Today’s Question: Do you recommend adding exported images to the Lightroom Classic catalog?
Tim’s Quick Answer: In general no, I do not recommend adding photos exported from Lightroom Classic back to the catalog. However, there are times when doing so may be beneficial.
More Detail: I think it is fair to say that most of the time when you export a photo from Lightroom Classic it is for purposes of sharing that photo in some way. You might be sending a high-resolution copy to a printer to be printed, or preparing a smaller JPEG image to include in a blog article, or otherwise creating a copy of the source image for purposes of sharing in some way.
My view is that adding those derivative images back to your Lightroom Classic catalog will add clutter, possibly create confusion, and not likely provide any significant benefit. I normally recommend that when you need to share an image that you return to the source image to create a new copy for sharing, rather than making use of a previously created derivative image. This helps ensure, for example, that any recent changes you’ve applied to the original image will be reflected in the new derivative.
That said, there are certainly scenarios where you may prefer to add an exported photo back to the Lightroom Classic catalog, which can be achieved by turning on the “Add to This Catalog” checkbox in the Export Location section of the Export dialog.
For example, in the March 2021 issue of Pixology magazine I wrote an article about a workflow that provides an alternative to the use of virtual copies in Lightroom Classic, helping to reduce dependency on the catalog. In this type of scenario, you may very much want to have the newly created copy of the source image added back to the catalog.
However, I recommend exercising caution when it comes to adding exported copies of photos back to the Lightroom Classic catalog. More often than not I find that doing so leads to clutter and confusion with minimal benefit.