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This well-thought-out multimedia eBook explains all the tools you will need to handle just about any situation you come across using multiple catalogs in Adobe Lightroom.

Book Review: ‘The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5’ by Peter Krogh

The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5 is a different kind of book. It is a textbook, a workshop, and a seminar all rolled into one. While Lightroom is a great tool for managing your digital assets, it is really only geared for a single catalog workflow. In many cases this is not practical, for example if you need a master catalog as well as one that you can take on the road, or if two or more photographers work in collaboration from a distance. The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5 explores these types of situations and shows you how they can be implemented.

The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5
The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5

The book is different because it incorporates text, video, animated flowcharts, and images to not only tell you how to accomplish your goals, but to show you as well. This book is for intermediate to advanced users who already know how to work with Lightroom and now want to learn how to work with multiple catalogs. In fact, working with multiple catalogs is the only topic that this book focuses on. It is an eBook that contains an introduction, four chapters, five workflows, 113 pages, and 3.5 hours of video.

The Introduction brings you up to speed about what the book is all about. It talks about why you would want to use multiple catalogs, how the book works, the videos that are included, and its assumptions about your capabilities with Lightroom. It also covers the terminology the book uses relating to the different types of catalogs you may want to have, the types of storage methods that you may need for your images, and the records, fields, and values that Lightroom uses to store its information.

Chapter 1, “Photo Library Architecture,” examines how to create the proper library structure to work with your multi-catalog workflow. It examines several structures to help you achieve a defined goal and looks at the workflow from a full perspective, beginning, middle, and end, so you can better understand the complete process. It looks at the image files and the catalog, the non-destructive nature of Lightroom, and the ideal Lightroom situation of a single catalog. From there it explores divided storage and the use of multiple catalogs.

Chapter 2, “Working with Catalogs,” takes a look at how catalogs work and begins to highlight some of the techniques that will be used in the multi-catalog workflow. You will start off by making sure that if you are using multiple catalogs, it should be for a reason, and to use as few as possible. Here you will take a look at the folder structure that Lightroom uses when it creates a catalog. Then you will see how to create a new catalog and how best to arrange and organize catalogs. The rest of this chapter is dedicated to ways you can get the best out of your catalogs.

Chapter 3, “Catalog Backup,” looks at how to come up with a strategy for backing up your catalogs to preserve your work. This isn’t about the image backup but rather the backing up of the Lightroom catalogs. Then you will learn about making versioned backups so that when something unexpected happens, you can go back to a prior version. To prevent your backups from piling up on you, you will also learn how to clean them up every now and again. Finally, you will learn about the data that is not written back to the files and what you can do to preserve it.

Chapter 4, “Multi-catalog Techniques,” shows you Lightroom’s tools for dealing with multiple catalogs. One thing pointed out here is that if you are new to the multi-catalog techniques, you really should create some test catalogs to play with so as to not put your real catalogs at risk. Plus, while experimenting with test catalogs you will learn some good techniques so that if bad things happen to your real catalogs, you will know how to make the corrections. Some of the techniques include resetting folder paths, catalog merging, merging catalogs and moving files separately, splitting catalogs, transferring catalogs, and creating duplicate catalogs.

Workflow 1, “Multiple Master Catalogs,” would be appropriate in cases where there are clear and unambiguous distinctions between bodies of work. It may be that you are a wedding photographer but you also do another, totally different kind of work such as concert photography and you want to keep these genres apart. Perhaps you have professional work and personal work that you want to keep separate. The key to this strategy is that the workflows are intended to remain separate.

Workflow 2 is “Project and Master Catalogs,” which are great when your work assignments take you out in the field and then you want to at some point merge the work into a master or archive catalog. The advantage here is that the project catalog stays small and Lightroom can run as fast as possible. Then once it is merged into the master, you have the benefits of comprehensive collection management.

Workflow 3 is “Working and Archive Catalogs,” which are beneficial when your image collection is so large that it is unwieldy to use for everyday work. In this case you have a working catalog and an archive that houses all of your older images. In the working catalog you keep your current projects and a copy of your portfolio pieces that you can use to create books, slideshows, etc. When you are done with jobs, they can be transferred to the archive.

Workflow 4, “Synchronized Catalogs,” are for when you need to have matching catalogs in two places at the same time – one at home and one in the studio, or if you have multiple studios. This workflow requires discipline to maintain since keeping multiple catalogs in sync is not always easy. Here you will learn three different methods, import, transfer, and synchronization server, that will help you keep them flowing.

Workflow 5, “Satellite Catalogs,” refers to a catalog that is exported from the master, goes somewhere, and then is imported back into the master. This is useful if you are on the go and need to have working files with you that will eventually end back up in the master catalog. There are three levels of access that can be maintained: previews only, smart previews, and original files. This kind of workflow is good when working in collaboration with others as well.

I found The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5 really well thought out and very well presented. I like the multimedia presentation and how it allowed you to see the workflows in action. One thing to note is that the structure of the directory in which the book resides needs to be maintained so that the book works properly. This is not a problem as it comes in a digital download and when you extract it, it puts everything in the proper place.

The way that this book works is that you are presented with the text and when you hit a point where video explanation is presented, you click on the video and it starts up. You watch the video and when it is done, you close the video window and continue on with the text. It is all pretty seamless. The book is $34.95 and is available from the DAMUseful store for download.

I also really liked the fact that the book focuses on one thing, multi-catalog management, and while it may not give you every possible scenario you could run into in the real world, it does explain all of the tools that you will need to handle just about any situation you come across. It is for that reason that I very highly recommend The DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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