Today’s Question: Using the Export as Catalog feature I backed up my existing Lightroom master catalog from my hard drive to an external hard drive. As I add new pictures to my master catalog, can I add these to the backup external catalog without having to again copy all my existing photos to the external device?
Tim’s Quick Answer: Once you have created your initial backup of the catalog and your photos using the Export as Catalog command in Lightroom, my recommendation would be to then use synchronization software to update your backup after importing new photos into your master catalog. For example, I use software called GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) for this purpose.
More Detail: The Export as Catalog command (found on the File menu) in Lightroom enables you to make an exact copy of your Lightroom catalog in a different location. This provides a good backup solution for your catalog, beyond the built-in backup feature for the Lightroom catalog.
If you turn on the “Export negative files” checkbox in the Export as Catalog dialog, your actual image files will also be copied to the designated location. This results in a complete backup of your entire Lightroom catalog as well as your image files, with a relatively straightforward workflow.
However, this feature does not make it easy to update that backup. Doing so would involve replacing the previous copy of your catalog, but also replacing the copies of your image files.
Instead, I recommend maintaining the backup with a synchronization solution. As noted above, I use GoodSync for the purpose of backing up the hard drive that contains all of my photos. Thus, when I import new photos into my Lightroom catalog I can simply synchronize my “Photos” drive to my “Photos Backup” drive.
I keep my catalog on an internal hard drive, so I backup the catalog separate from my photos. For this purpose you could also use software such as GoodSync, or of course make use of the catalog backup feature that is included in Lightroom.