Managing Storage in Lightroom

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Today’s Question: You often write about storage and backup issues, emphasizing your recommendation to keep one catalog in Lightroom Classic CC. I’m about to run out of space on my computer’s internal hard drive. Is there a way you would recommend to offload some Lightroom-based photos that I don’t need to access very often to one of my external drives, in order to free up room on my internal drive but still keep one catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The key to freeing up storage space in this type of situation is to move folders (or photos) within Lightroom Classic CC, rather than directly through your operating system. This may require that you create a new folder on an external drive you’re not currently using to manage any photos, and then dragging folders (or photos) to that folder destination.

More Detail: One of the most important things to understand about Lightroom is that once you’re using Lightroom to manage your photos, all tasks related to your photos should be initiated from within Lightroom. That includes the process of moving photos or folders to a different storage location.

In this type of situation, the first step is to ensure the destination drive is available within Lightroom. If it is not already listed after connecting the drive to your computer, you’ll simply want to create a new folder on that drive within Lightroom. To do so, click the plus symbol (“+”) to the right of the Folders header on the left panel in the Library module, and choose “Add Folder” from the popup menu. Then navigate to the hard drive you want to move photos to, and click the “New Folder” button at the bottom-left of the dialog that appears. Enter a name (such as “Photos”) for the folder, and click Choose at the bottom-right of the dialog.

This folder (and the hard drive you created it on) will now be listed in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. You can then drag folders from the internal drive to the new folder you created on the external drive. After confirming you want to move the files on the hard drive, Lightroom will move the folders and images while still keeping those images in your single Lightroom catalog.

Of course, I highly recommend backing up your photos before getting started with this process, and then updating a backup of all drives after performing this work. For the external hard drives I recommend using a synchronization backup to another external hard drive, using software such as GoodSync (http://timgrey.me/greybackup).