not as finals to be sent to anyone. The real finals are in those Dropbox or Google Drive folders.

Oh, and that internal drive is backed up to an external drive daily. So all in all, I have 3 hard copies, 1 cloud copy of the originals, and 1 cloud copy of shareable compressed jpgs for each photo.

I intend to update all of this to a NAS and still sync to the cloud services in the future, but just don’t have the funds right now.

Feel free to ask me any questions on the Dropbox set up or using SyncBackPro, I can’t recommend it enough. Never had a bad sync or corrupted files in any of this… knock on wood.


Separate folders for IR RAWs, RAWs and jpegs. Each has subfolders for years, then months.
I have an import folder for saving images off the cards. It has a folder action attached to it which automatically converts the file name to the date/time in ISO standard from the metadata in the image file. Afterwards I transfer images to their respective month folders.
In LR I just synchronize the catalog keeping the images in their location.
Monthly Time Capsule system backups plus monthly backups of Pictures folder only to separate hdd.
When adding sequential shots (extremely rarely) I add tenths of seconds to the file names manually because this system neither produces this distinction since metadate only granulate to seconds, nor does it accept 1+n number of files with the same name.
Usability is achieved with keywording and (smart) collections.


Hola. Llevo ya un tiempo utilizando LR y lo tengo dividido por cámaras y por años y me va muy bien. Utilizó un disco duro externo y tengo en uso LR en un portátil Windows y en un MacBook Pro. Indistintamente utilizo uno u otro aunque quizás esté más a gusto con el portátil Windows por el tamaño de la pantalla (es un 17,2 pulgadas y el Mac es un 13 pulgadas).


I have run into issues with Dropbox because of how large the folder is on my laptop. I looked into moving the Dropbox folder to my external drive but Dropbox advises against this due to potential problems on startup. But managing my Dropbox is becoming a problem. I use Selective Sync but as soon as I move a folder off of my desktop, it seems that him need it. Then, I have to change the selective sync settings and wait for the folder to reload onto my desktop!

I am also using my new iPad Pro 12.9" to edit more and more, especially since Adobe added so many new features to Lightroom Mobile. But that means I now have too many photos in my photo stream and Apple keeps telling me I need more iCloud storage!

I do try to delete as many photos as possible from my photo feed once they are loaded into Lightroom but it’s all driving me a bit mad.

In the field, I use a WD Passport Pro to backup my SD cards, in addition to loading them into my iPad. That, plus saving the SD cards until I return to my office where I upload the files to an external drive folder and Dropbox gives me lots of redundancy.

But, as I said, managing the iCloud and Dropbox files is problematic.


Yes, I definitely would advise against storing Dropbox on an external or network drive. It does pose issues with the synchronization.

My Lightroom folder is about 16GB including backups, preview data, and catalog. So far no issues syncing whether I open the catalog from my desktop or laptop. I don’t store photos on the laptop, so I don’t have space issues or need to change my selective sync options.

My iCloud storage is also full on my iPad. This is probably a hindrance for mobile adoption. I mostly use an Android device for mobile LR, so that backs up to Google Photos with unlimited space (compressed setting).


I use a Drobo 5N but over a gig wired connection to store the RAW, but not the catalog, never had any issues in 3 years so far. (knock on wood)


I kinda want to try that in the future. How do you backup the Drobo? Can you backup it to a cloud storage like Backblaze?


It has mountable drive,so you treat it as local storage.


Yes I understand that. But in case of fire or robbery, how do you ensure you have a copy of the whole Drobo somewhere else?