I use Lightroom as the title suggests. My question is about the use of catalogs and how often people use a catalog before starting a new one.

It seems that the more photos I import into Lightroom the slower Lightroom will work.

Also do people use more than one catalog at a time: use one for certain photos and another for different photos switching back and forth depending on what photos go where to organize more than just using collection and collection sets. This is my way of organizing my photos with collection and collection sets. So is it a good idea to often start new catalogs and if so when is a good time to start a new one? I.e. generally about many photos would be in one catalog before making a new one?

  • 1
    It is really up to you on if multiple catalogs makes sense. Do you shoot professionally? Maybe each client is its own catalog. Do you shoot extremely high volume? Etc. there are reasons of course that's why the functionality exists.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 2 '15 at 1:58

Lightroom 4 and older the general advice was to limit the size of a catalog because it would get slow and sluggish. The size limit varied, but 20-25K seems a good general consensus depending on the hardware you're running it on.

Lightroom 5 fixed those problems. I've been running a catalog with 40,000 images in it fine. If you're running on old, slow hardware or limited RAM, you may run into problems, of course, but the issues inside of Lightroom itself seem to be gone.

It's a good idea to optimize the catalog; you can set prefs to do that on a regular basis (and make backups!) -- I do that weekly.

  • Do you have any official references for these claims? Not that I don't trust you... :)
    – dpollitt
    Jan 2 '15 at 1:57
  • No, not really. I had LR 4 and older with over 100k images and performance didn't suffer. Anecdotal evidence doesn't count for much from either me OR you. Official references will hold much more weight.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 2 '15 at 2:31
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    Actually using the software not good enough? Well, Piet Van Den Eynde (author of various craft and vision books on Lightroom) said as much in his lecture at Created Image 2 in Vancouver in 2014 (video here, not free: craftandvision.com/collections/all/products/…) -- his is well over 100K images. also some good info on this here: mosaicarchive.com/2014/02/26/…
    – chuqui
    Jan 2 '15 at 2:33
  • (apologies, deleted a comment that was a premature save while I went and grabbed some more data on this)
    – chuqui
    Jan 2 '15 at 2:34
  • Hmmm thanks for the references but the "average" catalog size doesn't tell me much about performance by catalog size(via Mosaic). And the other link as you noted I don't have $50 for atm haha. I do think that something via Adobe would be the most trustworthy in this case but who knows.
    – dpollitt
    Jan 2 '15 at 2:37

I shoot horse shows.... I use a new catalog for every event, mainly due to keywording issues, but also for safety (so I don't accidentally make global changes to my entire library instead of just the folder I'm working.)

But once I'm done actively working on the event it gets rolled into a master catalog for order fulfillment.

There ARE speed issues with big catalogs, but they're edge issues, not everyday for most people. One that was very noticeable to me was many-item text searches. Sometimes I star (choose keepers) remotely via a web app I made. It returns a list of file numbers for 2-star, a list of file numbers for 3-star, etc. So I plug that list of hundreds of file numbers into the text search field. On a 4,000 image catalog it takes a few seconds. On my main 100,000 image catalog I tried it just for fun and it took over a minute. But that's a 100% database intensive task, something you almost never encounter in Lightroom.


I once ran into the issue that LR considered new images as duplicates and refused to import them. This can happen if you replace a folder with images by some other folder with the same name containing image files with the same names.

This, at least for me, resulted in very strange behavior like LR refusing to import the new images, but showing them in place of the old ones in the library.

Creating a new catalog fixed that.

When should I (if at all) start a new Lightroom catalog?

When something goes wrong and you want to start from scratch, without messing up previous work.

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