Today’s Question: Rather than export as catalog [in Lightroom, as suggested in a recent edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter], why not just copy the folder with the catalog and the images to an external hard drive? This seems simpler to me and is what I do.
Tim’s Quick Answer: There are advantages (and disadvantages) to both approaches, but in general I recommend the Export as Catalog command as a solution that is less likely to result in an incomplete backup.
More Detail: Today’s question is a follow-up to a question that appeared in a recent edition of the Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, where I recommended using the Export as Catalog command as a method of creating a full copy of your Lightroom catalog as well as all photos and videos being managed within your Lightroom catalog.
Simply copying the catalog and your image files to a backup location can be simpler and faster. But in my opinion it also introduces a greater risk of user error. There is a chance that not all photos will be copied, for example, if the user neglected to select all folders for copying. I have also had issues where attempting to copy a large number of folders results in errors at the operating system level.
For users who are completely comfortable managing files and folders at the operating system level, I certainly understand that it may be faster and easier to manually copy your catalog and photos. In general, however, I recommend against this approach.
As always seems to be the case, there is more than one possible answer to a given question when it comes to employing technology in your workflow. In general, I tend to recommend what I consider to be the more cautious approach that is less prone to error, even if that approach isn’t necessarily the fastest overall approach.
I would point out, however, that simply copying files from one location to another isn’t always the most reliable approach to creating a backup copy of important files. That is especially true for backing up important files, which is one of the reasons (for example) that I recommend GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup) as backup synchronization software, rather than a manual approach to backing up.