Lightroom Details --- Moving, Exporting and Importing*

*Because you really, REALLY care about your photographs.

Intro Import Develop Export Step x Step Case Studies

Moving, exporting and Importing Catalogues

Moving everything to an external drive

( I ); question Can I drag and drop all the pictures in the folder “My Lightroom Photos”  located now on my C: drive to my external hard drive ( I ) “My Book”?

You don't want to drag and drop, You want to "export as a catalogue," that way you'll have all your edits, metadata and the "originals" or negatives in the export.
Here's the steps…
In Lightroom's Library Module on the left side, locate the folder you want to Export, AND click it to highlight it…


 Choose the Menu item

File > Export as Catalogue 
Right Click the highlighted Folder

  You will get this requester first…
Choose Export this Folder as a Catalogue
Then you get the Export as Catalogue Dialogue…
Here's what to do… 


1. Choose the drive or location where you want to export the Photographs and catalogue…
2. Save as… use the exact name of the folder you are exporting, in this case  "AllPhotographs"
3. Do you REALLY want Lightroom to build previews for ALL your Photos … might take a while so, leave "Build / include Smart Previews UNCHECKED" You can have Lightroom rebuild them later
4. Click export
In the sample shown above IF I unchecked Export Negative Files… and exported just the database, I can use this exported database to edit my metadata and later Synchronize the added data back to my originals… (see merging catalogues below)
 Note that the export preserves your original file structure…
Since I had exported the negative files  (Original Photographs) They ARE inside the main folder "AllPhotographs" The result is a stand alone or duplicate Catalogue… with, file structure, photos, settings and database… INTACT!

Restart Lightroom, BUT hold down the Alt/Option at the same time. Locate the new catalogue, and highlight it and check the box √ "Always Load this catalogue on startup (see 1 below)... Now when Lightroom Starts up it will use the "new" duplicated catalogue and Photos on the new harddrive.

Moving JUST your catalogue to a new location

You want to move just your catalogue to an external hard drive. (Note... You cannot move the catalogue to a network drive or a non-writable drive like a DVD-BluRay disk)

RULE: Always verify, before you delete

Step 1
Locate your current catalogue

PC default Location        c:\users\my pictures\Lightroom\

Mac Default Location:      //Users/[user name]/Pictures/Lightroom/


In Lightroom go to
Edit>Catalog Settings on the PC
Lightroom>Catalog Settings on the Mac. Under the General Tab, you'll find the location of your catalog.

Click Show Your catalog will be highlighted in the Finder/Explorer.

Step 2
If Lightroom is running, shut it down.
Lightroom > Quit Lightroom
or Keyboard shortcut
Mac: Command (⌘) + Q
PC: Control + Q

Step 3
Using the Finder/Explorer COPY your .lrcat AND your .lrdata file, AND if you have a "Smart Previews.lrcat" file... copy ALL of them.

Step 4

  1. Make a folder named "Lightroom Catalogue" at the root of the new hard drive, and paste the copied files inside it.

Step 5
Inside the folder of your choice!

Step 6
Restart Lightroom, BUT hold down the Alt/Option at the same time. Locate the new catalogue, and highlight it and check the box √ "Always Load this catalogue on startup (see 1 below)... Now when Lightroom Starts up it will use the "newly transferred catalogue.

LR CatLoadpng

Importing and Merging Catalogues.

File  > Import From Another Catalogue…

How you Import and Sync Images and Metadata from different catalogues will depend on your “setup”.

  • A:  Merging catalogues on your system or external drive(s)
  • B: Importing from another computer, either a laptop or desktop (e.g.: when shooting in the field)

Here are the main steps to do an import from another catalogue…

Step A:  

Determine the location of the catalogues on the COMPUTER(s).  

PC default Location        c:\users\my pictures\Lightroom\

Mac Default Location:      //Users/[user name]/Pictures/Lightroom/

This just helps you find them for the next step…

Step 1.

Startup Lightroom loading your Master or Main Catalogue.    

(Hold down the alt/option key when you startup Lightroom) Note that, Lightroom defaults to loading the last loaded catalogue…

LR CatLoadpng

Step 2: 

The Menu item is:

File  > Importing From Another Catalogue.

Use the Mac’s Finder or the PC’s Windows Explorer to locate the “Other” catalogue.


A double click on the .lrcat file will open the dialogue box below…

Step 3:

Check √ the Show Preview box lower left to see the thumbnails in the Import Catalogue.


Number 1 in image above…  

The 3 bars and the exclamation point indicates that there is “new” data

Number 2 in image above…  

If you want, you may choose to preserve “Old” setting in your CURRENT catalogue, LR will make a virtual copy for you.


Number 3 in image above…  

Choice #1:
Add New Photos to Catalogue without moving…

Use this option if you are happy with where the files are located, and you just want to tell LR where they are…



Choice #2:
Copy new photos to a new location and import… 

Your photos are on a Laptop or another computer, or you are adding or consolidating your photos into a single catalogue…

Choice #3:
Don’t Import new photos, You just want the metadata

Step (number) 4:
in Image Above… Replace:

LR 02png

Step 5  Click Import…

Other Hints… (Working in the field)

If you are using a second copy of LR on a Laptop and you are using LR’s default location to store the photos, when you get back to your desktop you will have to do the following.

1. Using your laptop, plug-in an external drive.

2.  Export your “Shoot" as a Catalogue to the external Drive.  


File > Export as Catalogue…  To the External Drive.

3.  Eject the External drive from the laptop and plug it into your desktop

4. Load your master Catalogue in LR and use the Menu:

File > Import from another Catalogue

Follow the above import steps…