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Lightroom is a great tool for editing, organizing and showcasing your photos and video clips. To make Lightroom really pay off for you, let me give you a basic understanding of Lightroom's catalog system. A Lightroom catalog is a database. A useful metaphor for a Lightroom catalog is the physical card catalog, like this one, at your neighborhood library. Like the physical card catalog, a Lightroom catalog contains a record of each item, each photo or video clip that you bring into the library. To bring those items into a Lightroom library, you use the import functions that I cover in this chapter. But keep in mind that importing doesn't mean putting your photos into a container called Lightroom.
Instead, importing means creating a record of each photo in a Lightroom catalog. Just like the neighborhood librarian does, by creating a card in a physical catalog for each book in that library. Included in each record in your Lightroom library is information that tells Lightroom where you've chosen to keep the corresponding photo in your computer system. Just like the decimal number on a library card tells you where a particular book is kept on the library shelves. But, if you move or change the name of a photo outside of Lightroom. Lightroom will think that the photo has gone missing. Now, that's okay.
You can reestablish the link between a catalog and photos, as I'll show you how to do later in the course. But the point is that the nature of the Lightroom catalog, a database that contains information about your photos, but not the photos themselves. Means that you need to get used to moving and renaming photos only from inside Lightroom. As I'll show you how to do in this course, or you could cause a tangle that can take time and effort to unravel. The record of each photo in your Lightroom catalog also contains information about each photo called Metadata.
That includes shooting data like f stop and better speed and lot's more. It also includes instructions for how you want to the photo to look. Instructions that you create by processing the photo in Lightroom's develop module. In other words, none of your edits in Lightroom directly change pixels in your photos. Your edits are just maintained in the form of instructions. And that has lots of advantages, including that you can always go back and change those instructions in the future, as we'll see later in the course. Now, let's go out to the hard drive to take a look at the files that make up a Lightroom catalog. The first time you launch Lightroom, the program makes a catalog for you. And by default, that's located in your Pictures folder, or My Pictures on Windows, and inside of that in the Lightroom folder that's created for you. If I open that Lightroom folder, you can see that there are two database files. The one on the right, the one with the extension lrcat, for Lightroom catalog, contains most of the information that we just talked about. The one on the left, that ends in the extension LRData, for Lightroom data, contains previews of your actual photos.
The previews are what you see when you're working in Lightroom. So, I want to make the point, that these catalog files are separate from and different than your actual photos. They don't have to be kept in the same folder, or even on the same drive as your photos. We'll talk more about where to store your actual photos and your catalog files in a later movie in this chapter. One more thing about catalogs, how many catalogs should you have? For most Lightroom users, the best answer is one. The reason is that you can only search through one catalog at a time in Lightroom.
And with only one catalog, you don't have to remember which catalog contains a particular photo. However, from time to time you might still want to make an additional catalog. For example, we did that here to keep the exercise files for this course separate from your personal files. Or you may have photos for a client that you just don't want to intermingle with your personal files. If you ever do want to make a new catalog in Lightroom, go to the File menu and choose New Catalog. If you do have multiple catalogs and you want to switch between them, you can use the Open Catalog command from here in the File menu.
And navigate to the .lrcat file for the catalog that you want to open. By the way, if you're having trouble finding your Menu bar, you can always go to the Window menu and down to Screen Mode and choose Full Screen with Menu nar. Now that you have a sense of what a catalog is, let's move on to preparing your files for importing to a light room catalog in the next movie.
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