Catalog Cleanup


Today’s Question: I have never been able to get my Lightroom catalog correct when upgrading. It started when I upgraded from Lightroom 3 to Lightroom 4, and now is a real mess with Lightroom CC. When I upgraded to Lightroom 5, I tried to fix it but never got it right. It was always “I’ll fix it later”. It is time to get it right. I still have my catalogs from Lightroom 2 up through Lightroom 5. All my photos are on one external drive (backed up on a second external drive). How can I get all of my catalogs to be on one master catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is essentially a two-step process, though I should caution that while the process isn’t terribly complicated it is critical to pay close attention to detail to ensure good results. In short, you want to first upgrade any older (and still relevant) catalogs to the latest version of Lightroom (6/CC in this case). Then import the images from all “other” catalogs into your “master” catalog.

More Detail: Upgrading a catalog from an older version of Lightroom to the latest version of Lightroom is a simple matter of opening each “older” catalog with the latest version of Lightroom. You can launch Lightroom CC/6, then choose File > Open Catalog. Select the “lrcat” file for the older catalog you want to upgrade, and click the Open button. You’ll be prompted that the catalog needs to be upgraded, and when you confirm a new catalog will be created. In other words, you’ll have a new version of that catalog that is compatible with Lightroom CC/6, as well as the original version of the catalog that can serve as an additional backup.

Once you have upgraded all of the catalogs, you can merge them all into a single master catalog. To do so, open the master catalog in Lightroom. Then choose File > Import from Another Catalog and choose the catalog you want to merge with the master catalog. Using this option you can merge all of your “other” catalogs into your master catalog. At that point you can move all of the “other” catalogs to a backup location to avoid confusion, and make sure that you only work with your master catalog in Lightroom from that point forward.

The key to merging multiple catalogs is to take a deliberate approach and to pay attention to which catalogs need to be merged (and which have already been merged). You can read more details about this process in the article “Merging Catalogs” in the April 2013 issue of Pixology magazine. If you’re not already a subscriber, we’d be happy to provide you with all of the back issues at no additional charge if you choose to subscribe. You can sign up at