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In the grand scheme of things Lightroom is actually a pretty young application. It was only introduced just a handful of years ago, yet one of the reasons that Lightroom has gained so much popularity, that it is really starting to grow so immensely to the point where it simply dominates the postproduction context, is because of the Lightroom catalog. Now because of that it's worth asking the question, what is a Lightroom catalog? If you go ahead and take a look at your catalog, one of the things that you'll discover is they're simply two little files here and if we highlight these files, you'll notice that we have Previews and then also the Catalog file itself.
Both of these files together really make up our overall catalog and essentially this catalog is how Lightroom tracks the location of files and remembers information about them. It is a database. Now a lot of times when people hear this word database, they are like, oh no, like, that's kind of a scary word. They're not really sure what to think of it. But let's break this down for size. Basically what it means is it contains preview info, file location, metadata, whether descriptive or additive, develop module settings, ratings, keywords and collections.
Now essentially why have catalogs? Well, it gives you Flexibility in managing, identifying, and organizing photos and media files. Now at this particular juncture, you may be thinking that's still kind of abstract, and what I want to do is try and make this concept a little bit more concrete, by way of a comparison. Let's just pretend for a moment that you sell bikes and let's say that you have a handful of bikes that you need to sell. In order to organize and access these bikes, you could use a tool like the Adobe Bridge, and the Adobe Bridge works really well when you have a smaller volume of things.
But let's say that all of a sudden business is booming. I mean you have so many bikes you can't keep track of them. You have a whole warehouse full of bikes. What are you going to do in situations like this? In these particular situations, Lightroom really comes to save the day and what Lightroom does is it analyzes everything, and it thinks, and it processes, and then it churns out a file that we can call a catalog, and essentially it's like a normal catalog and what this does is it organizes everything. It creates a little bit of order in midst the chaos.
And this particular catalog file here, it contains information about something else, about something tangible like a photograph. In other words, you could flip to page 22 and page 22 would tell you, yes, I have 10 bikes that are blue, five that are red in these particular sizes. So that if someone came to you and needed to buy a bike, rather than having to wander around the warehouse of all of these hard drives digging in different folders and different places, you have this guide, which organizes all that you have and it gives you the ability again to access these files really efficiently.
Now the catalog isn't just about efficiency, although that's really important. In other words, you can quickly see previews, you can quickly process files, you can quickly add metadata. Yes, all of those things are important, but it's not efficiency for efficiency's sake, rather it's a tool which helps us to be more efficient so that ultimately we can be more creative. All right. Well in summary, what is a catalog conceptually? Well, in Lightroom we have a Catalog file, also a Preview file, but let's just say conceptually this Catalog file and in that file, we have file name and information.
We have metadata that's descriptive like the file dimensions, the file type, when it was captured. We also have additive metadata, things that we've added like ratings or labels or flags, and we also have the all important preview so that we don't always have to re-render the preview. In other words, let's step back for a moment. Let's say that all of a sudden you lost this catalog and a client came in and said, "hey, I want to buy a bike." You would say, okay, well let's go wander around the warehouse, and it'll be really tricky and what you would have to do then is go in the warehouse and recreate the catalog every time you went back there, because it would be constantly changing.
You would constantly lose this document. Well, in Lightroom, you don't ever lose that document. It stays with you, and there is a way that it's built-in to back that up. So there's a certainty that you can always have access and that you can always easily process and work on your photographs. So why have a catalog? Well, not only does it help you to become more effective and efficient, ultimately it helps you create more compelling photographs.
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