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Now that we have had the opportunity of conceptually talking about Lightroom catalogs, it's worthwhile to discuss another question. Where are my pictures? You know, a lot of times it's confusing when we bring in images into Lightroom or import photos from a CompactFlash card. We don't really know what's going on. So let's try to untangle this topic a little bit. Now one of the things that we first do is we fire up Lightroom on a laptop or a desktop--whatever, and then let's say that we decide to connect our CompactFlash card, which then triggers the Import dialog.
Well, what's happening with these images that are residing here on this CompactFlash card? What is Lightroom doing with these files? Well, what exactly is happening is actually kind of interesting. Lightroom takes a look at these files, and it kind of churns through them, and it does two distinct things. Well, one of the things that it does is it relocates these images to another location on a hard drive, whether internal or external. We'll talk a little bit more about that later. And it does something else.
With those images, it either creates, or updates, your current catalog. And that's kind of interesting because here you can see we have physical images, and then we also have a catalog which says, "Hey! This is where the image lives. This is a metadata that the image has. This is also a preview for that particular image." So it does these two distinct things. Now where, by default, does Lightroom position both of these items? Well, for the images, by default, it's on your internal drive, in your Pictures folder, and for the catalog again, by default, it's on that internal drive in the Pictures folder.
Now this kind of makes sense, because it has to choose some default location. Yet as you and I know, typically, default doesn't mean best. It means a solution, but not a great solution. So, what's a better solution? Perhaps something even better would be to take those images and copy them to an external drive, whereas you leave that catalog on your internal drive. In other words, it would copy those images to an external drive--like this Drobo. Meanwhile, the catalog would stay on your local or internal drive. And the reason why this could work out well is that we can't copy all of our images to an internal drive because that drive will fill it up.
We need to have more hard drive space. In addition, this model is scalable, right. We can have multiple drives that we're copying to, and then we still have one catalog. So keep this in mind. What we ideally want to have happen is we want Lightroom to do the work of creating this catalog, and typically that means one catalog, and then we have multiple external hard drives. Let's visualize that another way. In regards to our catalog, keep in mind, again, we're going for one internal catalog on your desktop, your laptop--whatever is your main computer.
On the other side of the equation, we have our photos. And typically we're going to have one or more external drives that exists somewhere else, outside of where our catalog is located. Now keep in mind, it is possible to have your catalog exist on an external drive. Yet, keep in mind that if you're going to do that, you want to make sure that that external drive is always powered on, and that it's a really fast drive. In my own workflow, and what I typically recommend to most people, is that you have your catalog live on an internal drive, and then you save and you back up all your photos on external hard drives.
In this way, you really keep things organized. Therefore, in order to answer the question "where are my pictures?" well, my pictures always exist on an external hard drive. Then in regards to the question "where is my catalog?" well, that catalogue will be saved in the default location in my Pictures folder, on my Internal hard drive of my main computer.
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