As my Lightroom catalog grows there are some photographs I would like to preserve, but where I don't need all the editing latitude offered by RAW.

I know I can convert them to DNG, but are there other options that allow me export directly from Lightroom? I would like to avoid export/reimport as the files are located in several folders. What all files do have in common is a low rating.

There are possible duplicates in here and here, but they do not provide answers for converting in-place.

  • \$\begingroup\$ After some experimenting with lossy DNG compression, it seems to reduce file size to roughly 1/3 with almost no visual degradation. This is not bad at all, but I would not mind suffering loss of some detail to reduce the file size further. Something along the lines of 1/10 would be ideal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Henrik
    Dec 29, 2012 at 11:07
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Your requirement around not having to export or reimport isn't going to happen with Lightroom. Or as you called it"convering in-place". As far as I know this isn't possible, but I could be proven wrong. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Dec 29, 2012 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ The files I would like to compress are not in a single folder. If it is possible to export and re-import without losing the folder structure that would by good enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Henrik
    Dec 30, 2012 at 8:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ what you are asking as 1/10 compression comes with jpg @HenrikHelmers , and if you optimise the levels and hls they are not problematic for post process capabilities. About what you demand, you can do this in a long way through bridge and photoshop as far as I know, which will also take a bit of a time. Also reimport is necessary. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2013 at 9:52

2 Answers 2


Lightroom doesn't store a copy of your photo in its catalog. It stores the metadata and previews of your image. Essentially, it grabs the jpeg preview, shooting info etc, and creates its own higher resolution jpeg, but leaves the image file untouched. So, there really is no reason to remove photos from the catalog. What takes up room on the hard drive is the image file itself, which Lightroom does not alter or 'import'.

If you want to reduce the size of your LR catalog, or perhaps store away some older images, the easiest thing to do would be to 'Export to catalog', in which LR puts that image data into a separate catalog, removing the info from the main catalog. So, if you want to move the images to a DVD or to a separate harddrive, you simply move them in LR, then "Export to catalog". You can even move the catalog file onto the separate harddrive, and store it all away for later.

Now, after considering all that, if you truly wish to use LR to create a jpeg file to replace the RAW file to save space, the simplest thing to do is the following:

  1. In Lightroom Preferences>General, check the box that says "Treat jpeg files next to raw as separate files'
  2. Select all the images you wish to convert.
  3. Choose Export. Select Export Location as "Same folder as original photo". Export as jpeg
  4. When complete, in the Folders view of Library, right click on the next higher level of the Export location drive. (Example: if you are converting images in your Photos\2009\Jan\ folder, choose \2009). Choose "Synchronize folder". This will import all your new jpeg files into the catalog, in their existing folders.
  5. In Library, choose the higher level folder, then filter for raw files only. Delete, removing from catalog, and hard drive. This removes the raw files, leaving only jpeg files.
  6. If you no longer wish to have the jpeg in the LR catalog, export jpeg to a catalog, or remove from LR catalog, leaving the files on the harddrive.

Now you have jpeg replacements of the raw files, in the same folders as the raw were originally.


If you perform regular lightroom catalog backups, it is very likely that the backups of your catalog themselves are taking up space. I back up my catalog every time I exit LR, and currently the backups of just the catalog are taking up 16.7GB of space. You can simply delete the backups, or delete the oldest ones (each is stored in its own dated folder), to recover some space.

A larger space consumer than the catalog backups, however, are the previews. Lightroom generates previews for every image imported. If you store full 1:1 preview, there are numerous smaller sizes as well, used for various parts of LR's interface. Previews can take up an immense amount of space. There have been times when my Previews.lrdata folder was over 250gb in size. You can delete this entire folder (after exiting lightroom) to recover space. It will be automatically recreated, and will grow in size again as you continue to import photos. It can be a significant source of space savings, though.


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