Today’s Question: This is a follow up to a question from last week [about merging catalogs in Lightroom]. I have two catalogs that I want to merge into one. Unfortunately, I have several photos that exist in both catalogs. Is there a way when merging two catalogs for Lightroom to alert you if a photo already exists in the catalog you are merging into?
Tim’s Quick Answer: When you merge catalogs via the “Import from Another Catalog” command in Lightroom, you will have the option to choose how to deal with any duplicate images. You can’t actually create duplicate copies in this case, and instead can choose whether you want to replace information in the destination catalog with information in the source catalog for the duplicate photos.
More Detail: If Lightroom detects that any of the photos from the source catalog are already contained within the destination catalog (your “master” catalog), you will see a notification indicating how many duplicate images were found within the “Import from Catalog” dialog.
If you know that the images in the destination catalog are your true “master” versions of all photos, you can simply choose the “Nothing” option from the Replace popup, and the duplicate images will be skipped in terms of the catalog merging process.
If the images from the source catalog are the more recent versions of your photos, you can choose to replace information in the destination catalog based on the information in the source catalog. You can choose whether you want to only update metadata (including Develop adjustments), or if you want to replace the original image files as well. In most cases, of course, the two source files would probably be identical, and so you could choose the “Metadata and develop settings only” option from the Replace popup.
If you’re not entirely sure which version of the duplicate photos is really the latest (or best) version of the photo, you can also turn on a checkbox that will create a virtual copy based on the second version of the duplicate images. That checkbox is labeled “Preserve old settings as a virtual copy”.
In addition, if you have a mix of RAW and non-RAW (such as TIFF and JPEG) images, you can choose whether you want to replace non-RAW captures only, updating only the metadata for RAW captures. That checkbox is labeled “Replace non-raw files only (TIFF, PSD, JPEG, PNG)”.
These options in the “Import from Catalog” dialog enable you to choose how to deal with duplicate images when merging catalogs into a single master catalog. The result will be a single copy of each image (or an image plus a virtual copy), so that you don’t have duplicate photos in your master catalog (at least based on the merging of catalogs).