Today’s Question: As one who solidly and consistently backs up his photos and catalog, how do you see losing your catalog ever becoming a reality?
Tim’s Quick Answer: I don’t. I’m confident that as long as Adobe doesn’t discontinue Lightroom Classic I’ll never be in a position where I lose my catalog and can’t recover from a backup.
More Detail: In the short term, I would say that the only real risk to my Lightroom Classic catalog is corruption or file loss caused by a hardware failure. I don’t consider either of these to be especially likely, though hard drives do fail periodically.
If my catalog were to be lost or damaged due to a hardware or software issue, I would simply recover from my most recent catalog backup. As I’ve outlined in previous answers, I retain several backup copies of my catalog, including multiple recent backups and a few backups going back as far as a few months or more.
Obviously if I had to recover from a backup of my catalog, I would lose any information that had been added between the date of the backup and when I lost my current catalog. That would be mitigated to some extent by having the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox enabled on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog. I would also need to re-import any photos that had been imported after the date of the catalog backup I was restoring from.
The greater risk in the long term, though I hope this is not much of a risk at all, would be if Adobe discontinued Lightroom Classic so that my catalog would no longer be accessible. This would be unfortunate, since Lightroom Classic forms the foundation of my workflow, but it is something I could still work around without too much difficulty.
Because I have the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox enabled I would retain standard metadata such as star ratings and keywords with the source image files, so I could always use other software to access those details and manage my photos. I also try to minimize my use of features that are only preserved within the Lightroom Classic catalog, such as collections, virtual copies, and pick and reject flags.
Overall though, I don’t think Adobe is likely to discontinue Lightroom Classic anytime soon, and my backup workflow is such that I’m confident I could recover from any problems with my current catalog without too much difficulty.