Collections from Corrupted Catalog


Today’s Question: I have a corrupted catalog and have created a new one. I was able to import all my photos (over 200,000) successfully. However, I can’t export/import any of my collections from the old catalog. Is there a way to copy them to the new catalog?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Collections are only contained within the Lightroom Classic catalog, not in the metadata for individual photos. Therefore, the only way to transfer collections into a new catalog is to import from the prior catalog, if that is possible in view of the older catalog being corrupted.

More Detail: By default, Lightroom Classic only stores metadata updates in the catalog, not in the metadata for the source image files. You can save standard metadata to the source images, such as by turning on the “Automatically write changes into XMP” checkbox on the Metadata tab of the Catalog Settings dialog.

However, saving metadata to the source files will only preserve standard metadata fields in the source file, not special features of the Lightroom Classic catalog such as collections. Similarly, by the way, features such as pick and reject flags, virtual copies, and the history in the Develop module are only saved to the catalog, even when you save metadata to the source image files.

Therefore, the only way to get catalog-only features such as collections into a new catalog is to import that information from the prior catalog. When the reason for creating a new catalog in the first place is a corrupted catalog, this can obviously be problematic.

That said, it is still worth a try. I would start by creating a new empty catalog, which you can do by choosing File > New Catalog from the menu. Once you’ve created and opened that new catalog, you can try to import from the prior catalog that appears to be corrupted. To do so, choose File > Import from Another Catalog from the menu. In the dialog that appears navigate to the location of the prior catalog, select the file with the “.lrcat” filename extension, and click the Choose button.

If this approach is successful, you will have the information about your photos, including collections, imported into the new catalog from the prior catalog, and you should be in good shape. If that doesn’t work due to the catalog being corrupted, the only other option would be to recover from an earlier backup of the catalog.