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I'm a person who takes too many photos. Thus, the volume of photos is so high that I have no chance of storing them all in one place (8 TBs and counting). Thus, what I want is to save the initial batch of photos on external hard disks and then choose the keepers and copy them to a network share, so I have them always available without having to attach the right external drive. Even though the keepers are strictly speaking recoverable from the external drives, I want the copy on the network share to be the "source of truth" that I then use for further tagging, editing, and developing photos (as I want to be able to do all that without having the external drive attached), as if I had deleted all the non-keepers (which I can't do psychologically, I just have to have all photos archived somewhere).

How can I do this in Lightroom? Can I create one big catalog that has the initial files on external disks and the copies of the keepers on the network share? Or should I create two catalogs. One for just picking the keepers from the external disk and copying them over to the network share, and then another one that doesn't know about the external disks and only indexes the keepers on the network share, where I then do my tagging and developing?

I heard that you just should have one catalog, but given the sheer amount of photos (400k+), even the 1:1 previous (which I need to quickly sort out the photos) take up so much space that this is starting to become infeasible.

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I would first download the photos to the external drives outside of LR. Then select and copy the keepers from the external drives to the network drive using LR's import function. Since it sounds like these drives are for backup storage, I would just label them.

LR will not make copies to other drives after import. One single catalogue option is to have LR import all of the files to both locations using the "make a second copy" option. You would then have to sort/delete the unwanted files from the network drive. This does not really provide any advantage over the first option as LR does not track the second copy. To get that functionality you would need to add the external drives (second copy location) to the folder structure and re-import the files; re-synchronizing the folder(s) after any changes (additional imports). Or you could always just do two import cycles... you are anyway.

If you want to easily keep track of the files on the external drives using keywords applied during import, then you can use two catalogues; one for the external drives using LR to import the files to initially. And a second to import the keepers from the external drives.

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