I use Jeffrey's "Export to Flickr" plugin to keep my catalog synced with Flickr. All my raw photo files are stored on a NAS and when I want to edit photos while away from home I use smart previews. I'm looking for a way to export from Flickr to Lightroom when away from home with minimal modifications to my workflow.

Ideally I'd like to create a physical copy of my photo on my laptop's hard drive while keeping only one entry in my Lightroom catalog. In some way it would be the opposite of a virtual copy. After multiple attempt trying to find an answer I concluded it is not possible.

I thought at the following workaround to do it:

  • Export using smartpreviews and upload a better resolution later when back home. I haven't tested it and I wonder would the quality of the picture good enough for web viewing?
  • Export to JPEG before leaving home and upload manually to Flickr. Then when back home sync the catalog with Flickr. The main cons for me is that when exporting with Jeffrey's plugin everything is configured to add metadata automatically to the photo: title, description, tags, albums and groups.
  • Move the catalog entry to my laptop's disk, copy back the photo to the NAS. Once back home delete the copy on the laptop and tell Lightroom the file is on the NAS.

I'm probably going to test all of these solutions but I want to know either if I've missed something in Lightroom or if there is another workaround I haven't thought about. Also right now publishing a photo on Flickr is one drag and drop and a button click and I'm aiming at keeping this publishing workflow as simple as possible.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You want to export the images you uploaded to Flickr and import them to Lightroom? Why? Don't you still have the images? If you are using smart previews, don't you have the edit history either in the catalog or in xmps? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 0:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dpollitt Contrary to the official Flickr publishing service Jeffrey's Export to Flickr plugin allow you to sync your catalog with your Flickr account. It means that it remembers which photos have been uploaded. When you modify a photo or its metadata in Lightroom and republish the photo, it will replace the old one instead of uploading a new photo. \$\endgroup\$
    – maelick
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 2:47

3 Answers 3


I'm assuming from the rest of your question that you actually want to export from Lightroom to Flickr away from home, not the other way around.

I did a lot of research on this particular problem when I set up my workflow. You really nailed the crux of the challenge with this statement:

Ideally I'd like to create a physical copy of my photo on my laptop's hard drive while keeping only one entry in my Lightroom catalog.

As far as I'm concerned that is the right way to do it. Every other method I have tried introduces a bunch of messy error-prone busy-work into the Lightroom workflow. What you need is a system that allows you to select which raw files from your network storage are available offline. The only robust and transparent implementation of that feature I found is Windows Offline Files.

Windows Offline Files really is brilliant for this purpose: You just select "make available offline" in file explorer for the network-attached files or folders that you want to keep a physical copy of while you're away from your network storage. The Offline Files sync system then copies those files to its cache on your hard drive. There's a UI for syncing so you can monitor the syncing in the same way that you'd monitor, say, Dropbox sync. Here's what my raw picture folders look like in file explorer when I'm away from network storage:

enter image description here

Those folder icons show that the raw files from my "Europe 2013" trip are physically on my laptop's hard drive while the X beside "Europe 2004" indicates that the raw files from that trip are not. Lightroom just shows the "Europe 2004" images as unavailable with an exclamation mark in the top-right corner when I'm away from the network storage:

enter image description here

The same pictures automatically become available in Lightroom when the laptop is connected to network storage again. The "Europe 2013" raw files are always fully available in Lightroom as you'd expect since they were "made available offline".

The other (perhaps more important) advantage of using Offline Files is storing newly-shot photos. After shooting and while still in the field I simply copy the raw files from the flash card to the disconnected network folder on my laptop. Offline Files puts those files in its cache on the laptop's hard drive. I can then edit those photos immediately and forget about any further management of the raw files: The raw files are synchronized to the network storage automatically the next time the laptop is connected to the network storage.

I'm pretty sure you'll need a Windows Server hosting your files for Offline Files to work. If you've got terabytes of image files you'll likely need a proper server anyway to robustly implement backups and archives of those files.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I forgot to mention that I'm not a Windows user. I just moved from Linux to Mac OS X mainly for Lightroom and I could not live anymore without an OS based on Unix. Anyway your answer is exactly what I needed, now I just need to find an equivalent for OS X. \$\endgroup\$
    – maelick
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ "now I just need to find an equivalent for OS X." - I'm really curious whether you find a robust equivalent. The fundamental problem is that sync between the client OS and file server need to be supported by the publisher of both which really means the publisher of the client and server sides need to be the same. We're talking about syncing source files and if something goes wrong enough you'll lose data. I'm pretty confident the sync can't be done safely with only client-side software. \$\endgroup\$
    – alx9r
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 4:03

You can not export from smart previews, because there is nothing to export: you need the original files for Lightroom to create JPEG.

Lightroom can't work with multiple instances of the same image. However, you can use a few Lightroom supported features to get some of what I think you want.

First, if you want to temporarily take some of your Lightroom catalog and images with you on your laptop, you simply need to use Lightroom's Export as Catalog function. Choose the images you wish to take with you (presumably not the entire catalog), then select File>Export as Catalog. Choose to include the negatives, and give your Catalog a name, saving it to your Laptop. Lightroom will create a Catalog on your laptop, and put all the original images in a nearby folder. To use it, just double-click on the Catalog file to open Lightroom.

You can also import new images into this temporary Catalog on your laptop, even uploading them to Flickr. When you return home, you simply reverse the process: Open your NAS-based image Lightroom Catalog, then choose File>Import from Another Catalog. Choose the images, and all your metadata, edits, and the images will move to your main Catalog and NAS.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why couldn't you export a smartpreview? If you can see and edit them it means there is data to create a picture. There is a loss compared to the raw file but there is something. Also Jeffrey's export plugins have options to prevent uploading smartpreviews with low resolutions... \$\endgroup\$
    – maelick
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Smart preview is a preview, not an image file. Lightroom works by taking the editing recipe, and playing it back at time of export, using the original image file. Give it a try: create a smart preview, disconnect from the NAS, and try exporting. \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Tried it and it worked as I thought... What is a a preview if not an image. The export created a smaller version of the full-size image (5Mpx instead of 24). It's still good enough for web use and I can upload the full-size later. Coming from Adobe blog at blogs.adobe.com/jkost/2013/04/…: "Finally, not only can use Smart Previews to Develop images when they’re off-line, you are also able to use them in the Publish Services panel [...] and Export them as JPEG." \$\endgroup\$
    – maelick
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 10:18

I'm not 100% sure of your intentions, but try Mylio.

The salient feature of Mylio is synching folders to other devices. So say you have FolderX on your laptop; it would synch everything from that folder to FolderX on your NAS. Not only that, you can choose to synch full sized RAWs, or previews, or thumbnails. And different folders and so on; kinda like watched folders.

That same FolderX on your laptop is obviously imported into Lr as well. Say it has foo.dng, as a preview, synched with your NAS. You edit foo.dng, and save the edits to the metadata. Then when you fire up Mylio at home, it syncs those Lr edits to foo.dng on the NAS, the full-sized one. So it's sort of a Mac solution like the Windows one mentioned. And Mylio itself can make edits that Lr can read, including image adjustments. It might help.


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