Lightroom: How Many Catalogs

category: Lightroom • 2 min read

How many catalogs do you need in Lightroom? Many people have only one Lightroom catalog, some photographers have a catalog per customer with dozens and hundreds of catalogs. The number of Lightroom catalogs, you have, will dictate your workflow. The more catalogs, the more complicated your workflow. I know of at least 1 photographer who has over 375 catalogs. He uses one catalog per customer per session, he is a prolific shooter. Weddings are at least a couple thousand photos, and sometimes as many as five thousand photos per wedding.

I have 3 Lightroom catalogs:

  1. WIP, work In Progress: This Lightroom catalog is my equivalent to an inbox. I have to confess that right now, I have currently 9087 photos in it that I still need to process, mostly travel and family photos.
  2. Customers: All the processed photos for all my customers. This includes all the photos they have purchased and all photos that I showed them but they decided not to buy.
  3. Syv: all my personal photos such as travel, family… and customer photos that I want to keep for my portfolio or otherwise.

And now my system:

  • All photos are imported in the WIP catalog. Nothing gets deleted in the camera. Deleting in the camera may corrupt the card and the camera LCD screen is not good enough to make a final decision. Many times, I have been able to rescue a photo with Lightroom.
  • I process all of my photos in the WIP catalog, by entering the keywords, the IPTC data, and doing the local adjustments. 99.x% of all my photos are processed in Lightroom without using Photoshop.
  • Depending on if the photos are for customers or myself, I open the correct Lightroom catalog, Syv or Customers and import them from there. All the image settings and processing are copied over.
  • When I’m happy with the results then I can delete these photos from the WIP catalog.