Today’s Question: Is it OK to store my [Lightroom Classic] catalog in the same master folder as my library of images? Are there any downsides to doing this? I backup changes to the master folder daily to the cloud and to a local external drive.
Tim’s Quick Answer: It is indeed perfectly fine to store your Lightroom Classic catalog in the same storage location as your photos. The only potential drawback is that if the catalog is on an external hard drive performance may be degraded to some extent in Lightroom Classic.
More Detail: By default, the Lightroom Classic catalog is stored in a folder within the Pictures folder that is part of the operating system. Many photographers, of course, store their photos on one or more external hard drives. As a result, it is quite common for the Lightroom Classic catalog to be stored in a different location and possibly on a different storage device from the photos being managed by the catalog.
It is perfectly fine to have the catalog stored separately from your photos, but it is also fine to have the catalog stored alongside the photos.
In general, I recommend storing the Lightroom Classic catalog on an internal hard drive. This generally ensures optimal performance, and it also enables you to work in Lightroom Classic without having to connect an external hard drive. For example, you can review and update metadata for photos using the catalog even if the source photos aren’t currently available, such as if the photos are on an external hard drive that is not currently connected to the computer.
If you prefer to store the catalog along with your photos, that is perfectly fine. If that means the catalog is on an external hard drive it is possible that performance will be degraded in Lightroom Classic, but this approach also provides greater workflow flexibility. That is because having the catalog and photos on an external hard drive makes it easy to switch between more than one computer by simply moving the hard drive between those computers.
Ultimately, you can store the Lightroom Classic catalog and the photos being managed in whatever local hard drive location is most convenient for you depending on your specific workflow needs.