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When you import photos into Elements from a camera, from your computer, or from another application, as you'll do in this chapter, you're really just importing information about those photos, not the photos themselves. That information is stored in an Elements catalog. If you take a minute to understand how catalogs work, you will be better able to help Elements keep track of your photos, so that they don't go missing from your catalog. So, what is a catalog? Under the hood, a catalog is a database of information about each file that you bring into Elements' Organizer.
If you're trying to picture that, you might think of an old-school card catalog in a real brick-and-mortar library. Each card in a library catalog describes a book and tells you where the book is located. The books themselves aren't actually in the catalog of course, but each card in the catalog tells you where to go on the library shelves to find that particular book. Now if someone moves the book from that shelf, then the location on the card won't be helpful and the librarians will think the book is missing. The same is true of an Elements catalog by analogy.
When you import a photo into an Elements catalog, you're creating a record of that photo in the catalog. That record contains information about the photo, like its file name and where it's located in your file system, whether that's on your computer or even on an external drive. But the Elements catalog doesn't contain the actual photo; the photo remains out on a drive wherever you put it when you downloaded it from your camera, or when you dragged it into a folder. What does all that mean for how you work with the photos that you've brought into Elements? Well, for one thing, you want to be sure not to delete your actual photos out in your file system, thinking that somehow these thumbnails that you see in the Organizer are another copy of your actual photo. They are not.
They are just small previews of the actual photos. Also, don't move or rename a photo out in your file system, because that will break the link between that photo and Elements' catalog. If you do need to move or rename a photo, do it from inside Elements, as I will show you later in the course when we're talking about the Organizer. If somehow a file does go missing, you'll know that because it will have a question mark on it, like this photo of the French flag. If that happens to you, don't worry; you can usually reestablish the link to the photo by double-clicking the thumbnail, and that will start Elements searching for that missing file.
If it can't find it or if you'd rather do it yourself, you can click the Browse button and follow the instructions in this dialog box for reconnecting the missing file. I am just going to close that for now. And I will go back to the Grid view by clicking this arrow labeled Grid at the top of the Organizer. Another thing to know about catalogs is that you can add more than one catalog in Elements. But I recommend that you keep all your own photos in one big catalog. That's because Elements can search for a photo in only one catalog at a time, and it's just easier to manage one catalog than many.
But there are some rare circumstances where there might be a good reason to make a separate catalog. For example, if you shoot school portraits or weddings, you might want to keep different clients' photos in different catalogs so the photos stay entirely separate. And another good reason to make a separate catalog is for the exercise files or your own practice photos for this course. If you put them in a separate catalog, they won't get mixed up with your real photos. So, let's create a new catalog for the exercise files, or if you're using your own practice files to follow along, for those.
Launch your Organizer if it's not already open, and then go to the File menu at the top of the screen and choose Manage Catalogs. In the Catalog Manager, you can see the current catalog. By default, that catalog is called My Catalog. Now, I am going to make another new catalog by clicking the New button, and I will call this catalog Ex Files. I am not going to bother importing music into this catalog. I will just click OK. That switches me from the catalog we just saw of my personal photos to this new empty catalog, into which we will import the exercise files or your own practice files shortly. One last thing: if you do have multiple catalogs, the way to switch back and forth between them is to go back to the File > Manage Catalogs command, and in the Catalog Manager, you can click on whichever catalog you want to see and then click Open.
I am going to stick with my exercise files catalog for now, so I will click Cancel.
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