Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic is an amazing program but this software does not automatically create a digital image storage system or image backup system for you. It is up to you to design your own image storage plan and to maintain your own backups.
The Adobe software engineers assume that you have already carefully formulated your own photo storage system before you start working with this program. Unfortunately, you will receive zero guidance from this software on where you should store your images or your Lightroom Catalog when you first install this program.
Image storage plans can be simple or they can be complicated. This is not a puzzle with a “one-size fits all” solution. With that said, let’s take a look at the most critical questions to ponder before you start using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom:
- Where should I store all of my digital photos?
- Where should I store my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog?
- What are my backup plans?
Option 1: Internal Image Storage And Internal Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage
For some photographer’s, a good plan is to keep all of your photographs and your Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog inside of separate folders on your computer’s startup drive. Using your computer’s internal hard drive makes perfect sense if you are just getting started in digital photography.
Keeping all of your digital images, and your Catalog, on your internal drive makes life simple and elegant as long as there is ample storage space on your computer’s drive. As a general rule, you must leave at least 20% of a drive’s total storage capacity blank or bad things will start to happen. Completely filling up any hard drive is a bad idea and doubly so if the disk also contains your computer’s operating system.
Option 2: External Image Storage And Internal Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage
Storing your photographs, and your Lightroom Classic Catalog, on your start up disk (internal hard drive) is fine if you are just getting started but for those with thousands of digital images, or multiple computers, this is not the best image storage solution. My laptop, for example, has a 500 gigabyte internal hard drive. The problem is that I have shot more than 100,000 digital images over the past fifteen years and storing all of these files requires nearly two terabytes of disk space.
Storing all of my images on my computer’s internal hard drive is no longer an option because I have hit the point where I simply do not have enough free disc space, so now I must use a high-quality external hard drive for my image storage.
I could choose to keep my Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog on my computer’s startup disk and still keep my images on a properly formatted external hard drive. The Lightroom Catalog does not need to live on the same drive as the images that it indexes.
Setting things up this way might be advantageous especially if the Lightroom Catalog is stored on a super fast Solid State Drive (SSD.) Keeping the Catalog on a SSD might improve Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic’s performance, while using an external drive for photo storage gives plenty of space to store hundreds of thousands of digital images. This is an excellent option, especially if you only use Lightroom on one computer.
Option 3: External Image Storage And External Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog Storage
The internal Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Catalog, plus external image storage setup discussed above is a great choice for some photographers, but it is a failure for those who want to use the same Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic Catalog and the same images on multiple computers. If your goal is to use the same Lightroom Classic Catalog on multiple computers then the best solution is to store both your Catalog and all of your images on a very fast external hard drive. This storage system requires the most setup but it is the right choice for someone who wants the flexibility to work with the same Lightroom Catalog on multiple computers, such as both a desktop and a laptop.
Important Warning: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is not a network ready application. You cannot launch your Lightroom Catalog from a Network Attached Storage disks (NAS). You can store your images on this type of storage but not the Lightroom Catalog.
The Importance of Backups
No matter where you store your images and your Lightroom Classic Catalog, nothing electronic lasts forever. All hard drives will eventually fail. It’s important to understand that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic is a wonderful image management tool, but it is not a backup system.
The real question is not “will my hard drive fail” but rather “what steps can I take right now so that I am properly prepared for my primary hard drive’s inevitable demise?” Once you have an image storage system in place, the next step is to build a Professional-Grade Backup Plan. Do not let the failure of one electronic device destroy a lifetime’s worth of precious photography!