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Is It Better To Use A Single Lightroom Catalog or Multiple Catalogs For Real Estate Photography?

Published: 13/10/2015
By: larry

SingleVsMultiCatalogAngel in Barcalona asks:

Nowadays, I'm reconsidering my workflow and I'm curious about if the most experienced real estate photographers are using one catalog in LR for each shoot or if all the shoots are included in the same catalog (every one in its folder, of course!)

I think you'll find that most low volume photographers that have everything in one catalog but some that break their photos down into smaller catalogs.

Scott Kelby the, Lightroom author, claims that in the early versions of Lightroom processing use to be slower with large catalogues but with the latest versions of Lightroom processing doesn't slow down noticeably with large catalogs. However, I've noticed that with large catalogues backing up the catalogue up and moving it takes much longer.

I think it comes down to your personal organisation preferences. There are pros and cons to both having everything in once catalogue and having a catalogue for each shoot. The video above from SLR Lounge  gives a more in depth explanation:

One catalog for everything

  • Pros: Easier and quicker to use, Easy to find things
  • Cons: Slower speed if you are a high volume photographer, More difficult to archive or move catalogues

A Catalog for each shoot

  • Pros: Best performance, Backups are faster, Easier to move catalogues
  • Cons: Harder to find things

So my recommendation would be for most photographers is to use a single catalogue but for very high volume photographers use a multi-catalogue workflow.

6 comments on “Is It Better To Use A Single Lightroom Catalog or Multiple Catalogs For Real Estate Photography?”

  1. I put all of my real estate into one catalog. That catalog also has a copy of my cloud, fire, b/w public domain images, some of my landscape photos and misc things that I use as replacements for RE work. All of my timelapse is in another catalog. etc etc. My biggest catalog contains much of my personal project stuff and just lots and lots of images of the world around me.

    Since LR is not duplicating files, it's easy to have photos in several catalogs without eating up disk space. I convert my RAW files to .dng on import to incorporate my editing information into the image file rather than having .xmp side car files.

    I bet that Scott Kelby is upgrading his computer about as often as PS/LR making any slow downs from larger catalogs less obvious. My Mac is a couple of years old and I do notice the difference in speed between my smaller and larger catalogs. A solid state drive will probably help boost performance, but I just bought more flashes, so I'm out of funds again.

    I've only photographed about 200 homes so far this year, so my RE catalog for the year isn't monstrous. I don't think that I would see enough of a difference in speed by splitting off into smaller catalogs, such as by quarter, and one catalog for each job might speed things up a tiny bit, but I'd have hundreds of LR catalogs to hunt through if I wanted to find something in particular.

    If I am bringing my laptop with me to ingest photos of a job while working at another or while having a break between homes, I will make an individual catalog for the job to make it easier to merge into my RE catalog on my main computer at the office. I have lens corrections and conversion to .dng on import set up as part of my usual workflow at the office, so if those tasks as well as generating previews is taken care of before I head home, I can get to processing the images faster.

  2. I am a fairly high volume shooter. I shoot mostly editorial and architecture with a few real estate gigs here and there. I noticed that I really only access photos that I shot in the last 6 months. Anything older then that only gets accessed if I'm updating my website or putting together a PDF portfolio for a potential client. So my work flow has been to create a current year catalog and a second catalog with all other years. The current year lightroom catalog LRT file lives on my internal SSD drive for better performance. I work mostly in the current year catalog and only access the other other catalog maybe a few times a month. The current year catalog is about 10% the size of the other catalog. All the files live on the same drive which is backed up nightly.

  3. Personally I think that the catalog is the worst part of LightRoom. It's the main reason that I do not use the program. Lots of other programs have catalog equivalents, but most let you work with the program without forcing you to use it. I find that DXO gives far superior results anyways.

  4. We used a catalog for each day. We use a coding system so that we can find the catalog based on the day we shot the photos. Not hard to find. We rarely have to go back anyway.

  5. I have three catalogs; Architecture, Outdoor Adventure, and Weddings. My Architecture catalog has almost 64,000 files in it from full frame cameras and speed is not a problem. I update my computer every three years to the best macbook pro available with all the upgrades. I find it very useful to have all the architecture shoots in one catalog because I am often searching for past shoots for a variety of reasons, mostly to relicense the images to another broker, builder, architect, etc. For this reason I find it important to have the address in the Caption info to make searching easier.

  6. I create a new catalog for every shoot which keeps everything nice and clean and optimal performance. If I ever have a need to go back to a previous shoot (rarely) I simply do so thru windows explorer since my file structure is organized and I keep all the exported JPGs. I do delete all the RAW files after a job is completed. The idea of having 200+ folders and collections that I will most likely never use again in LR every time I process a shoot makes me shudder.

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