Today’s Question: I have a Lightroom Classic catalog of about 30,000 images and am thinking of splitting it into two Catalogs: One for my small photography business and one for images of my family and relatives. How does one go about this?
Tim’s Quick Answer: You can split a single Lightroom Classic catalog into two by first exporting with the “Export as Catalog” command, and then removing the exported photos from the initial catalog. This will result in two catalogs without the loss of any information from the original catalog.
More Detail: As many of my readers are already aware, I generally recommend using only a single catalog to manage all of your photos in Lightroom Classic, using various metadata options to identify images in different categories, such as commercial work versus personal photos.
That said, if you decide you do want to divide images into two catalogs, the process is reasonably straightforward. The key is to stay organized through the process to ensure you aren’t, for example, accidentally removing photos from the primary catalog that were never exported to the secondary catalog.
I recommend exporting as a single process for all photos you want to split into a separate catalog. It is best if you can identify the photos you want to export based only on folders, rather than needing to select individual photos from within various folders, for example.
You could then select multiple folders from the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. After clicking on the first folder you want to select for export, you can hold the Ctrl key on Windows or the Command key on Macintosh while clicking on the other folders you want to select.
Once you have selected all folders you want to split to a separate catalog, go to the menu and choose File > Export as Catalog. Navigate to the location where you want to save the new catalog, such as the location that contains the folder for your current catalog. You can then click the New Folder button at the bottom-left of the dialog, and create a folder for the new catalog. Then enter a name for the new catalog in the Save As field at the top of the dialog.
In this type of scenario, at least in the short term, you’ll want to keep all of the source image files in their current locations. Therefore, you don’t need to make new copies of all of your existing photos. So, turn off the “Export negative files” checkbox, so that new copies of your source images won’t be created. Also turn off the “Export selected photos only” checkbox if it is turned on, since in this case you are selecting folders for export rather than individual photos.
Click the “Export Catalog” button at the bottom-right of the dialog, and a new catalog will be created for the folders of photos you have selected. This process will be very fast, because you are only creating a new catalog rather than copying a large number of photos.
Next, you’ll want to remove the selected folders from the current catalog. Since the folders are already selected at this point you can simply right-click on any of the selected folders and choose “Remove” from the popup menu. Click the “Continue” button in the alert dialog, and the folders will be removed from the current folder, leaving the actual folders and photos within those folders on your hard drive.
At this point you can switch between your two catalogs using the File > Open Catalog command from the menu. Just be sure to maintain an awareness of which catalog you’re working in at any time, to make sure, for example, that you always import new photos into the correct catalog.