This is a very important feature of Lightroom for those who have different catalogs of a big folder of pictures (and by “big” we mean a few thousands of pictures, so organizing them is worth the effort).
I’ve met many photographers who work by catalogs, regardless if the pictures were taken because of the job or as a hobby (even I did it like this), making catalogs for each event, for example, the “Summer Vacation” catalog, or the “Wedding of Jack and Jane” catalog, and just like those, they have 10, 50, 100 or even more catalogs. To be fair, it’s not a bad way to manage and organize your pictures, but Lightroom, -at least the 4 and 5 versions- is capable of working just as fast if a catalog has 50 or 5000 photos, which sometimes makes having a single, massive catalog for all of our pictures much simpler than the alternative.
How do I manage my pictures in a single catalog?
All you have to do is create collections (not smart collections for now).
In the LIBRARY menu, on the left bar, you have the COLECTIONS option, and right next to it there’s a little “+” button, which can create more collections and smart collections (and some features more). When you create a new collection, you can give it the name you want and you can also choose its location –you can even create it inside an existing collection and create a “sub-collection”-; be careful with the option “Include the selected pictures” because if it’s active, the selected pictures will be moved to the new collection. Not a big deal, but annoying to deal with anyway.
Once you create your new collection, you can add to it any picture you want, all you have to do is drag and drop.
What if I have 200 different catalogs and I want to merge them all into one?
Then you have to import your Catalogs.
First go to FILE and then to the option “Import from other catalogs”, look for another catalog –in this case it’ll be the one called “Puerto Vallarta”- click on OPEN and that’s it! Lightroom will import the pictures from this catalog to the one we have opened once the process has ended, it would be a good idea to create a new collection called “PUERTO VALLARTA” for these new imported pictures. This simple process can turn a catalog into a collection.
Repeat this process with every catalog you have to merge them all into one, or maybe just have 2 or 3 catalogs instead of 50 or 300.
Why is having only one catalog better?
You don’t have to change from one catalog to the next to look for a specific picture, with multiple collections, you can have all your files at your disposal in the session of Adobe Lightroom, which is very comfortable, and even if you have 20000 or more pictures, Lightroom will not lag.
Any disadvantages of working with only one catalog?
If you’re careful and constantly back up your pictures, there are no disadvantages.
Adobe creates a back up, but it’s also recommended that you create one too, so every once in a while making a back up of all of your files is a good idea. Back up both the catalogs and the original folders of your pictures, since the program needs those and without them you would really lose all your files.
So, if you back up your files in a weekly or monthly basis (it can vary depending on your work and your preferences), having just one catalog with every single one of your files in it is very useful and comfortable.
Still, some may prefer to have more catalogs than just one, that depends on the particular preferences and needs of the user, but, generally speaking, having a single catalog –or just a few ones- is the preferred method among many of the photographers I know.