This is a rather open ended question. I realize that everyone's workflow is different, and there are no ultimate solutions that work for everyone, but I would like to ask you for advice about storing exported (JPG) files in Lightroom alongside the main (RAW) file.

I've always struggled with coming up a good solution for this problem. Let me summarize.

  1. Photos I have have been taken with multiple cameras. Point-and-shoots, cellphone cameras, DSLRs as JPG and finally, DLSRs as RAWs.
  2. I generally work on RAW files and export them to JPG, although, there is a backlog of RAW files that have not been edited yet.
  3. I also edit some JPGs, if there is no RAW version of the same file.
  4. I want to be able to browse the photos quickly. Generally, I found exported JPGs faster than corresponding RAW files (even if exported in max quality)

The current state is that if there are RAW files, I store them in a subfolder titled 'RAW' inside the main folder. For example 'Botanic Garden/RAW'. Then when I am done correcting the RAW photos, I export them to the main folder (Botanic Garden).

This works, because most of the time I can easily figure out what has been exported and what has not.

The main weakness of this solution is that I don't take advantage of the LR feature that groups pairs of images (RAW + JPG) and treats them as one. And my catalog shows twice as many images as there really are! (Terrible for storing full size previews!)

I hope I described my problem clearly. Please let me know if you've had similar problems and how you solved it.

EDIT: I found this: handy solution, that would work if I chose to get rid of all exported JPGs. Let me know if this is what you would recommend.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Why not take advantage of the feature that groups pairs of images? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Historically - because I started using LR only a few weeks ago, but I've been organizing my files the way I described it for years. I don't have anything against the grouping feature. I imagine this is why it's even there. The question rather should be - why even export files to JPG? Maybe I should rather generate high def full size previews and only keep RAW? What is the 'best' LR way of achieving the same goal - ease of presentation, with minimum effort? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


Personally, I consider my LR library only a place for my originals. Be they RAW, JPEG, or TIFFs of scans I’ve made. They all get brought into LR, tagged as much as possible, and processed.

If processing is done outside of LR, I will bring this edited image back into my library (unless automatically done so by some plugin) as a separate instance and therefore a completely separate original. So, now I have two copies of my original, it’s just that one is processed differently. I think of this in the same way I create a “virtual copy” or “snapshot” in LR directly.

As far as images that I explicitly use the “export” command for, I have gone the route that any exported image is destined for something other than my local file storage because that’s what I have LR for…I can always re-export images and do so all the time. Yay for export presets!

Once the exported image is sent where it needs to be (e.g. 500px, G+, Flickr, etc.) it promptly gets deleted from my hard drive!

Lastly, I have made sure that my default export folder configured in LR is a place that resides at the root level of my LR library folder. For example, my storage structure is:

Image Vault (root folder)

------ Image Exports

------ 2010

------------ Mt. Everest

------ 2011

------------ Bot Gardens

------------ Family

------ 2012

------------ Bot Gardens

----------- Landscapes

This way, I know that my backup procedures will capture anything within the exports folder in case I don’t have time to upload images from here and suffer a hardware failure.

Edit: I don’t use the feature in LR for exporting directly to places like Flickr because I’ve found it to be slow, unreliable, and doesn’t give me the level of control I want. This is just my personal preference and I believe others can utilize this feature with success.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I like the approach you take - getting rid of exports as soon as they reach their destination. Also keeping exports in the same root folder for easier backup is something that makes a lot of sense. I think I should do the same and use LR as primary storage for originals. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. The LR folder structure keeps the masters and is the primary backup. However, I also export to another folder structure and import into Elements which is my primary 'archive' for tagging, etc. This gets backed up too, but not everywhere and not always because I can always re-export. \$\endgroup\$
    – AngerClown
    Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 3:05

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