Traveling with the Master Catalog


Today’s Question: I use a laptop as my only computer. When traveling I use Lightroom Classic to import photos and make primary and second copy using two external hard drives drives. How do I best make the transfer from travel hard drives to my larger hard drive at home? I don’t think I should need a second travel catalog.

Tim’s Quick Answer: In this scenario you most certainly do not need to use a separate catalog when traveling. Rather, you can simply import photos into your master catalog on your laptop, and then move the photos to your primary hard drive using Lightroom Classic when you get home.

More Detail: Because you (like me) use a laptop as your only computer, you can always have your master Lightroom Classic catalog available whether you’re at home or traveling. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to use a separate catalog when traveling. You can simply import new photos into your master Lightroom Classic catalog while traveling.

If you’re not going to be traveling with your large hard drive that is used for primary storage at home, obviously you’ll need to copy the photos you import while traveling to a different storage location. That could be on the internal hard drive of your laptop if you have enough storage capacity, or to an external hard drive as you are currently doing.

When you return home and your primary storage drive is available, you can then move the photos from the temporary storage location you were using during the trip to the primary hard drive. Just be sure to do this within Lightroom Classic.

When you have imported photos to more than one hard drive in Lightroom Classic you’ll see a header for each of the hard drives in the Folders list on the left panel in the Library module. With both hard drives connected to the computer you could then drag the folder from the traveling hard drive that contains the new photos to the top-level folder for your photos on your primary hard drive at home.

Note that if your folder structure is contained on the root level of the hard drive, you likely won’t have the root level available to drag the folder to. Instead, you’ll need to reveal the parent folder, which in this example would be the hard drive itself. To reveal that root level simply right-click on a top-level folder on the hard drive and choose “Show Parent Folder” from the popup menu. This will reveal a folder representing the level above the existing folders, and you can drag your traveling folder to that top level. If you want to then hide the parent folder again you can right-click on it and choose “Hide This Parent” from the popup.