Today’s Question: Here’s a situation that happens with me occasionally: I have a large batch of photos from some event. I download them and start the culling/processing. Then I need to go out of town, so I export the folder to a drive and take it with me where I can continue the work from the portable drive. When I get back to my home computer, I have to re-import this catalog, which has my latest edits. Then I end up deleting the original folder (which is now old). I’m guessing there’s a better way. Suggestions? I know there’s a way to remotely edit using smart previews, but I prefer to work on the raw files.
Tim’s Quick Answer: I would recommend either taking the original catalog with you or, even better, synchronizing the photos to the cloud and doing the additional work either in a web browser or using the Lightroom mobile app.
More Detail: I think this type of scenario is a very good example of a situation where synchronizing photos from Lightroom Classic to the cloud is a great solution. All you need to do is add the photos to a new collection and enable synchronization for that collection.
When you’ve synchronized photos in this way, you can then access those images through the Lightroom cloud-based ecosystem. That includes being able to see the photos as an album in a web browser by visiting the Lightroom site (https://lightroom.adobe.com) or in the Lightroom app on a mobile device.
The feature set when working with Lightroom in the cloud is not as feature-rich as using Lightroom Classic, but I think it is more than adequate for a typical image-review workflow. You can, for example, assign star ratings and pick or reject flags, add keywords, apply adjustments, and more.
If you didn’t want to use cloud-based synchronization for some reason, I recommend either keeping your catalog on an external hard drive permanently, or at least doing so temporarily. What I don’t like about this approach is the risk that you might get confused about which copy of the catalog is the “real” updated version, and accidentally revert to an older version of the catalog. Still, I think this is better in general than having to export and then re-import photos.
To move the catalog to a different location you first want to make sure Lightroom Classic isn’t running. Then copy the folder containing the catalog and all related files to an external hard drive you’ll have with you when traveling. Open the catalog directly from that external hard drive while traveling, and you’ll have access to all the organizational features even if you don’t have the source image files with you. If you want to work in the Develop module you can simply generate Smart Previews for the photos in question before transferring the catalog to an external hard drive.