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What the heck is a Catalog in Lightroom?

Whether you are a new lightroom user or a seasoned lightroom user, I can guarantee that at some point in your experience with lightroom you have asked the question:

What the heck is a lightroom catalog?

When I first started to use lightroom back in version 2, I asked the same question. In this article I will make it very easy to understand the what, why and how questions about lightroom’s infamous Catalog. To make this very relatable answering the “What question”, a catalog is like a book that stores all of your information so that you can access it at anytime.

 

 WHAT?  A catalog is a database

A catalog is a database that stores all of your information for each photo. When I say all of the data I mean data such as metadata, edits, where your photo is located on your hard-drive and even the date and time of when your photo was captured.

WHY.. Everyone must use one.

To answer the Why Question, every lightroom user must use a catalog to organize their photos before they can edit their photos in lightroom. Creating a catalog or multiple catalogs is as essential in lightroom as breathing is essential to living. How many catalogs your create is based on your organizational needs. For example: for my photography business I create a new catalog for each client so that I can minimize any cross contamination of photos from one client to the next. Another example is to create one catalog for all of your lightroom editing needs but use multiple collections.

HOW.. Do I do this?

Now to answer the How Question, meaning how do I create a catalog in lightroom? Abode has done an amazing job of outlining the steps for creating a catalog that I will be using to show this process. https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/lightroom-catalog-basics.html

WHAT?

WHY?

HOW?

There are 2 main ways to create a new catalog.

Process #1

The first way can be done when you open lightroom and a dialogue box pops up that will ask you to choose a catalog or create a new catalog.

When this dialog box pops open click on the “Create a New Catalog” button.

  1. A new dialog box will pop open that is called “Create Folder with New Catalog”
    1. This is where you will name your catalog and lightroom will save all current and future changes to your catalog and any changes you make to your images.
  2. Once you choose the name and location of where you will save your catalog, lightroom will then open and if ready to use.

Process #2

The Second way you can create a NEW Catalog is when you are already in lightroom.

  1. The first step is to move your mouse to the top left of your screen and click on the File tab. This will provide a new drop down that has “New Catalog” as the first option.
  2. Once you click “New Catalog” button , a new dialog box will pop open that is called “Create Folder with New Catalog”
    1. This is where you will name your catalog and lightroom will save all current and future changes to your catalog and any changes you make to your images.
  3. Once you choose the name and location of where you will save your catalog, lightroom will then open and is ready to use.

*** When you create a catalog and tell lightroom where to save the information, lightroom will create 2 files : “.lrdata” and “.lrcat”

The first file ( .lrdata ) file is where lightroom stores the data and changes that you have made to your photos.
The second file is the actual working file ( .lrcat ) and is the lightroom catalog. 

I know that there are many different topics and things to consider when using lightroom. I will always strive to teach all of my readers about new techniques, ways to think and how they can achieve their editing goals.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article and If you have any questions please leave a comment below, you are not the only person with that question. The worst thing to do is not ask.

If this article helped you or was beneficial please let me know with a quick comment below.

Matthew

About Matthew

Matthew is the driving force behind the content here at FLT and visionary for all of our products. He is a full-time professional photographer and educator at (Eagleye Photography Inc.) and has a driving passion for quality education and helping the lightroom community. That is why you see so much content for FREE. Paying It Forward. :)

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