When the brilliant engineers at Adobe created Lightroom, they set out to make a program that could support a variety of different professional workflows. I certainly appreciate this philosophy, however, when it comes to the question of whether it is better to build one Lightroom Classic Catalog that holds all your images or to build lots of smaller Catalogs that hold separate specific events, I am one-hundred percent of the opinion that most Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic users should never create more than one Catalog.
If you only have one Lightroom Classic Catalog then there is only one place you’ll ever have to search for your photos. Working with multiple Lightroom Classic Catalogs only adds complexity and reduces your productivity.
Keep it simple with one Lightroom Classic Catalog
Although the Photoshop Lightroom program allows you to create an unlimited number of separate catalogs, this is generally a very bad idea. For a tiny segment of advanced Photoshop Lightroom users, the ability to create multiple Lightroom Catalogs is helpful, but for the vast majority of us this ultimately ends up becoming a curse.
Creating multiple Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalogs only make sense if there are clear and rigid boundaries between groups of images. As an example, some professional wedding photographers find it helpful to create a separate catalog for each wedding. In this case, each wedding is a unique event so there are clear and absolute divisions between one couples photos and another’s. In this case, the multiple Lightroom Catalog tactic works because no bride will ever want to order photos of some other couple’s nuptials.
But for myself, and the vast majority of the photographers that I have taught, multiple catalogs would have far more downsides than benefits. For example, I might shoot some family photos, a sunrise, and a commercial job all on one memory card. With my photography there are no clear and absolute divisions between jobs. When I am pulling together a portfolio or picking out images for a new web gallery, I might want to combine landscapes, sports, and architectural images.
Projects like this are easy for me in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic since I only have one all-inclusive index. With only one Lightroom Catalog, I can quickly and easily find all of my favorite images regardless of when or what I photographed on any particular day.
To make things even more complicated, each Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog has it’s own settings, preferences, and presets. The more Catalogs that you create the more time you must spend digging around in the Preference and Catalog Settings Menus. Each Catalog adds additional complexity to your workflow.
Now some Lightroom experts will argue that smaller Lightroom Classic Catalogs run faster. There is some truth to this argument if you are working with an underpowered computer. But with a modern processing chip, plenty of RAM, and high-speed hard drives, the performance differences between a big and a small Lightroom Catalog are hardly noticeable.
A word of warning
No matter what your specialty in photography I must warn you that multiple overlapping Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalogs will lead to disaster. Your life will be absolutely miserable if the same image is referenced in more than one Catalog.
The problem here is that you, and Lightroom, will never know which Classic Catalog has the most up-to-date information and the best settings for these photographs. Creating multiple reference points that lead to the same exact photo is guaranteed to create confusion and lost productivity. Trust me, you do not want to do this.
Now that you understand how the Catalog functions, the next question is where should your images be stored and where should you store your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog? We’ll tackle both of these questions in the next lesson.