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What are catalogs and why do they matter?

From: Lightroom 4 Catalogs in Depth

Video: What are catalogs and why do they matter?

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.

What are catalogs and why do they matter?

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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This video is part of

Image for Lightroom 4 Catalogs in Depth
Lightroom 4 Catalogs in Depth

37 video lessons · 8523 viewers

Chris Orwig
Author

 
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  1. 1m 40s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. Using the exercise files
      38s
  2. 11m 25s
    1. Understanding why digital asset management matters to Lightroom
      2m 35s
    2. Exploring hard drive options: RAID versus JBOD
      3m 59s
    3. Hard drive recommendations
      4m 51s
  3. 30m 46s
    1. What are catalogs and why do they matter?
      5m 33s
    2. Where are my catalog files?
      2m 6s
    3. Importing images into a catalog
      3m 22s
    4. Where are my images?
      1m 59s
    5. Making folder and image changes
      5m 3s
    6. Keeping your catalog current by synchronizing folders
      4m 36s
    7. Comparing catalogs, collections, and folders
      4m 43s
    8. Upgrading legacy catalogs
      3m 24s
  4. 13m 36s
    1. Exploring catalog backup defaults
      5m 2s
    2. Performing a better catalog backup
      4m 6s
    3. Optimizing catalogs
      1m 51s
    4. Deleting old catalogs
      2m 37s
  5. 17m 13s
    1. Exporting catalogs
      6m 38s
    2. Understanding how to work with multiple catalogs
      3m 26s
    3. Merging multiple catalogs
      7m 9s
  6. 13m 29s
    1. Consolidating catalogs
      3m 54s
    2. Relinking multiple images
      3m 7s
    3. Solving catalog conflicts with new hard drives
      3m 30s
    4. Dealing with computer crashes and locked catalogs
      1m 15s
    5. Restoring from a backup catalog
      1m 43s
  7. 42m 36s
    1. Introducing raw and DNG processing
      5m 21s
    2. Understanding how Lightroom saves raw adjustments
      4m 33s
    3. Saving adjustments to raw files
      4m 55s
    4. Saving adjustments to DNG, TIFF, PSD, and JPEG files
      3m 17s
    5. Working with catalogs and virtual copies
      4m 18s
    6. Converting to DNG: the Embed Fast Load Data option and lossless compression
      5m 12s
    7. Archiving a photo as a DNG with lossy compression
      5m 31s
    8. Working with CMYK files in Lightroom
      3m 8s
    9. Making changes to CMYK files
      6m 21s
  8. 1m 32s
    1. Using dpbestflow.org as a resource
      52s
    2. Looking at helpful demo files
      40s
  9. 27s
    1. Adios
      27s

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