what’s the best way for me to get my image management under control using light room 5. Provided I have two separate external drives with loads of folders and photos on each.

also i have a few shoots on my SD card i want to import.

Limited because i have only Mac book air to work with my hard drive is 128Gig, hence it seems best if my image files are stored across both external drives as copies for redundancy.

what should my work flow look like and what would i require for future imports and working with any of my images in LR. will i need both hard drives attached to my laptop to use the images? Would I be able to work on images on my laptop while not connected- this would be ideal?

(I read enough to know the catalogue should also be backed up, like images)

Edit. I have two drives with different images. An alternative I think may work better is making the two external drive have all my images hence providing redundancy. Then import all images from one drive. I can keep a months shoots on my local drive and move images monthly to the external drives. All the while being able to edit with full features - any downsides here?

  • \$\begingroup\$ "DSLR Workflow with ultrabooks" doesnt address on how to sue lightroom. i want to keep everythign on the mac book and dont have a main pc. i also should be able to get images off a card and onto two drives for backup. \$\endgroup\$
    – kacalapy
    Oct 29, 2013 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


It is unclear if your external hard drives have the same sets of data, or different. I am assuming different data in my answer. If they are the same you can exclude steps 7-10.

Workflow Steps:

  1. Download the images from the SD memory card to your laptop.
  2. Move the newly downloaded images to one of the external hard drives.
  3. Connect the first external hard drive to your laptop, and turn on Lightroom.
  4. Build a new catalog in Lightroom with all of the images from the first hard drive using the import functionality of Lightroom. I would pay close attention to what size previews are being generated as a default, and instead use the next step for this.
  5. Create Smart Previews of images on the first external hard drive as deemed necessary.
  6. Disconnect the first external hard drive.
  7. Connect the second external hard drive to your laptop, and turn on Lightroom.
  8. Import the images from the second external hard drive to the same catalog created above. I would pay close attention to what size previews are being generated as a default, and instead use the next step for this.
  9. Create Smart Previews of images on the second external hard drive as deemed necessary.
  10. Disconnect the second external hard drive.
  11. When you have new images to import, connect whichever external hard drive you wish and download the images to them. You can optionally import to lightroom simultaneously or as a separate step. Same as for Smart Previews.

See Also:


  • You do not need both external hard drives attached at the same time unless you want to be looking at the originals of files that are located on each one, at the same time essentially.
  • When considering backup, having only a single copy of each picture on one external hard drive is certainly NOT a backup. That is a single point of failure and you almost certainly will incur that at some point. I would suggest off site backup using cloud storage or at a very minimum a second hard drive that is used to store a second copy(not just the original). A backup strategy also must consider accidental deletion or corruption of files, which I don't see as part of a single external hard drive strategy.
  • Your system has no redundancy unless you do in fact have two copies of each image on separate external hard drives.
  • Smart Previews in LightRoom 5 were essentially developed exactly for your use case, or a very similar one where a professional photographer is on the road and making edits - but syncs back to a home server or similar once done traveling. I would advise you strongly to utilize this very powerful tool.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Got me thinking... \$\endgroup\$
    – kacalapy
    Oct 29, 2013 at 22:35

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