Over the years I have built up a disparate collection of both JPEGs, RAWs and RAW+JPEG from various different cameras, which are currently organised on disk by camera model and then date/event etc. I now shoot mainly RAW only, but sometimes at events such as motorsport I switch to JPEG only. My wife's photos (all JPEG) are also part of this collection.

I also have some images which are waiting to be HDR'd or form parts of as-yet unmade panoramas (in both RAW and JPEG).

I've recently purchased Lightroom 4.1, mainly so that I can reprocess my RAWs, but I really like the features that allow me to catalogue images into collections, add keywords etc. So, it's time to do some reorganising.

Ultimately, I want all the existing JPEGs and postprocesed RAW images (as JPEGs) on my home NAS so that the whole family have access. Lightroom will only be installed on my personal machine, so I really want a seperate method for the family to browse/search the 'finished' images on the NAS. I will need a method to search the NAS 'library' by various tags/metadata, but this can't be Lightroom as explained.

My initial thinking is to have two different Lightroom catalogues - one only for RAW images and another for only JPEGs. For my RAWs, I will rename/caption/tag as I import or develop then export to a folder from where I can Import to my LR "JPEG" catalogue. For all my existing JPEG-only images, I will import these only to the JPEG catalogue and add tags etc.

I would then synchronise my 'finished' JPEG folder structure to the NAS. How much of the tag/metadata information that I've added in LR will be stored in the JPEG file? Will it be readable by other software?

Or am I going about this in entirely the wrong way?

All thoughts and comments gratefully received. Sorry for the long (perhaps rambling?) post!


  • \$\begingroup\$ Could this be answered by photo.stackexchange.com/a/19370/7566 ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Aug 16, 2012 at 8:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Mike. In part, yes. I like the idea of handling RAWs independently. The question remains, will LR pick up the metadata/tags etc. from my JPEG exports from raw when importing into the 'jpeg master' catalogue, and how much of that data will be stored in the actual jpeg file (for potential access by other software and tools). \$\endgroup\$
    – Derek
    Aug 16, 2012 at 8:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you export the JPG you have the option to keep all EXIF, all except location, copyright only, or none (I think). If you ensure to keep all EXIF then all metadata such as tags etc will remain. However history of changes of course will be lost. I'm still not sure why you want a LR cat of just JPG images though - add your keywords etc at time of importing the original RAW's and they will be baked into the JPG. Just point your export folder location to your shared NAS folder. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Aug 16, 2012 at 8:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Many of my older images are JPG only, so are effectively 'finished product'. I generally won't want to edit them further, but want to catalog them. In my mind, it feels 'right' to keep them away from those which have RAW sources. In my film days, I used to keep negatives filed separately from the prints, so I suppose I'm using the same analogy of 'unprocessed film and negs in the darkroom and the finished prints in indexed albums'. The JPG-only catalog is the indexed album set. I'm a newbie to LR, and very open to suggestions that could clear my perhaps cluttered mind! \$\endgroup\$
    – Derek
    Aug 16, 2012 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


A Lightroom catalog is simply a database, but one that contains only metadata, not photos. Lightroom doesn't care where your photos are nor how they are arranged on the harddrives. So having two catalogs provides no separation between JPEG and RAW, since the images are not in the catalog. To my mind, having two catalogs will only create issues, and get in the way of managing and processing your images, as you will have to open and close catalogs and 'remember' which you are in.

One workflow altering change that LR brings to photoproccessing is that JPEGs are completely disposable. There is no need to keep them. Since LR does not alter the RAW file, and keeps processing "recipe" history, you can create a JPEG, identical to the last JPEG, anytime you like. You can create unlimited virtual images, each with a slightly different configuration, and create different JPEGs on a whim. I found this both frightening and ultimately liberating. As a result, I no longer save or catalog JPEG, as they are redundant. I create JPEGs to put in iPhoto for family viewing, or on harddrive for sharing or posting on Smugmug, but I don't save them in LR, since they are no different than the RAW images + Processing.

Rather than reimporting JPEG back into LR, which is easy to do, I recommend you leverage LR 4's Publish facility. Rather than Export, you Publish images to your NAS. Of course, technically, this creates JPEG (or whatever you choose) and saves it to the chosen directory on the NAS, but it does not create a separate image record in your LR catalog. At any time, you can see a view of what has been Published to this NAS from LR, which essentially shows all the JPEGs, arranged in folders, etc. This does not store the image in LR, nor does it re-catalog the image...it is simply a record of where the image was Published. Critically, any change to the image: tags, keywords or even processing, triggers the corresponding image to be Re-Published, simply awaiting your approval. This means if you change a tag or keyword, you don't have to re-export to the appropriate directory or even remember where it goes...you simply Republish, LR does the remembering for you.

In the Library Module, scroll down on the left hand side to Publish Services. Click on Hard Drive, and follow the setup dialog box, then drag a few images to the Publish location. Give it a whirl.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Certainly something I would adopt for any RAWs I take from now on. But, what do I do with my existing images for which I have only JPEGs, and what would I do with any new JPEG-only images (e.g. I shoot JPEG only at motorsport events for faster FPS). Would you suggest that I don't use LR at all to catalog/categorise images for which I have JPEG only and no corresponding RAW? \$\endgroup\$
    – Derek
    Aug 17, 2012 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, just import your existing JPEG into LR, no need for a separate catalog. Publish will allow you to sync existing images on the NAS so that they will be listed as Published (at least the Jeffery Freidl plugin will) \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Aug 17, 2012 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Derek: You should also look into smart collections. With a single catalog, you have a lot of ways to organize your photos. You can easily tag all JPEG's as 'jpeg', and have a smart collection that uses that tag to filter your entire catalog. You could also simply put the JPEG photos in a different folder on disk, which you then include in the catalog...allowing you one-click access to all the manually organized JPEGs on disk. Trying to use multiple catalogs for organization with import/export/import is a lot of work when Lightroom can organize for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Sep 16, 2012 at 19:31

Any tags/keywords/exif information in Lightroom can be exported with your pictures. This information is searchable with a normal file browser, such as Windows Explorer.

However do note that you do not need to export to add the keywords. LR will add keywords to the original JPG when you add the keyword, so no need to re-export it.

I am not sure why you would want two separate catalogs. I would import the JPGs from the NAS straight in to LR, add the tags. The tags would then be searchable by you in LR but also anyone browsing the pictures in a normal file browser. If you want to keep them separate from your RAWs it is easy to use the filtered views of LR to keep them apart. But the same workflow would work if you use two separate catalogs.

EDIT: Not every file browser can access all the information inside the JPG files, but from my experience usually the Keywords, Title and Caption are searchable/readable. Maybe not all other exif information.


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