In order to save space on my HD I create a new Lightroom catalog at the beginning of the year. With the time I also backup the photos (.NET and exported .jpg) belonging to the catalog.

However I recently had the need to reload a previous backup on my pc and all the photos were missing as they were stored in an external drive.

Hence what is the best way to organise catalogs and the relative photos in order to easily being able to work on them when needed?

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are pros and cons to any of several methods. What works best for one may not necessarily be what works best for someone else. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 23:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Lightroom catalog does not store your photos themselves - it stores only pointers to them + your edit history. This means that: 1) it is not (usually) that big to be worth splitting into years and 2) you have to backup your photos separately. A nice and still valid description is photo.stackexchange.com/questions/26285/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 6:39

1 Answer 1


Hence what is the best way to organise catalogs and the relative photos in order to easily being able to work on them when needed?

For the Lightroom catalog, set a backup to a Network Storage location every time you close the program. Setup a backup of the images happens during the import of images to the same backup location which the catalog backup is backed up to. If an image goes missing, you able to copy it from the network storage back into place on local storage. This way you can have one catalog for all your images and when your local drive starts to fill up, you are able to use Lightroom to move the files to the elsewhere without losing the link between the edits and the files.

If Lightroom states it's missing a file, you may have to move it manually back to its local location or update Lightroom to point to the backup. Lightroom does non-destructive edits so the edits are stored in the catalog. As long as the preferences are setup to backup the catalog, all your post processing information is saved. When you export a photo from Lightroom, that is when you will store that in a location of your choice. Lightroom will not make a backup of the exported photo as you would be able to export the photo again if need be. You will have to setup your import settings to include a backup copy location and it will copy everything you are importing via Lightroom, Images, videos, Etc.

From a Backup standpoint:
Individual drives can fail or lose data, might be better to look at a Cloud solution or a NAS (Network Addressable Storage) with Raid 1 or 5 or something similar, if the files are that important. When dealing with backups, you always need to understand there is some level of risk and/or cost with each kind of backup and pick the right one for you to use.

a notes for using network storage:
If you are using a MAC, you can look at mounting the share as NFS or if it's Windows, must map a network drive and Lightroom should see the location.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Many thanks for the detailed answer. So you suggest to have only one Catalog and point the backups to a network location. Then, if necessary, move the photo files to a backup locatin as well. Indeed that way, having only one cataglo, I can use "search missing photos" and point to the backup location to restore them. Will then those photos have also all the postprocessing information? Or the .NET files imported through Lightroom are only the plain RAW files? \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have expanded on my answer for your few more questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – thebtm
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Luca a hint: move the files from local to network storage in LR itself. That way it will know the file location and you will not have to search for missing files. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 7:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jindra Lacko, thanks. Is there any network/cloud solution would you suggest? I am not a professionist photographer. All my photos and catalogs are periodically stored on two different external drives. I was just a bit confused/surprised when it came to restore the catalog as the files were scattered in different fodlers not anymore present on my pc. So in this sense a centralized network location with a unique catalog would solve this issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ What solution you would want to go with would require a bit of research, I have a QNAP TS-451 NAS personally but it was $1k (CAD) + taxes. I have heard of others using Microsoft's one drive or Amazon's cloud. You could even just ask a local computer shop. Do a bit of google searching and see what solution would work for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – thebtm
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 13:31

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