Storage Requirements for Previews


Today’s Question: Isn’t it true that preview files [for Lightroom Classic] need to be on the same drive as the catalog? This brings into play the same issue of available storage space you mentioned regarding an internal SSD drive. Preview files can really eat up a lot of drive space resulting in primary drive filling up. For this reason I have just last week moved my catalog and preview files to an external SSD connected to computer via USB-C. The catalog and previews are now removed from my primary internal drive (SSD). If previews can in fact be in a different location than catalog, would it be preferable to return the catalog to the internal SSD C drive but leave previews on external?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Yes, the preview files for your Lightroom Classic catalog must be stored in the same location as the catalog itself. Therefore, the only way to avoid having your previews consume space on your internal hard drive is to move the Lightroom catalog (and thus the previews) to another drive. Keep in mind, however, that this solution can also cause a degradation in overall performance in Lightroom.

More Detail: There’s no question that the previews file for Lightroom Classic will consume considerably more storage space than the Lightroom catalog. That can have a significant impact on the available space on your internal hard drive, especially if your primary internal hard drive is an SSD drive, which will typically provide less total storage capacity than a conventional hard drive.

Just to provide some context, consider my Lightroom Classic catalog, which contains more than 400,000 photos. The actual catalog file that Lightroom uses to manage the information about my photos is less than 4GB in size. The previews file, on the other hand, is almost 90GB in size.

If you want to move your previews file for Lightroom Classic to a different drive, you’ll actually need to move the entire folder that contains the catalog and related files. That can obviously free up considerable space on the internal hard drive on your computer. However, there may be a performance penalty involved with this approach.

Quite often, an external hard drive will offer slower performance than an internal hard drive. The specific performance you can achieve depends on the speed of the storage media itself, as well as the interface used to connect the storage device. In many cases an internal hard drive will have a faster interface than would be available with an external hard drive. So, if you’re going to use an external hard drive to store your Lightroom Classic catalog and related files, it can be critically important to make sure that external hard drive offers optimal performance. Otherwise, relatively slow performance for your Lightroom catalog can result in a frustrating experience within Lightroom.

Import from Smartphone


Today’s Question: I’m trying to figure out a way to import iPhone “Camera Roll” [or other smartphone] photos into Lightroom Classic at full resolution. How can I do this?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually import photos into Lightroom Classic directly from your smartphone through the normal Import feature. You could also download photos using other software, and then import into Lightroom as a separate process.

More Detail: One of the challenges of importing smartphone captures into Lightroom Classic is that Lightroom doesn’t provide a way to delete photos from the source you are downloading from. That means you would need to delete the photos from your smartphone manually after importing into Lightroom, assuming you didn’t want “extra” copies of those photos on your device.

Because of this issue, my preference is to download photos from my smartphone to my computer, using software that includes an option to delete the photos once they are downloaded. I then import those photos into Lightroom separately.

You could use Adobe Bridge to download photos to your hard drive, for example. In the Photo Downloader dialog within Adobe Bridge there is a “Delete Original Files” checkbox. However, if you turn this option on, photos will be deleted from your smartphone as soon as Adobe Bridge finishes downloading them.

My preference is to not delete the photos from my smartphone until I have imported those photos into Lightroom Classic and made an additional backup copy of the photos. Therefore, Adobe Bridge isn’t my preferred solution. I happen to use the Image Capture application included with the Macintosh operating system. With this software I can download the photos from my smartphone, import them into Lightroom Classic, and back up my photos hard drive. I will then delete all of the downloaded photos using the Image Capture software, which I keep running in the background while performing the other tasks.

But again, if you don’t mind manually deleting the photos from your smartphone, you can simply use the import feature in Lightroom Classic to download the source images (including HEIC captures with newer iPhone updates) directly from your smartphone.

Universal Coordinated Time


Today’s Question: Following up on your discussion of correcting capture time based on different time zones, why don’t you just leave your camera always set to Universal Coordinated Time (UCT)?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While using Universal Coordinated Time (UCT) as a permanent time setting for the camera can be convenient, it can also lead to confusion about what the local time was when a given photo was captured.

More Detail: It can certainly be a minor hassle to need to update the time (and possibly date) on your camera when you travel across time zones. This is one of the reasons many photographers simply leave their camera permanently set to Universal Coordinated Time (UCT). However, this introduces additional challenges if you actually want to know what the correct local time was for the capture of a given photo.

