Photos in Two Locations

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Today’s Question: I live in two places (8 months of the year in Alaska and 4 months in Florida). I have desktop computers and work with my images in both locations using Lightroom and Photoshop. I have all my images in both places but after working on some of my images at the location I’m currently at, I’d like to know if it’s possible, expeditiously, to have all the changes I make at that location carry over to the other location. I have too many images to bring them all back and forth.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is actually the type of scenario where the relatively new cloud-based Adobe Lightroom CC provides some advantages over Lightroom Classic CC. Otherwise, there are options that could help, but the workflow wouldn’t exactly be what I would call “streamlined”.

More Detail: If you opt to use the cloud-based Lightroom CC, you’ll be able to synchronize your photos to cloud-based storage so that all of your images are available from any location with an Internet connection. Of course, the initial synchronization could take a very long time, but after that as long as you have a reasonably fast connect this approach could work pretty well. This would also be the simplest solution in this type of situation, because it wouldn’t involve any special effort to have all of your photos available at all locations you work from.

If you prefer to use Lightroom Classic CC, a common solution to this type of situation would be to keep all of the photos on a single external hard drive, and to keep the Lightroom catalog on that same drive. You could then bring that drive with you when you change locations, so you would always have all of your photos and the information about those photos wherever you are at any given moment. But, as noted in the question, this isn’t a practical solution.

What I would do based on these constraints is import new captures into a separate “temporary” catalog. I would then perform my initial culling, updating, and optimizing work within that “temporary” catalog. This would be slightly inconvenient in terms of new captures being in a catalog separate from all of your existing photos, but it would streamline the next step.

When you are ready to travel from one location to the other, just before leaving you could import the photos from your temporary catalog into your master catalog, using the “Import from Another Catalog” command on the File menu. When you get to the other location, you could perform the exact same step, having traveled with copies of the temporary catalog and new photos. As long as you have an exact copy of your master catalog and all existing photos in both locations when you begin this approach, updating at each location would be as simple as using a temporary catalog for new captures, and importing to both copies of your master catalog when you switch locations.

It is important to note that you would also need to copy your master Lightroom catalog from the location you’re departing to the location you’re arriving at. In other words, you would basically need to update the catalog (with previews) at both locations whenever you traveled. That makes this a rare situation where I would recommend not using the option to automatically write metadata updates to the actual image files, instead keeping everything in the catalog.

Frankly, I would suggest giving serious thought to using the cloud-based Lightroom CC, as that would significantly streamline your overall workflow, and virtually eliminate the risk of any problems created by all of the extra work that would be involved with Lightroom CC in this context.