One thing I come across on my tutoring sessions is confusion over catalogs. What are they, were are my photos, do I need them, how many do I need or how should I organise my photo in them.
Catalogs are fundamental to Lightroom and also the most import file related to Lightroom (photos aside), but they still cause confusion.
So to answer a couple of questions.
- Catalogs are Lightrooms way of displaying your photos, by ‘overlaying’ what you see and edit in Lightroom and by creating a pointer to the photo, but showing it with your changes.
- Catalogs contains your edits to your photos, not the photos themselves, they are wherever you have placed them on your hard drives.
- Yes, you absolute need them otherwise you couldn’t use Lightroom. They are you ‘God file’ or ‘The file you can’t live without’. Without the catalog file, you would have no edited photos. So they should be backed up regularly too.
- One can have as many or as few as you feel you need, how you then need to switch between them to view different photos. EG Portrait Work in Portrait catalog, General Photo and Product catalogs.
- Your catalog file structure reflects your hard drive structure, so its good to get organised before you start. Saying that, if you use Keywords in your catalogs for your photos and make use of Smart Collections, you can massively improve a disorganised hard disk structure.
Hopefully this helps a little with understanding Lightroom Catalogs. I cover all of this in my tutoring sessions and now that I also do online tutoring, it is easy to help with your problems if you still have them.