To calculate local time based on UCT, you obviously need to know your location (or at least which time zone you’re in). You also need to know if there are any additional adjustments, such as for Daylight Saving Time in the United States or Summer Time in Europe. These are obviously not insurmountable problems, but they can be especially challenging if you’re trying to locate photos based on capture time long after they were actually captured. If you don’t recall the specific location where a given photo was captured, determining the local time based on the capture time in metadata could be challenging.

My preference is to try to always have the accurate local time reflected as the time of capture in the metadata for my photos. Admittedly, at least with today’s software, that information isn’t always especially helpful. If I’m looking for photos captured around sunset, for example, the accurate timing information can be helpful. But more often than not the capture time is interesting but not critical (and sometimes it isn’t even all that interesting).

While I don’t make extensive use of the actual capture time for my photos all that often, I do prefer to have the information in metadata be as accurate as possible. So I prefer to try to remember to accurately set the time zone for my camera, rather than leaving the camera permanently set to a single time zone such as UCT.

HDR versus Manual Blending


Today’s Question: Do you get better results with HDR (high dynamic range) software or with manual blending such as in Photoshop?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, you will get better results using HDR (high dynamic range) software rather than manually blending exposures. However, in some special cases you may find that you must resort to manual blending of photos.

More Detail: With very few exceptions, you will find that using software specially designed for creating HDR images provides a better overall result compared to manually blending exposures, such as through the use of layer masking in Photoshop.

HDR software accounts for minor differences in framing, such as when the bracketed exposures are captured hand-held. In addition, HDR software can compensate for movement within the frame from one capture to the next, such as when a tree branch is moving in a breeze. As a result, using HDR software will generally provide better results (and much faster results) than could be achieved with manual blending.

The software I prefer for assembling HDR images is Aurora HDR, which you can learn more about by following this link:

Note that there can certainly be situations were even advanced software such as Aurora HDR is unable to assemble a great HDR image. For example, when photographing the full moon at sunrise I have found that HDR software generally struggles (or fails) with the changes in the moon from one frame to the next.

In the case of the moon, the problem is often twofold. First, depending on the exposure times, there can be enough movement of the moon within the frame to cause problems from one exposure to the next in terms of assembling the final result. Second, at different exposures the halo around the moon may appear with a different intensity and size, which can lead to challenges in combining multiple exposures with HDR software.

In situations where HDR software is not able to create an image you are happy with, you may need to resort to manually blending multiple exposures, such as through the use of layer masks in Photoshop. However, I find that you will generally get the best results using good HDR software, such as Aurora HDR (

Copying from External to Internal Hard Drive


Today’s Question: I keep my images on a separate external hard drive, not on the internal hard drive on my computer. Sometimes I want some of my images available on my computer’s hard drive, so I can for example use an image as my desktop wallpaper. How do I best copy photos from Lightroom [Classic] to a different location on my internal hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The best way to get photos from your primary storage on an external hard drive to a particular folder on an internal hard drive is to use the Export feature in Lightroom Classic to make a copy of the photo in the desired destination folder.

More Detail: The Export feature in Lightroom Classic enables you to copy photos from the source storage location to another location, with the option to copy the photo as a different file format, along with a variety of other options such as renaming the photo.

In this particular example, you might export a copy of the source photo as a JPEG image, resized to pixel dimensions appropriate to your computer’s monitor display resolution, placing the exported image into a folder in the Pictures folder on your internal hard drive. This, of course, is only one example of how you might take advantage of the Export feature.

After selecting one or more photos you want to export, you can click the Export button at the bottom of the left panel in the Library module to bring up the Export dialog. In the Export dialog you can specify a destination folder, configure settings for renaming the photos, choose the file format and options to use, among other settings.

After configuring the settings for the photos you want to export, you can click the Export button in the Export dialog to create the copies of the selected photos.

Note that there is an “Add to This Catalog” checkbox in the Export dialog, which enables you to create a copy of the selected photos based on the settings you’ve established, and also add the additional copies you’re creating to the Lightroom catalog you’re currently working with. In general I recommend keeping this checkbox turned off.

Generally speaking I find that photographers use the Export command in Lightroom Classic to create additional derivative copies of their photos for a purpose beyond Lightroom. As a result, I recommend avoiding the confusion of having those additional copies of your source photos included in your Lightroom catalog. Instead, I recommend using the exported copies of your photos as appropriate to your needs. When you want to work with the image in Lightroom, return to the original source image (rather than a derivative copy), and proceed from there.

Time Correction Preference


Today’s Question: You recently addressed a question about changing the capture time during import to Lightroom Classic, indicating that you had to wait until after import to change the capture time. Don’t you think it would be better if it was possible to apply this change during import when you know the camera was set to the wrong time?

