Transferring Catalog for Travel


Today’s Question: I used to travel with MacBook Pro, importing to a new Lightroom Classic catalog for each trip. Back home, I would merge the catalog with the primary catalog on my desktop computer. If I travel with a copy of my master Lightroom Classic catalog, importing photos along the way, and then copy this updated catalog back to my desktop hard drive, does this sound like it might cause issues? It would allow me to still have access to the full catalog even when traveling.

Tim’s Quick Answer: This is a feasible workflow, but not something I generally recommend due to the risk involved with copying a catalog back and forth between computers. That said, if keeping the catalog permanently on an external hard drive isn’t a great solution, you can indeed (carefully!) move the catalog between computers.

More Detail: I get a little nervous when Lightroom Classic users move a catalog between computers. This is why I’ve generally recommended using a new catalog when traveling with a laptop, merging that catalog into the master catalog back at home upon return. Of course, this does involve a bit of work to merge the catalogs properly.

If you’re able to simply work from an external hard drive regardless of which computer you’re working from, that can be a more streamlined solution. You can quit Lightroom Classic and move the folder containing the catalog files to an external hard drive, and then open the catalog from that external hard drive on whichever computer you happen to be using. Performance may be a little slower, but the workflow is a bit more streamlined.

But if you are comfortable moving your catalog files back and forth between computers, and you’re very careful to make sure you always know which copy is the current copy, then it is indeed possible to move the catalog back and forth as needed.

Another option, which is the approach I’ve taken, is to simply use a laptop as your primary computer. I’ve been using a laptop exclusively, without a desktop computer, for probably more than fifteen years now. With this approach I always have my catalog (and other key files) available because I’m always working on the same computer. When I’m home I use a separate large monitor, keyboard, and mouse, so it feels like I’m at a desktop computer even though I’m using a laptop.