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In this course, Chris Orwig investigates the Lightroom properties as a digital asset management (DAM) system—specifically, its catalogs, which track the location, metadata, and keyword tags associated with your images. The course shows how to import images into a catalog and keep them current with synchronized folders, maintain good backup practices, and recover and restore a catalog. Chris also provides his recommendations on hard drive options, and explains the process and benefits to raw processing when working with catalogs.
In order to develop a good working understanding of Lightroom catalogs, what I want to do here is go back to the basics. And I want to start off with a few questions. What is a Lightroom catalog, and why do these catalogs even really matter? Well, for starters, you'll find that by default your catalog files will be saved on the internal hard drive of your computer. Here you can see my catalog. There's a catalog file itself and also the previews file. Well, what are in these files? What do they contain and why are they so important? Well, first we know that a catalog is how Lightroom tracks the location of files and how it remembers information about them.
The catalog has some sort of built-in memory, in a sense it's just a database. Well, if it's a database, what's inside of the database? Well, here it is. The Lightroom catalog contains Preview Information, File Location, Metadata, Module Settings; whether that's how you process the image in the Develop module or how you created that custom book in the Book module, it contains all of these different settings in the various modules. They are all saved in that catalog. It also contains Ratings and Keywords and Collections.
So why then have a catalog? Well, we have catalogs because they are strong. They give us flexibility in managing, identifying, and organizing our photos and media files. In a sense, one of the reasons why Lightroom is such a widely used application, is because of the catalog. The catalog, well, it's the glue which holds Lightroom together. Well, if you're like me this initial explanation that might be kind of insightful and helpful. I have given you a bit of the What and the Why, but perhaps things are still a little bit vague.
Well, because they might be, what I want to do here is talk about catalogs in another way. I want to talk about them by way of comparison or analogy. And let's see if this might shed some light on this topic. All right! Well, we already know that we have these catalogs because they are strong. They help us manage and identify and organize our photos. They help us to be more effective and ultimately more creative. Well, how could we compare this, or what might be a situation that we could compare this to in order to gain a little bit more insight into how these work? What I want to do is compare this to say owning a small bike shop.
Let's say that you own a small bike shop and you have a front area where the clients come in and you have back warehouse where you store the bikes. Well, if a client comes in and says, hey, do you have this bike in blue? You could run back to the warehouse and look, and then find what you have there, run back to the client and tell them. In a sense, you're just quickly browsing what's in the warehouse. Now a software application which is great for simply browsing files is Adobe Bridge. It kind of organizes things, gives you some previews; you can see what's there.
Yet the problem with Adobe Bridge is that whenever you point it somewhere else or whenever you "leave the warehouse," well, everything is just a mess again. If the client says, oh well, I like that bike in blue but how about red? Well, you have to run back there again and take a look to see what's there. Now if you have a smaller volume of bikes or photographs it's not that big of a deal, right? You kind of jump back and forth and that works just fine. It works fine to browse the content. So you don't need any built-in memory. In other words, Bridge doesn't remember really anything.
You can just simply use it to browse. Well, what then happens when all of a sudden your bike business is booming? I mean, it is just going really well and your warehouse it is stuffed full of bikes and all of a sudden you have multiple warehouses. These bikes are saved in different locations or if those were photographs right? You have multiple hard drives. Well, how can you deal with that situation then? What you can do is you can use Lightroom. This is where Lightroom really saves the day. What it does is it takes a look at all of those different warehouses and it organizes things.
And then it remembers information about all of the content, and we know how this works, right? It creates what's called a catalog. Here I have a small graphic to represent the catalog, and inside of that catalog, well, it contains Preview Information, File Location, Metadata, Module Settings, Ratings, Keywords, and Collections. So therefore when the client comes into the shop and they say, hey, do you have this bike in blue? You can leaf through that catalog, show them the preview, read ratings about that particular bike.
Also you could read information, metadata, about how much the bike weighs, etcetera. So this catalog, it gives us access to everything that's in the warehouse, even if the warehouse is locked or even if the hard drive is offline, if it's unplugged. This catalog, well it has this built-in memory. Now the beauty of this, of course, is that it prevents us from having to go back and forth so many different times. What this ultimately does, it helps create a more effective and ultimately more creative workflow.
Because if we can spend less time really searching or trying to find things, well, we can then start to process them in different ways or perhaps even in imaginable ways. All right! Well, let's just summarize a little bit here. Let's go back to what a catalog is or why we have this. Well, the catalog what it is; it's made up of this small little file. Also next-door to it, you'll have a Previews file. And these two files together they contain some valuable information. We know what that information is, it's listed over here on the right. And what this does in a sense is that this catalog file, it helps us to be more effective, more efficient, and more creative in our own photographic workflow.
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