Create and manage catalogs

Create a catalog

When you create a catalog, you create a folder for it, too. The name of the folder is the same as the name of the catalog, without the catalog suffix. For example, if you name the folder "Wedding Photos," the catalog file will be "Wedding Photos.lrcat". When you add photos to the catalog, Lightroom Classic creates a preview cache file (such as "Wedding Photos Previews.lrdata") and puts it in the folder with the catalog.

  1. Choose File > New Catalog.

  2. Specify the name and location of the new catalog folder, and then click Save (Windows) or Create (Mac OS).

Lightroom Classic resets and displays an empty Library module, ready for you to import photos.

Open a catalog

When you open a different catalog, Lightroom Classic closes the current catalog and relaunches.

  1. Choose File > Open Catalog.

  2. In the Open Catalog dialog box, specify the catalog file and then click Open.

    You can also choose a catalog from the File > Open Recent menu.

  3. If prompted, click Relaunch to close the current catalog and relaunch Lightroom Classic.

You can also change general preferences to specify which catalog opens when Lightroom Classic starts. See Change the default catalog.

Upgrade a catalog from an earlier version of Lightroom Classic

You can open, or import, a catalog from an earlier version of Lightroom Classic, including a beta version, in a more recent version of Lightroom Classic. When you do, Lightroom Classic upgrades it. The new, updated catalog contains all of the metadata associated with the previous catalog and photos.

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Start Lightroom Classic for the first time.

    • If you've opened Lightroom Classic previously, choose File > Open Catalog.

  2. Navigate to the old catalog .lrcat file, and then click Open.


    If you can't remember where the old catalog is located, search for "lrcat" in the Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS).

  3. If prompted, click Relaunch to close the current catalog and restart Lightroom Classic.

    Click Relaunch in the Open Catalog dialog box.

  4. (Optional) In the Lightroom Catalog Upgrade dialog box, change the name of the upgraded catalog. By default, the catalog will be named as <currentCatalogName>-v11.

  5. Click Upgrade.

    Click Upgrade to open and use the catalog.
    Click Upgrade to open and use the catalog.

  • The catalogs in Lightroom Classic are not backward compatible. Catalog from new Lightroom Classic version cannot be opened in the older versions. For more information, see Are catalogs in Lightroom Classic backward compatible.
    However, when you upgrade a catalog, Lightroom Classic leaves the old catalog untouched, makes a copy of the old catalog, and renames its previews file. So, after upgrade you will end up with the following files:
    • old-catalog.lrcat (old catalog)
    • old-catalog-v11.lrcat (upgraded catalog)
    • old-catalog-v11-Previews.lrdata (renamed from old-catalog Previews.lrdata)
    • old-catalog-v11 Sync.lrdata (renamed from old-catalog Sync.lrdata)

If you want backward compatibility, keep the old files (files not containing in their names)You can delete the old files when you don't need the backward compatibility.

  • After upgrading to Lightroom Classic 11, if you downgrade to a lower version, and again upgrade to 11, Lightroom Classic may not recognize the already upgraded catalog automatically. In this scenario, manually select the already upgraded catalog or upgrade again, if required.

Copy or move a catalog


Before copying or moving a catalog and preview files, back them up.

  1. Locate the folder that contains the catalog and preview files. In Lightroom Classic, choose Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows) or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings (Mac OS).

  2. In the Information area of the General panel, click Show to go to the catalog in the Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS).

  3. Quit Lightroom Classic.

  4. In the Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS), copy or move the catalog.lrcat, catalog.lrcat-data, Previews.lrdata, and (if present) Smart Previews.lrdata files to the new location.

  5. Double-click the .lrcat file in the new location to open it in Lightroom Classic.

  6. (Optional) If Lightroom Classic can't find folders or photos in the copied or moved catalog, a Question Mark icon appears by folder names in the Folders panel and an Exclamation Point icon appears in photo thumbnails in the Grid view. To restore folder links, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) a folder with a Question Mark icon and choose Find Missing Folder. To relink individual photos, see Locate missing photos.

Export a catalog

You can create a catalog that contains a subset of a larger catalog by selecting the photos and exporting them as a new catalog. This is useful when, for example, you import photos into a catalog on a laptop and then later add them to a master catalog on a desktop computer.

  1. Select the photos you want to add to the new catalog.
  2. Choose File > Export As Catalog.

  3. Specify the name and location of the catalog.
  4. Indicate whether you want to export the negative files and previews, and then click Save (Windows) or Export Catalog (Mac OS).

    "Negative files" refers to the original files that were imported into Lightroom Classic.

    The new catalog contains links to the selected photos and their information. You must open the new catalog to view it.

  5. (Optional) To combine catalogs, import the new catalog into another. See Import photos from a different Lightroom Classic catalog.

