I have a fairly large Lightroom catalog that I want to keep on an external hard drive to preserve space on my Macbook hard drive, as well as keeping originals backed up to Dropbox.

Are there any recommended workflows?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm slightly confused by the question - I'm a PC/Linux user, but the process should be mainly the same for a Mac. If I understand correctly, you have your Lightroom catalog in the default location, and the Dropbox folder in the default location, and you want the two to be synced. If that's false, please correct me. If it's true, you have two choices - in-software options to move either Lightroom to Dropbox or the other way around, or out-of-software options to either sync two folders or link them. I can provide links for any one of those options, if that's what you need! \$\endgroup\$
    – Jake
    Apr 21, 2016 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've just updated the description – missed the key part about storing originals on an external Hard drive to minimise use of storage space on computer hard drive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Apr 22, 2016 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm still slightly confused about what data is where, but the good news is that there are definitely solutions to your problem. It seems like you have two datasets, and two locations - the Lightroom catalog files, which are on your main drive, and the actual JPG's (or RAW files, or whatever) on your external hard drive. You want that exact setup on a second computer, completely synced, using DropBox. Is that right? (Or, rereading your question, perhaps you don't need the second computer - you just want both datasets in DropBox?) \$\endgroup\$
    – Jake
    Apr 22, 2016 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ How large is your catalog? \$\endgroup\$
    – knb
    Aug 23, 2016 at 19:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @knb - about 45GB \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 3, 2017 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


It sounds like what you want is to be able to use lightroom and your images on different machines and have them sync by having all of your image files on an external drive and your Lightroom catalog in Dropbox, then...

You can simply copy your Lightroom catalog file (someFileName.lrcat) into your dropbox folder. If you then open Lightroom by holding down the option key when you click on the Lightroom icon, it will ask you for a catalog file to open. Navigate to and open the catalog file now located in your dropbox folder.

This is all that is really necessary. As long as you make sure that you close Lightroom on one machine before opening Lightroom on the other, you can now move your external drive between machines and open Lightroom on either one to edit the files. You should have the folder path to the external drive the same on each machine, but, if you can't, it's pretty quick and easy to find the files again in Lightroom.

As long as you close Lightroom on one machine before opening it on the other, all of your edits will be available on each machine.

A more detailed explanations is available at: http://www.diyphotography.net/dropbox-lightroom-catalog-sync-set/

  • \$\begingroup\$ So would you recommend importing all photos in to Lightroom and using that as the tool of choice for managing my library? Currently I only have a selection of my library imported, with the rest stored on Dropbox but not synced to my machine (to save hard disk space). \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Mar 3, 2017 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes (he said many years later) I would have all my photos in Lightroom and use smart previews to allow me to view them and edit them even though they were on an unconnected external drive or in cloud storage that I might not always be able to access. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 19, 2019 at 23:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.