How do you store your photos? What type of structure do you use to keep track of your images? How does Lightroom fit into the workflow and what exactly is the role of the catalog? I can’t answer those question for your workflow but I can tell you about mine.
The first thing to look at is my hardware and the current state of computers and storage solutions. My current computer is an Apple MacBook Pro 15″ from early 2011 with 16GB RAM and two internal drives, the main hard drive is 240GB SSD drive that hold applications, the 2nd is a 1TB drive used for data storage. If I were to go to Apple and replace the computer today and bought a new 15″ MacBook Pro the most internal storage I could get is 1TB. That is not a lot of data storage for a professional photographer.
So here is how a shoot and post production goes now:
I show up at the event and shoot it using 2 camera bodies. For a regular 3 song concert shoot, that’s a couple of hundred of photos. For an event like Comic Con the number of images can skyrocket into the thousands. When I come back to my office I plug the memory cards into the card readers and download the images to the data drive on my laptop using photo mechanic. In the data drive (called Macintosh HD 2) I have a folder called Pictures and for each shoot I create a folder with the shoot name or band name, and then a sub folder called RAW FILES. All the photos from the shoot are stored in the RAW FILES folder. I the create a 2nd folder called PICKS which is where the images that I will edit are stored. The other folders are where the Lightroom Catalog and the edited images for the client are kept.
As you can see from the image below, these are the shoots that I have done from the Laughlin Event Center in 2015.
The images are now on the computer in the RAW_FILES and I quickly go through the images using the Photo Mechanic Contact Sheet. I select the files that are so bad they have no use at all, usually shots of the ground behind me, and delete them. I then go through the shoot looking for the images I want to edit. I then copy the selected images to the PICKS folder. I then import the images from the PICKS folder into Lightroom and I create a Lightroom catalog for the shoot as seen in the figure above. It’s the folder name with the _LR at the end. I then open Lightroom, do my editing and export the final images for the client.
This entire folder is still on the 1TB internal drive on my laptop, but that drive will run out of space really fast so I move the whole shoot to one of the back up external drives.
Now Adobe seems to think that photographers should have a single Lightroom Catalog. This sounds really good, just import all your photos into your computer wherever you want, and add all them to a catalog and you can access, edit and look at any of your photos on the computer, and with the mobile sync turned on even on your iPad or iPhone. Great idea that fails in practice when you shoot a lot. The first problem is that the Lightroom slows down when dealing with large catalogs. I created a catalog for all the shoots I have done for the Valley View Casino Center, 40 plus shoots a year since 2011. That is a total of 334,537 images and climbing. Even with the shoots organized by year, with keywords, and in collections it takes forever to find a specific image. If I would add the shoots for the other venues, books, pet stuff and other random images, the catalog would be even bigger and more unwieldy.
The size of the Lightroom Catalog along with the current previews is about 10 GB and growing. That size of catalog seems to make Lightroom SLOW down. The faster I can edit and deal with images, the better. Hence I use smaller catalogs, one per show and my file structure allows me to find the images I need without having to wade through one huge catalog.