Benefits of using a single catalog

Lightroom Classic provides you options to use a single catalog or create multiple catalogs. Learn how to choose which option works better for you.

A catalog in Lightroom Classic is a collection of records for each of your photos with key information like metadata such as camera settings (camera, lens type), storage location, inputs such as keywords and ratings that you have applied to a photo, and edit related data. The size of the catalog is not as big as you would expect it to be on the basis of the number of images you reference in the catalog. For details, see How Lightroom Classic catalogs work.

You can run into situations when you are not able to find your catalog or you inadvertently create multiple catalogs while working with Lightroom Classic. To avoid such undesired cases, ensure that you work with the same catalog every single time.

There could be times where your professional workflow requires you to create multiple catalogs. To understand what works for you, read the full article.

Advantages of using a single catalog

Lightroom Classic catalog speed has been optimized for working with hundreds of thousands of images and using a single catalog is no longer a hindrance to smooth work. In fact, in most cases, it is advisable to opt for a single catalog to work.

To begin with, here are a few benefits:

  • You can use the search operation for folders in the search bar, organize by folders, collections, keywords, labels, and ratings all in one catalog.
  • Searching for photos in multiple catalogs is more of a tedious task than searching for them in a single catalog.
  • Switching catalogs every now and then is inefficient. Also, you cannot switch catalogs while a process is running, for example, if you’re running an export operation in one catalog, you have to wait for it to complete before switching to another catalog.

How to open the same catalog every time

In case you mistakenly renamed your catalog or the folder your catalog was in and are not able to locate it, avoid creating a new one in haste.

Your catalog settings are set to load the most recent catalog by default. To avoid confusion:

  • Go to File > Open Recent to see the name of the current catalog that is being used.
  • Go to Lightroom (Mac) / Edit (Win) > Preferences > General > Default Catalog and change Load most recent catalog to the actual catalog name.

When to work with multiple catalogs

Working with multiple catalogs is a good alternative for certain professional workflows:

  • If you want to keep your work segregated into separate catalogs, depending on different shoot dates, different clients, and more.
  • If you have to give access to your Lightroom Classic account to different users and you cannot risk losing the entire data in case your single catalog gets corrupt.


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