Mar 8, 2010

Adobe Lightroom Workflow: Single catalog or multiple catalogs?

Adobe Lightroom users, I need your help!
What is the most effecient way you've found to manage your library of images?

Please tell us if you are using a single catalog or multiple catalogs or a combination of both and what the advantages of your system are?  Also, specify the following in your response:

1) What version of LR you're running?  (For Beta 3 users, specify any differences you see in speed between the two)
2) How big your catalog (s) is (# of images)?
3) How fast the program runs for basic viewing and developing features (adjusting saturation, switching tasks - develop to library grid, etc.).  I realize this is subjective, but is the program running fast enough to actually get work done...
4) How your computer system is set-up (Type, Processor speed, RAM, HD configuration -- LR Catalog on  Drive A, Images on separate drives, and any other nuances)

In addition, do you have any feature requests for Adobe? --   My #1 feature request is to be able to open more than one catalog at once.

Looking forward to hearing your experience!

Utah Photographers


Chase said...

I have been thinking about this lately a ton. With more and more shoots coming my way, I have yet to figure out something that seems to flow well. I have version 2 of LR but need to learn how to be more efficient in it. So I will keep an eye on this post to learn what others are doing. Sorry I am not of any help Kev

Mike Tittel said...

I'll be interested to read the results of your poll Kevin. My number 1 wish for LR 3 is more speed and the ability to handle larger catalogues.

1) LR 2
2) 40,000+
3) OK but I wish it were faster. As you know speed it critical.
4) Primary computer is Mac Pro w/2 quad core 2.8 gig processors, 10 gig RAM, 4 TB drives. My LR catalogue and images from recent shoots that I'm editing live on operating drive for speed. Once edited, I move to permanent home on back-up drives. Also have external and off-site storage.

What's your set-up?

Doug said...

Hey Kevin,

I'm running LR2.6, and this is my basic workflow.

Every job gets its own folder and catalog. When the job is done and edited, those catalogs get melded into the master catalog (which has almost 50k images). I only use that cat for reexporting files.

I'm running a Dell Studio 17 with Windows 7-64 bit, 8gigs of RAM. The master cat is on my Drobo, and current jobs live on my main system HD (though are backed up prior to any work being done).

Kevin Winzeler said...

Good to hear from you guys so far. Keep it coming!

Mike - Are you using just one catalog then even after you've edited and moved them to another drive? Have you noticed that browsing your older work on your slower drives causes a slowdown in the program?

Doug - That's very interested! A catalog for every shoot, eh? So what happens if you are in the master catalog and you see a group of images that you want to start editing or syncing settings between? Do you make minor adjustments on the fly in the large catalog or do you open each individual catalog? Do you feel the speed of individual catalogs outweighs the convenience of a single catalog?

Here's my current set-up

1) LR 2.6
2) 130,000 Images (a lot of junk I need to remove/archive though)
3) Speed is killing me, but probably due to my catalog size. Although even when it was 60,000 or so, it seemed to lag a bit
4) Mac Pro 2.8 2xQuad, 16GB RAM,
HD #1 = Catalog and Application on Main Drive
HD's # 2, 3 & 4 equal 3TB's of HD's in RAID 0 (striped) containing all images. Backed-up to 10TB RAID 6 Server (continuously) and also off-site. LR reads off of the three striped drives, but I'm pretty sure this isn't helping speed any as I initially thought it would. Photoshop write speeds however, rock.

Now that I think about it, another possible slow-down might be having my LR catalog on my main drive which now has less than 75% space available. My applications are on that drive also...hmmm. I may try moving the catalog to another more 'empty' drive and see if that speeds things up.

A few other things that have speed things up
1) Setting Camera Raw cache to 50GB (Under settings)
2) Launching and optimizing once in a while.

I Just can't for the life of me figure out how I'd work with separate catalogs, unless I could have multiple catalogs pulled up at the same time. If the speed was VASTLY improved, I'd find a way, I guess. The main challenge I foresee is that I'm continuously making minor change to images spanning a nunber of years as well as searching by keyword often. For example, this past week I was looking for all the images I've shot of "clouds" for a composite project I'm doing and had photographs spanning about five years when I searched that keyword. Next I went through and found those that were a close match for what I wanted and hit "B" to put them in the 'Quick Collection'. From there I could manipulate one image and sync the settings across the chosen shots to see the results as well as do other post work on each individual Raw image if needed. After selecting 2-3 cloud shots for the project I pulled them into Photoshop for some composite work.

The other thing I really like about having just one catalog is the ability to pull up multiple images in the "Survey View (N)" and look at different color palates, textures, etc to help in the creative process for future work. I use this feature all of the time and will often have an image I shot 3 years ago pulled up next to something I shot last week.

I guess this could all be done in a Master catalog while keeping individual catalogs by year or even by shoot, but it seems more difficult to me. Feel free to chime in Doug

If only Adobe could improve the speed for large catalogs....maybe a limitation of the DB they're using...

Keep the comments coming!

kevin Winzeler said...

Update: I moved my main catalog onto my 3TB RAID 0 drive (3x1TB) and everything is much faster (say 30%).

I'm guessing it is because of one of the following or a combination:

1) RAID 0 = fast
2) Catalog is on same drive as images now (not sure if that helps or not)
3) This drive volume has more empty disk space than the previous drive it was on.

It's a huge improvement so far. I'll keep ya posted if it starts to slow down anytime soon.

On another note: Is anyone using 2TB drives yet? Any recommendations for reliability and speed?

Kevin Winzeler said...

Some nice tips here: FASTER LR

Mike Tittel said...


Yes. I am using just one catalogue for my main archive. For each assignment where I am away from my office I create a new catalogue for editing in the field on my Mac Book Pro (unibody, 3.06Ghz processor w/4gig of RAM). This drastically speeds up editing in the field and when I get home. When I get home I bring everything onto my main computer and once everything is "worked up" it gets imported into my main library. I'm with in you that I also cannot imagine working in multiple catalogues. Researching stock requests alone would be a nightmare.

I really didn't start noticing any hangups when browsing until I crossed the 30k mark in my main library. From what i have read it seems to be related to the LR database structure. I've heard this is one of the big things behind-the-scenes things they are working on in version 3.

Oliver RR said...

I am also struggling with multiple catalogs having final moved my archives over from Iview. I have a "Working" catalog containing current jobs(15k images) and then I have a series of archive catalogs. "Weddings", "Jobs" and "Personal".
Jobs contains anything I am paid to do (except weddings) and personal is all non-paid work and family stuff. Weddings and Job catalogs are further divided into a about 4 year blocks and these catalogs are around the 80-100k mark. Keeping the cache on a separate drive from the program file and not "automatically writing xmp to file" make these catalog sizes manageable. Realistically, I have too many catalogs. But I can't see making the catalogs much bigger at this point. With Iview, you were limited to a 2gb catalog so this limited your catalog size anyway. It was a non-issue being able to open multiple catalogs and drag from one to another. Sigh. Perhaps Lightroom will become the DAM Holy Grail, clearly it is not yet.

Windows 7, 64 bit, 8gb RAM.