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How Lightroom works: Where it keeps your images, and how to back up

Lesa Snider | March 30, 2015
Lots of people are leaping onto the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom bandwagon. One reason is licensing and pricing--for $150 you get a stand-alone copy with a perpetual license or you can subscribe to it, along with Photoshop, for a slick $10/month. Another reason for Lightroom's popularity is that it's a superb alternative to the soon-to-be-dead Aperture.

There's no limit to how many image records a Lightroom catalog can contain. You can also create multiple catalogs and easily switch between them, though such organizational overachievement comes at a modest price: You can only open one catalog at a time, and Lightroom's filtering and search tools can't see records in a catalog that isn't open. So if you create a separate catalog for your professional work and another for personal photos, you'll need to remember which catalog contains the records for the images you want to find.

Where do my presets live?

One of Lightroom's many advantages is that you can create a preset for just about anything — file name conventions, copyright info, anything you do in the Develop module, export settings (more on that in a minute), watermarks (both graphic and text-based), slideshow and web gallery settings, photo book page layouts, and more. You can even determine when certain presets are applied — on import or export.

Exporting an image from Lightroom prompts the program to create a copy of the original, with or without your edits applied, at the size and file format you specify, with or without a watermark, copyright info, and so on. As the infographic above shows, Lightroom presets are stored in a completely separate folder (you can control its location, too).

Backing up your files

When it comes to backing up your Lightroom Life, you have to back up all the pieces and parts mentioned above: your original images (wherever they live), your Lightroom catalog, and your Lightroom presets folder. Arguably, you should back up the Lightroom application, too, though you could re-download it from Adobe's site.

Ever the helpful one, Lightroom prompts you to back up your catalog each time you quit the program, and you can pick where the duplicate is stored. Since your catalog contains only instructions and not actual images, it doesn't take long to copy.

Now that you understand where Lightroom stores your stuff, you can put your focus back where it belongs — editing your images. Until next time, may the creative force be with you all!

 

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