A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

In general, most Lightroom users will find that one catalog is the most efficient way of managing all of their photos. However, there are occasions when additional catalogs will be helpful. For example, you might need to separate out a selection of photos into a dedicated catalog that can be taken with you whilst "on the road" or shared with clients. This short tutorial demonstrates the process of exporting photos to a new catalog,


Compatible with Lightroom 2 and higher.


Exporting photos into a new Catalog

Whilst it's possible to export photos into a new catalog from any one of the Lightroom modules it is much easier if done from the Library modules Grid view. So, the first step would be to switch to the Library module, as shown in figure 1.


Figure 1 - Lightroom Library Module (click image for larger view)

Next, we identify the folder or folders containing the photos that we want to export into the new catalog. In the example shown in figure 2 I have chosen a single folder named Edited DNG Backups, but it could equally have been two or more folders. When exporting an entire folder, it isn't necessary to select the actual photos, just the containing folder. That being said, it is sometimes desirable to export a small selection of photos from one or more folders. Fortunately, Lightroom is flexible enough to allow both.

Tip: to select multiple folders - click on the first folder then, while holding down the Cmd (Mac) / Ctrl (Windows), click on the other folders that you want to be included within the new catalog.


Figure 2 - Selecting a folder

Having selected the folder(s) that you want to  export to a new catalog you then choose the Export as Catalog command from the File menu (figure 3). The Export as Catalog dialog will open. Note that there is no keyboard shortcut for this particular command, however, it is possible to create one or remap an existing shortcut using the method described in this linked tutorial.


Figure 3 - Choosing the Export as Catalog... command

Our next step is to give the new catalog a name and define the content. But before doing so it's worth describing what each of the three options in the Export as Catalog dialog (figure 4) does.

Export selected photos only

When this option is checked only the photos that have been selected in Grid view will be exported to the new catalog. However, be aware that this option simply exports the metadata (e.g. IPTC, EXIF, keywords and any develop settings) associated with each photo into the new catalog, the actual files (negatives) will not be included. In some instances this may be all you require, but in others it may be important that the actual files are also included. We'll address this latter situation in a moment. Typically, this option is only used when you need to export a small subset of photos from a folder or multiple folders. Leaving it unchecked is important if you want the new catalog to include all photos within the selected folder(s).

Export negative files

With this option checked Lightroom will export a copy of each raw file into the new catalog. If the photos include Virtual Copies and/or sidecars these too will be included in the export. Likewise, any PSD, TIF or JPEG files that are contained within the selected folder(s) will also be exported. This option is generally used when the new catalog is to be transferred to a new computer, stored on an external or disk or DVD, or shared with a third party.

Include available previews

With this option checked Lightroom will include all available previews for each of the photos included within the export. Typically, these will include the thumbnails, standard-sized and, when available, full-sized previews. If this option is left unchecked Lightroom will need to render the previews when the new catalog is first opened. For this reason, it is very important that this option is checked in situations were the negative files are not exported to the new catalog.


Figure 4 - Defining Catalog content

The example shown in figure 4 above is ideal for situations when you simply want to create a smaller catalog that's to be stored on the same computer as the original and points to the original photos. A good example of this would be were a user has a master catalog containing all of their photos and smaller catalogs dedicated to individual years or themes. On the other hand, there may be situations when you need to export only the metadata associated with a particular set of photos (e.g. to facilitate syncing of metadata between catalogs). In which case all three options should be left unchecked.

Figure 5 - Mac OS folder view of new Catalog

Figure 5 shows the Mac OS folder view of the exported catalog described above. Notice that it it contains only two files (i.e. the lrdata preview file and the lrcat catalog file). Had you also checked the second option (i.e. Export negative files) then a folder containing the negatives would also have be included.


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