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The Issue

I'm trying to figure out if there is an established way of managing RAW files across devices when using Lightroom. I am aware of Lightroom's cloud sync, but unless I'm misunderstanding how it works, firstly it only applies to images added to a Collection, and secondly I don't know if it syncs the full RAW file or just a cut down version?

My Workflow

It may help if I explain my workflow and the problems I'm having at the moment:

When I travel, I take lots of photos, and on a daily basis I'll load them onto my laptop, as well as backing them up onto a portable USB drive. The laptop copies I'll import to Lightroom, and may edit some files and publish these to Instagram via Dropbox export to my mobile phone. (The laptop has its own Lightroom catalog.)

On returning home, I generally copy all of the trip photos onto my main PC from the portable drive (not the laptop). I don't copy the catalog over, so I don't retain the edits I made during the trip (they're still on the laptop though).

Most images I only edit back at home, so this is only an issue for the small percentage of photos I publish to Instagram during the trip. But nevertheless, should I lose the data on my laptop, those edits are gone for good.

One YouTube video suggested storing the Lightroom catalog itself on Dropbox (or Creative Cloud), but this doesn't work for me, because the RAW files are not located in the same folder between my PC and laptop, so when I open the catalog it complains about missing RAW files.

Solution I'm Looking For

To summarize, I want a solution where both my edits and RAW files are kept in sync between laptop and PC. The RAW files could be sync'd manually I suppose, but they won't necessarily be in the same folder path between devices.

Or, does the built-in cloud sync already do this and I'm just an idiot?! Would this mean adding all my photos to a collection to get them to sync?

(PS - I've checked existing questions but not found one that seems to handle my specific situation.)

  • Have you considered the option in LR to save edit instructions in the metadata of the image file itself rather than in a sidecar XMP file? Then it would be a fairly simple procedure to copy the files directly from the notebook to your desktop (via ethernet)? – Michael C Jul 30 '18 at 17:15
  • What operating system(s) are you using? – null Jul 30 '18 at 21:43
  • I'm a Windows user. – Will Appleby Jul 31 '18 at 6:03
  • @MichaelClark, I hadn't considered that. Would it affect the RAW files in some way? I thought the benefit of Lightroom was it left the RAW files intact and applied the edits separately? – Will Appleby Jul 31 '18 at 6:04
  • It's still non-destructive. All of the editing info is placed in metadata read by LR the next time you open the file. The actual sensor data is not changed. – Michael C Jul 31 '18 at 8:04
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One YouTube video suggested storing the Lightroom catalog itself on Dropbox (or Creative Cloud), but this doesn't work for me, because the RAW files are not located in the same folder between my PC and laptop, so when I open the catalog it complains about missing RAW files.

If the folder structure doesn't change and you just have it sitting at a different place, you can redirect lightroom to that new place, here's how:

First, let's assume there's an imported image located at Z:\laptop:

(sorry for the German there, couldn't find out how to get rid of that quickly) enter image description here

Now the picture is moved to Z:\other place and as you already noticed, LR complains about that:

enter image description here

But if you right click on the old laptop folder on the left, you'll find a useful entry in the context menu Update Folder Location.... In the dialog, choose the new location (Z:\other place in this example)

enter image description here

And then everything should be fine again, the folder switches to the new location and the exclamation mark disapears:

enter image description here

  • But if I update the image on my other device, and the catalog then saves to the cloud (Dropbox/Creative Cloud), won't I then have the same problem going back to the main device? It sounds like your solution I would have to update the folder location each time I open the app on a different machine, which isn't ideal (though certainly a solution). – Will Appleby Jul 30 '18 at 21:16
  • @WillAppleby yes, you'd have to update the location where the catalog should look for whenever that location changes. I understand that this is not ideal. i posted this as a workaround for the possible solution I quoted. – null Jul 30 '18 at 21:39

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