Tim’s Quick Answer: While in theory it is best to correct capture time as early in your workflow as possible, I actually would not want to apply such a correction during the process of importing photos into Lightroom Classic. That is because I would rather review the photos and make absolutely sure of the time correction required, and that the same correction is needed for all photos.

More Detail: The best time to correct the capture time for your photos, of course, is before you actually capture the photos. In other words, it is best to set your camera to local time as soon as you cross into a new time zone, and before you capture any photos. This would prevent the need to apply a capture time correction after the capture.

Conceptually the next best time to correct capture time would be during the process of downloading the photos from your camera or memory card. However, even if this option was available in Lightroom Classic (which it isn’t), I would prefer to wait until after the photos have been downloaded before applying any correction to the capture time.

The reason for this is that if I’m going to apply a correction to capture time, I want to take the time to double check how much correction is necessary, and which photos actually need the correction. For example, if you changed the time zone on your camera partway through a trip, you would only want to correct the photos that were captured before you changed the time on your camera.

When I realize I have neglected to correct the time zone on my camera during travels, I typically wait until after I’ve downloaded the current batch of photos to correct the time on my camera. That will help avoid confusion in terms of which photos need a correction and which do not.

In addition, before applying a correction I prefer to review my photos to double-check the adjustment that is required. I’ll often, for example, check the capture time in metadata for a photo that was captured around sunrise or sunset. By confirming the actual time of sunrise or sunset, this review enables me to easily confirm the number of hours required for the time zone correction.

Because I prefer to review the metadata for my photos before applying a time zone correction, I would tend not to apply a time zone correction during import into Lightroom Classic even if that feature were available, saving that work for right after the photos have been imported and I’ve had a chance to review the metadata for those photos.

Considering Smart Previews


Today’s Question: Do you use Smart Previews (or not) in Lightroom [Classic]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Generally speaking, I do not use Smart Previews in my Lightroom Classic workflow. I generally rely on Standard (or 1:1) previews for my general image review, and the original source image files for processing my photos.

More Detail: Smart Previews in Lightroom Classic provide some potential workflow advantages, but personally I’ve not generally found those advantages to be particularly compelling.

There are two core advantages to building Smart Previews for your photos. First, Smart Previews enable you to work with your photos, including in the Develop module, even when the source photos aren’t available. For example, if an external hard drive that contains your photos is not connected to your computer, you could still work with those photos in the Develop module if you had built Smart Previews.

In addition, Lightroom Classic includes an option (in Preferences) to favor the use of Smart Previews in the Develop module in order to speed up overall performance when optimizing your photos.

Generally speaking, I have my hard drives available when I am working in Lightroom Classic, and so I simply connect the applicable hard drive when I’m working in Lightroom. Part of the reason I prefer this approach is that I am often combining tasks such as importing new photos while reviewing existing photos, causing me to need to have my hard drive connected in any event.

I’ve also not found that the use of Smart Previews provides a significant performance advantage when working in the Develop module. Part of the reason I’ve not seen a significant benefit in this regard is that I don’t actually tend to spend very much time working with my photos in the Develop module.

To be sure, there are advantages provided by the use of Smart Previews, and many photographers may want to build Smart Previews and enable the option to prefer their use for the Develop module. I simply have not found a benefit in my own workflow that makes me feel the extra storage space required by Smart Previews would be worth consuming to achieve what I consider to be modest benefits in my workflow.

Workflow for Keywording


Today’s Question: Do you do ALL of your keywording up front as you are importing photos, or do you do high-level keywording first and then go back and add more detailed keywords after the fact?

Tim’s Quick Answer: I only apply very general keywords during import into Lightroom Classic, and then apply more detailed keywords later in my workflow. This is in large part because Lightroom (like many other software tools) only allows you to define keywords during import that will apply equally to all photos being imported.

More Detail: In some respects the ability to assign keywords during import into Lightroom Classic (or other software) doesn’t provide much utility. After all, because you can only define a single set of keywords that can be applied to all of the photos being imported, you can’t get very specific with your keywording at that stage of your workflow.

For example, let’s assume you have took a photo trip to Italy that includes visits to Rome and Naples. You could apply the keyword “Italy” to all of the photos upon import, since all photos being imported would have been captured in Italy. However, you could not apply “Rome” or “Naples” as keywords, because some of the photos will have been captured in Rome (not Naples) and others would have been captured in Naples (not Rome).

