After processing my RAW files in Lightroom, I often export JPGs to give to people or to post online. I create these files in a directory structure under an \Export top level directory. I'm trying to decide whether it is good practice to add these files to my Lightroom catalog (or perhaps create a separate catalog just for exported files).

I'm kinda hesitant to add them to my main catalog, as I don't know that I need to ever make changes to them, and I can always recreate them from the original (plus non-destructive mods stored in the Catalog for the RAW files).

On the other hand, it might be handy to have all your output files in a Catalog so they can be searched/sorted quickly and easily.

(A related question might be: should I even keep exported files once they've been delivered/sent/posted?)

I realize there are arguments to be made, and there probably isn't a "correct" answer, so this may be too subjective, but I think the arguments themselves are valid and useful to others. The "correct" answer may be different for each person.

6 Answers 6


Personally I would say no , do not import back into Lightroom. As you say - you have the originals. And Lightroom does show you by default the 'latest version', so effectively, what you have exported. Just with the option to go back, edit, change, etc..

What I do is have a Lightroom Exports folder with my exported JPG files. I do not clear this out because it is for me, the consolidation of all my photographic work. A collection of all the stuff I felt 'worthy'. My picks of my pics if you will.

This Exports folder then is set up to sync with my iPhone and iPad, so wherever I go, I have a portfolio of my best images ready to show anyone who is interested.

Keep Lightroom for your RAW files, and exported JPG's elsewhere.

Just my humble opinion mind ;-)

  • I completely agree. This makes absolute sense.
    – Mark J P
    Jan 23, 2012 at 22:38

Sean! This is a great question, because Lightroom will do exactly what you want already(I think)! I would take a look at the "Publish Services" option in Lightroom. The entire point of Publish Services is to let you export in a much smarter way, with the ability to keep track of the images and even manage them when they are located outside of Lightroom.

The beauty of it is that they basically have plugins already that let you publish to common services such as Flickr or Facebook, but if you want to customize it you have the option to just use your hard drive as the Publish Services too.

To specifically answer your question, no I wouldn't add the images back in, just publish them!

  • 1
    Interesting. I have Lightroom V2.7, which only has a Web publishing tool (as far as I can tell). I just bought Lightroom V3 (before Christmas, of course, now they have Lightroom V4 in BETA!), but I will check out this option when I switch over.
    – seanmc
    Jan 20, 2012 at 14:54
  • I would urge caution when using the Lightroom Flickr plugin, it was very limited during my experience of using it with Lightroom 3. I used it briefly but found it to be lacking in features and it would not give me the control I required. I can remember making an edit to a photograph that I did not want to upload to Flickr and being stuck with an image waiting to be uploaded but without being able to remove it from the queue without deleting it from Flickr. You can work around these issues but from experience I have found it best to keep Flickr and Lightroom separate.
    – Mark J P
    Jan 23, 2012 at 22:41

I wouldn't import that back into the catalog as you then have multiple versions of the same file with possibly different names and file extensions. This is going to be incredibly messy and not fun to organize.

I export what i want to share or upload to FB/Flickr etc and then delete. One thing I do is export all images over the network to my wife's desktop so she has a copy that she can share with her friends. Also acts as a low res backup in case my drobo fails or is stolen.



  • You can search / sort the items easily
  • You have fast access to the "developed" version of the photo without having to re-export


  • Takes up additional space
  • You have multiple copies of the same photo in your catalog

I would personally not add the exported photos to the catalog as I like to only keep the original + modifications, from which I can re-export if necessary.

  • Where do export it to? Normally I export to the same folder/Edited but if I re-sync the folder it adds the jpg :/
    – fluf
    Jan 19, 2012 at 11:58

I recommend not importing the files back into Lightroom. In fact, I would recommend that you delete the exports after their use.

I typically export my Lightroom JPGs to a desktop folder I named "Lightroom Exports". I periodically delete everything in this folder.

I use Lightroom for quick access to my files. I find using using collections or filters easier than searching for files within Finder/Explorer.

If you would like to keep multiple versions of the same photo, this is what Lightroom Virtual Copies are for.

The only time I could see keeping an export is if you keep your originals on external drive and might need that export again before getting back to that external drive (for instance while traveling).

Hope that helps. Best, Gerard


If you import them back in you end up with a mess provided they are not in the same folder.

If the RAW and JPEG share the same folder (same filename as well), Lightroom will realize they are the same image. If the JPEGs however reside say in a subfolder called JPEG, Lightroom will no longer realize they are the same image - I suppose someone didn't think the function through 100% and stopped at 90% of the way....

If you then have your JPEGs and RAWs you'll be hovering over the images, trying to figure out which is the RAW and which the JPEG and it is just a mess... So personally I would say avoid importing them back in, unless they share a folder with a RAW file.

I wouldn't trust the catalogue to store any edits though... I live with XMP files - also because Lightroom won't delete those just because it doesn't find the image... but that's me. Having said that, I thus sometimes end up with multiple copies of the same RAW and an accompanying .xmp sidecar - though again one could rename just the .xmp files as they are automatically associated with the equally named RAW.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.