Delete a catalog

Deleting a catalog erases all the work you've done in Lightroom Classic that isn't saved in the photo files. While the previews are deleted, the original photos being linked to are not deleted.

  1. Using the Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS), locate the folder that contains your catalog and drag it to the Recycling Bin (Windows) or Trash (Mac OS).

    Important: Make sure that the folder you delete contains only the catalog files you intend to erase, and not additional files. 

    To enhance performance, Lightroom Classic builds a Previews folder next to the .lrcat file in the Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS). It is safe to delete this folder as long as its name matches the .lrcat file name. If you delete a Previews folder that's still needed by a catalog, Lightroom Classic will regenerate it when you work in that catalog, but it will run more slowly until the previews are rebuilt.

Change the default catalog

By default, Lightroom Classic opens the most current catalog at startup. This behavior can be changed to opening a different catalog or to always prompting you to choose a catalog.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences (Windows) or Lightroom Classic > Preferences (Mac OS).

  2. In the General tab, choose one of the following from the When Starting Up Use This Catalog menu:

    Load Most Recent Catalog

    Opens the most recent catalog you've been working with.

    Prompt Me When Starting Lightroom

    Opens the Select Catalog dialog box at startup so you can choose.

    A catalog in the default location

    Lightroom Classic lists all of the catalogs in \Pictures\Lightroom (Windows) or /Pictures/Lightroom (Mac OS) for you to choose.


    Allows you to navigate to a specific catalog file (.lrcat) and select it as the default catalog to open at startup.

Customize catalog settings

You can specify many preferred behaviors for Lightroom Classic catalogs in the Catalog Settings dialog box.

  1. Choose Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows) or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings (Mac OS).

  2. In the General tab, specify any of the following:


    Provides information such as the location, filename, and creation date of the catalog. Click Show to view the catalog file in Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac OS).


    Lets you specify the frequency with which the current catalog is backed up. See Back up a catalog.

  3. In the File Handling tab, specify any of the following:

    Preview Cache

    Determines how Lightroom Classic renders three types of image previews. All previews are stored in the preview cache file in the folder where your catalog is located.

    Standard Preview Size

    Specifies the maximum length, in pixels, of the long side of full-size rendered previews. Choose a size that is equal to or larger than your screen resolution. For example, if your screen resolution is 1920 x 1200 pixels, choose Standard Preview Size > 2048 Pixels. If your screen resolution exceeds 2048 pixels, Lightroom Classic generates a 1:1 preview instead.

    Preview Quality

    Specifies the appearance of the thumbnail previews. Low, Medium, and High are similar to the quality scale for JPEG images.

    Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews

    This setting specifies when 1:1 previews are discarded based on the most recent access to the preview. 1:1 previews have the same pixel dimensions as the original photos, and show sharpening and noise reduction. They are rendered as needed and can make the catalog preview file large, so it's good to discard them periodically.

    Smart Previews

    Indicates how much disk space is being used by Smart Previews. For information on using Smart Previews, see Smart Previews.

    Import Sequence Numbers

    Specifies starting sequence numbers for photos as you import into the catalog. Import Number is the first number in a series that identifies how many import operations are performed. Photos Imported is the first number in a series that identifies how many photos have been imported into the catalog. See The Filename Template Editor and Text Template Editor.

  4. In the Metadata tab, select any of the following:

    Offer Suggestions From Recently Entered Values

    When you start typing a metadata entry that resembles a previous entry, one or more suggestions appear as you type. Deselect this option to turn it off. Click Clear All Suggestion Lists to clear previous entries.

    Include Develop Settings In Metadata Inside JPEG, TIFF, PNG, And PSD Files

    Deselect this option to prevent Lightroom Classic from including Develop module settings in the XMP metadata of JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and PSD files.

    Automatically Write Changes Into XMP

    Select this option to save metadata changes directly to the XMP sidecar files, making the changes visible in other applications. Deselect this option to save metadata settings only in the catalog. For information on saving XMP changes manually, see About metadata and XMP.

    Enable Reverse Geocoding of GPS Coordinates To Provide Address Suggestions

    Allows Lightroom Classic to send your photo's GPS coordinates, if available, to Google so that Lightroom Classic can determine the city, state, and country of the photo and add that information into the IPTC Location metadata.

    Export Reverse Geocoding Suggestions Whenever Address Fields Are Empty

    If selected, Lightroom Classic includes Google-suggested IPTC Location metadata in photos when you export them.

    Write Date Or Time Changes Into Proprietary Raw Files

    This option controls whether Lightroom Classic writes a new date and time to proprietary raw files when you use the Metadata > Edit Capture Time command to change a photo's capture time metadata. By default, this option is not selected.

Optimize the catalog

After you have imported, edited, and perhaps removed a number of files, Lightroom Classic may run slower. When that happens, optimize your catalog to improve performance.

  1. Choose File > Optimize Catalog.


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