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Lightroom revolves around a catalog. That catalog contains information about your photos, including keywords and other meta data. For example, the adjustments you've applied, the previews that are generated for your photos, and much more. Generally speaking, you don't have to think too much about that catalog, but it can be a good idea to review the catalog settings to make sure they're configured the way you prefer them to be. To get started, we can go to the Edit menu and choose Catalog Settings. On the Macintosh, the catalog settings item would be found under the Lightroom menu.
Once we click this option, the Catalog Settings dialog will appear. And we have several tabs to choose from. General, File handling, and Metadata. We'll start with the general tab, which is mostly about sharing information about your catalog. There's not too much interaction required here. We can see the location of that catalog, the catalog name, when it was created, when it was last backed up and optimized, and the current size of that catalog. In this case I'm just working with a test catalog, so obviously thee's not much going on here. If we'd like to, we can also see where that catalog lives on our computer by clicking the Show button.
That will open a window in your operating system that shows you the location of the catalog files themselves. We can also specify the frequency of backing up that catalog. As you'll see in a moment, there are some settings that can actually mitigate some of the risk of losing your Lightroom catalog. But it's still a very good idea to back up on a regular basis. I recommend backing up at least once a week, but there are also options for backing up every day, or every time you exit Lightroom if you prefer to back up more frequently. You can also back up once a month although for most photographers, that's probably not quite frequently enough.
And there's even an option for never, which I certainly don't recommend doing unless you're consistently backing up your Lightroom catalog through a different backup setup. Regardless of the current setting, you can also set this to, When Lightroom Next Exits. That will cause Lightroom to back up, immediately upon exiting the very next time, but then in the future the setting will have reverted back to your normal setting. For example, if you typically back up once a week, but it's been a few days and you've made a lot of changes. You can choose When Lightroom Next Exits, and then exit Lightroom, and the catalog will be backed up.
But moving forward, the setting will still be established at once a week. Next we'll take a look at the File handling tab. The first section is Preview cache. This determines the size and other details of the previews that are generated in Lightroom. For standard previews, you can specify how large you want that preview to be. And this decision would be primarily driven by the display resolution of your primary monitor. For smaller displays such as a laptop you might use 1,024 pixels and for very large displays with a very high resolution you might use a higher setting. I generally leave this set to the default value of 1440 pixels. The preview quality obviously determines the quality of that preview, in essence the compression that gets applied to those previews. I leave this set to a medium quality but you could also use high quality if you wanted to try to optimize the quality of those previews. Or low quality if you want minimize file size.
We can also specify how frequently we want our one to one previews to be discarded. Those one to one previews are generated whenever we zoom in on an image for example when we get a closer look to evaluate sharpness. Those one to one previews obviously can take up a fair amount of space on your hard drive. And so it's a good idea to discard them periodically. For most users, I think the 30 days option is perfectly fine. But if you're concerned about hard drive space or you just don't frequently go back to the same images on a regular basis to evaluate them, you might opt for the one week or one day option. And if you have more than enough hard drive space and you do frequently go back to your images and zoom in to get a closer look, then you might want to choose the never option.
Keep in mind that those one to one previews simply relate to the cache settings. In other words, if a preview has been discarded, you can still zoom in on an image, it just might take a moment for that preview to be generated. Finally we have the Import Sequence Numbers section. These numbers only relate to using sequence numbers as part of file renaming on import. If you're not making use of those settings than these numbers will never change and there's no need for you to come in and change them. On the Metadata tab we can see some options related to the metadata that's generated for our images...
The first section provides a variety of options related to editing metadata in our images. First we have a check box for offering suggestions from recently entered values. I generally find that this is a helpful feature. If you find it annoying there you could certainly turn it off. and you could also click the button to clear all suggestion list, if for example maybe you've made some typos and you want to clear out that list and start over. We also have an option to include develop settings in the metadata inside JPEG, TIFF and PSD files. In other words, if you change the appearance of files of those types in the develop module, do you want that information written out to the images. This is a good fall back so that if you lose your Lightroom catalog, you can always access those develop settings simply be re-importing those images into a new catalog.
The next setting is one that I consider to be rather important. It depends a little bit on your perspective. The idea here is that we can automatically write changes into our XMP sidecar files for raw captures. Now not every bit of information that is stored in the Lightroom catalog would get written out to that XMP sidecar file. For example, adjustment history as well as collection membership for photos is not written out to the XMP sidecar file. However, having this option turned on does mitigate the risk of losing your Lightroom catalog.
You would still have all of your metadata, keywords, develop settings, etc, for all of your images. Again, you will only be losing membership and collections and the history information for your photos. The drawback to turning this option on is that it can take some time to write those changes if you're making changes. For example, adding keywords to a large number of images at once. Still, on balance, I prefer to have this option turned on for my catalogs. The next two check boxes relate to GPS coordinates for your images. The first determines whether you want to enable reverse geo-coding. In other words, for images that contain GPS coordinate information, do you want Lightroom to suggest an address based on that position? You can also specify whether you want to export that information when the address fields had been empty.
Finally we can specify whether we want to write date or time changes into the proprietary Raw files. For example if you crossed time zones and forgot to change the date or time on your camera and then make an adjustment to the date and time for your photos. You'll want that information written directly into your raw files. My preference is to turn this option on, so that the date and time are corrected as though there was never a problem in the first place. The only risk here is that it is possible that during this operation, there could be some file corruption, for example, if your computer crashed during the process of writing that information.
However, I consider that risk to be relatively small, and I certainly prefer to have the date and time, in my raw captures, be accurate whenever possible. Once you've established those settings for your catalog, you can click OK to accept all of those changes, however it's very important to keep in mind that those settings relate only to the currently opened catalog in Lightroom. If you're working with multiple catalogs, or if at any time you create a new catalog, you'll need to make sure to go in and adjust the catalog settings, based on your preferences, for that additional catalog.
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