The Art of Lightroom Catalog Management

The Art of Lightroom Catalog Management

Lightroom is a great tool for photographers of all types, in addition to the powerful suite of editing tools at your disposal, there is a robust cataloging system to help you keep your collection manageable and easily navigable. But with the ability to create and manage an infinite number of separate catalogs, how exactly should one consider spliting up their collection, if at all?

Well that, of course depends on who you are as a photographer, and how much you like organization. Let's take a look at a few scenarios, shall we?


The Catch All

This method is for those of us who lack in the area of organizational expertise, or those of us who excel at procrastination.

One catalog encompassing every photo we have ever taken since we started taking photos. This catalog has everything from family photos, to that gig you shot last week for a client. This catalog has grown big and unwieldy, and has likely grown beyond 20,000 photos. Unless you have been vigilant with your keywording routine, good luck finding anything in this heap.


  • Requires little thought when maintaining. Just import your photos and forget about it.
  • Everything in one place, no need to bounce between catalogs.


  • This catalog can grow quite large in a hurry.
  • Time consuming to navigate.
  • If you haven't been using keywords, good luck finding anything older than a few weeks.
  • Lack of organization.


Personal Projects and Business Projects

This is where organization begins. Using this method, a photographer would create two catalogs, one for all personal photographs, and one for all business photographs, effectively separating work from play in terms of photos.

This could be beneficial for a number of reasons. First, it theoretically allows for two smaller catalogs, making navigation easier. Secondly, it allows you to focus on what is important in any given edit session. I don't know about everyone else, but sometimes I get into Lightroom with the intent of editing client work, and the next thing I know, I have two hours invested in a personal photo project. With two separate catalogs, I would have to load my personal projects catalog to see those photos, making it more difficult to get distracted.


  • Keeps your paid work and personal work separated, making it easier to focus on either work or    play.
  • Smaller, more manageable catalogs.


  • requires you to load a separate catalog.



One great way to separate your photos is by the category of the photos. For example, you could create a catalog that holds all of your landscape photos, one for your portraits, one for your family photos and so on. This will help to keep your catalogs organized in such a way that it will make finding photos of a specific type much easier.


  • Easily find your photos based on their category.
  • Catalogs Stay at smaller, more manageable sizes.


  • Multiple catalogs to keep track of.



This one is pretty self explanatory. New year equals new catalog. This will allow for more manageable sized “Catch All” catalogs separated by year.


  • Catalogs neatly separated by year.
  • Smaller catalogs.


  • Still has the same cons as a "Catch All" catalog.


LR Cataloging Post


As you can see, there are many different ways to catalog your photos in Lightroom. The ideas I mentioned are just a small sampling of the many ways you can catalog your photos. The way you catalog your photos is really up to you and what best fits your needs. Share your cataloging workflow with us in the comments below.

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Previous comments

organize all my catalogs by subject and year and filename everything by date and photoshoot. catalogs example: Wedding 2013, Surfing 2013, personal 2013 filename all files are converted to .dng and are reference files on an external HD.

This article is too simplistic.