Managing Catalogs


Today’s Question: I thought I had only one Lightroom catalogue, the default “Lightroom 5 Catalogue.lrcat.” In watching one of your tutorials and looking more closely at my hard drive, I discovered that I had unwittingly created a second catalogue, which is in a subject file “Santa Fe.lrcat.” The default catalogue has only some of my images. The Santa Fe catalogue, which somehow became my default, has all the images. I would like to follow your strong advice and have only one catalogue. My question: How do I make the inadvertent Santa Fe.lrcat my default with the correct name and have it be in the right place on my hard drive?

Tim’s Quick Answer: On the assumption that the “Santa Fe” catalog contains all of your images, the process here is relatively straightforward. You can rename the catalog files on your hard drive, open that newly renamed catalog in Lightroom, and continue working.

More Detail: Before you begin, of course, I highly recommend backing up your catalog files, and your computer in general. This will ensure you have a way to recover should you create any problems during this process.

The first step is to quit Lightroom, so that the various temporary files are cleared and you can work directly with the catalog files. Then navigate to the folder where your catalog files are stored so you can rename the files. You will find at least two files for the catalog, and possibly more depending on your settings in Lightroom. All of these files need to be renamed in a similar way, preserving the “extra” portion of the files that contain additional text beyond the base catalog name.

For example, in this case the base catalog name is “Santa Fe”. If you want the new catalog to be called “Lightroom Master Catalog”, you could simply rename the “Santa Fe.lrcat” file to “Lightroom Master Catalog.lrcat”. There will also be a file with the same base name, but with “Previews” appended. That could be renamed from “Santa Fe Previews.lrdata” to “Lightroom Master Catalog Previews.lrdata”. In other words, only change the first portion of the filename (in this case “Santa Fe” for all of the files in the catalog folder.

At this point you can launch Lightroom. Depending on which catalog had been open most recently, you may see a dialog indicating that the catalog can’t be found, in which case you can choose the option to open another catalog. If an existing catalog opens, you can simply choose File > Open Catalog from the menu. The point is, you want to open the newly renamed catalog, and then only use that catalog within Lightroom.

If the newly renamed catalog doesn’t contain all photos from all catalogs, you can choose File > Import from Another Catalog from the menu. This will allow you to import photos into the current catalog from a different catalog.

If you have subscribed to the GreyLearning video training library ( you can view a video lesson on renaming the catalog files in Lesson 12 of the course “Lightroom 5: Resolving Organizational Challenges”. In addition, Lesson 11 of the same course covers merging multiple catalogs into one. The key with all of these tasks is to be careful and somewhat methodical, to make sure you don’t make a critical error with your important data.