I still apply some basic keywords during the import process, but it is important to be careful at this stage of your workflow to only apply keywords that apply equally to all photos. That means these keywords will be relatively “generic”, which in turn means these won’t be the most useful keywords in your workflow. However, since it only takes a few seconds to enter some basic keywords for the photos you are importing, I still feel this is a worthwhile task.

Later in my workflow I will then add more detailed keywords to my photos. My typical approach is to only assign keywords to my “favorite” photos (those to which I’ve assigned a star rating). I don’t personally go into extensive detail assigning keywords, simply focusing on keywords that will help remind me of the subject appearing in a photo, as well as helping to ensure I’ll be able to find particular photos later.

Export to Another Catalog


Today’s Question: Why would someone export images from a main catalog in Lightroom Classic to a separate catalog? And does doing so remove the photos from the main catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There aren’t too many reasons for exporting photos from Lightroom Classic to another catalog. One reason would be to export photos intended to be merged into a “master” catalog after returning from a photo trip, for example. When you do export photos to a separate catalog, those photos are not removed from the source catalog. Therefore, it is important to be careful about this process in order to avoid confusion with multiple copies of your photos in multiple catalogs.

More Detail: The “Export as Catalog” command enables you to export photos from the current Lightroom Classic catalog to another catalog, along with the information about those photos.

At a very basic level, using the “Export as Catalog” command provides an option for creating a backup copy of your primary Lightroom catalog, at least for a portion of the photos contained within the master catalog.

In addition, the “Export as Catalog” command enables you to create a copy of the source image files for the photos selected for export, provided you turn on the “Export negative files” checkbox when configuring the export. That means you could have a backup of both your photos (the source files) plus the information about your photos (a new catalog for the exported photos). With this approach, the new catalog created with the “Export as Catalog” command would contain all of the information about your photos from the master catalog.

One of the scenarios where the “Export as Catalog” command can be helpful is when you need to move images from a “temporary” catalog to your “master” catalog. For example, you might be traveling with a laptop, with your master Lightroom catalog back on your primary computer at home. During the trip you could import photos into a traveling catalog, updating metadata for the photos within that catalog.

At the conclusion of the trip, you would naturally want to merge the photos captured during the trip into your normal workflow at home, along with the information about the photos that you updated while traveling. You could use the “Export as Catalog” command to create a copy of your photos along with the information about your photos, perhaps to an external hard drive.

You could then connect the external hard drive to your primary computer back at home, and use the “Import from Another Catalog” command to import the photos you had exported using the “Export as Catalog” command.

Keep in mind that the “Export as Catalog” command does not remove photos from the catalog you’re exporting from. Therefore, you would need to manage this overall process carefully. If the catalog you’re exporting from is a temporary working catalog for a trip, you could simply discard that catalog. If it is a separate catalog you use for other purposes, you may want to remove the exported photos from that catalog manually.

Catalog Backup Confusion


Today’s Question: You indicated that you keep the Lightroom Classic catalog on the internal hard drive and a backup copy on your photos drive. Doesn’t Lightroom get confused about what catalog to use when you plug in the photos drive to the main computer? Or am I misunderstanding this process?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Lightroom Classic does not get confused about the backup catalogs on my photos drive, because Lightroom is always opening my master catalog upon launch. This can be managed by either specifying a particular catalog you want Lightroom Classic to always use, or to have Lightroom open the most recently used catalog every time Lightroom is launched.

More Detail: I do indeed keep my Lightroom Classic catalog on the internal hard drive of my computer, and I store backup copies on the same external hard drive that contains my photos, in part so that when I backup my photos drive I’ll also be making an additional backup copy of my Lightroom catalog backups.

Lightroom doesn’t get confused about the backup copies of the catalog, in part because Lightroom isn’t really looking for those backup copies.

By default, when you launch Lightroom it will open the catalog you were using the last time you launched Lightroom. For most photographers (especially those using my advice to only use a single master catalog) this works great. Every time you launch Lightroom, you simply want to use the only master catalog you have.

Taking this a step further, you can also specify a particular catalog that you always want Lightroom to default to, which is helpful if you sometimes need to work with a temporary “test” catalog, for example. In the Preferences dialog in Lightroom Classic you’ll find the Default Catalog option on the General tab. Click the popup, and select the recently opened catalog that you want to always open when you launch Lightroom.

But again, the presence of backup copies of your catalog won’t confuse Lightroom, provided you don’t ever actually open a backup copy of your catalog in Lightroom. If you keep the backup copies as separate backups that you don’t open, Lightroom won’t be confused.