Complete Offsite Backup

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Today’s Question: What would you suggest for an off-site copy of “All Photographs” in Lightroom, which would fit in a safe deposit box?

Tim’s Quick Answer: To create this type of “everything” backup for photos and your Lightroom catalog, I recommend using the “Export as Catalog” command to export all photos and a catalog that contains all of the information for those photos based on the information in your existing catalog. You can export that backup copy to an external hard drive, which can be placed in a safe deposit box (or other offsite storage).

More Detail: The “Export as Catalog” command in Lightroom enables you to export a Lightroom catalog based on the photos you’ve selected for export, along with copies of all photos being managed by that catalog. The only caveat is that you need to make sure that the actual image files are copied as part of this process.

You can export every single photo and video included in your Lightroom catalog by first selecting all photos within your catalog. To do so, go to the “All Photographs” collection in the Catalog section of the left panel in the Library module, and then choose Edit > Select All from the menu to select all images in your catalog.

Next, choose File > Export as Catalog from the menu. In the Export as Catalog dialog you can navigate to the location you want to use for saving the copy of your catalog and photos, such as an external hard drive specifically intended for this purpose. If needed you can also create a folder in that storage location to encapsulate all of the files and folders that will be created as part of this process.

In addition, it is very important to turn on the “Export negative files” checkbox. This checkbox is what actually enables the source image files to be copied, in addition to the catalog file that will be created as part of this process.

There are also options to build or include Smart Previews for your photos, and to include any other available previews that have already been generated for your photos. These items aren’t critical from a backup standpoint, since you could later re-generate all of those previews if needed.

When you click the Export Catalog button, a new catalog will be created based on the selected photos (all images in your catalog in this example), and all photos and videos will be copied as well, with the same folder structure you are already using for your existing catalog of photos.

Should you ever need to recover from that backup, obviously the photos you copied would be there, but you could also open the catalog that was created as part of this process within Lightroom in order to access all of the information you had added to the catalog for those photos up to the time of using the “Export as Catalog” command. Naturally you could essentially repeat this process periodically to “refresh” the backup you’ve created for offsite storage.