From Laptop to Desktop: Synching Catalogs on Two Computers in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3
If you’re running Lightroom on a laptop during your location shoots, you might want to take all the edits, keywords, metadata, and of course the photos themselves, and add them to the Lightroom catalog on your studio computer. It’s easier than it sounds: basically, you choose which catalog to export from your laptop, then you take the folder it creates over to your studio computer and import it—Lightroom does all the hard work for you, you just have to make a few choices about how Lightroom handles the process.
Using the scenario described above, we’ll start on the laptop. The first step is to decide whether you want to export a folder (all the imported photos from your shoot), or a collection (just your Picks from the shoot). In this case, we’ll go with a folder, so go to the Folders panel and click on the folder you want to merge with your main catalog back in your studio. (If you had chosen a collection, the only difference would be you’d go to the Collections panel and click on the collection from that shoot instead. Either way, all the metadata you added, and any edits you made in Lightroom, will still be transferred over to the other machine.)
Now go under Lighroom’s File menu and choose Export as Catalog (as shown here).
When you choose Export as Catalog, it brings up the Export as Catalog dialog (shown here), where you type in the name you want for your exported catalog at the top, but there are some very important choices you need to make at the bottom. By default, it assumes that you want to include the previews that Lightroom created when you imported the photos into Lightroom, and I always leave this option turned on (I don’t want to wait for them to render all over again when I import them into my studio computer). If you turn on the top Export Selected Photos Only checkbox, then it will only export photos in that folder that you had selected before you chose Export as Catalog. But perhaps the most important choice is the center checkbox—Export Negative Files. With this off, it only exports previews and metadata, it doesn’t really export the actual photos themselves, so if you do indeed want to export the actual photos (I always do), then turn the center checkbox on.
When you click the Export Catalog button, it exports your catalog (it usually doesn’t take very long, but of course the more photos in your collection or folder, the longer it will take), and when it’s done exporting, you’ll see the folder on your computer that you exported (as seen here). I usually save this file to my desktop, because the next step is to copy it onto an external hard drive, so you can move this folder full of images over to your studio computer. So, go ahead and copy this folder onto an external hard drive now.
When you get to your studio, connect your hard drive to your studio computer, and copy that folder to the location where you store all your photos (which should be that My Lightroom Photos folder we created in Chapter 1). Now, on your studio computer, go under Lightroom’s File menu and choose Import from Catalog to bring up the dialog you see here. Navigate to that folder you copied onto your studio computer, and then inside that folder, click on the file that ends with the file extension LRCAT (as shown here), and click the Choose button. By the way, if you look at the capture shown here, you can see that Lightroom created three items inside this folder: (1) a file that includes the previews, (2) the catalog file itself, and (3) a folder with the actual photos.
When you click the Choose button, it brings up the Import from Catalog dialog (seen here). Any photos in the Preview section on the right that have a checkbox turned on beside them will be imported (I always leave all of these turned on). In the New Photos section on the left is a File Handling pop-up menu. Since we already copied the photos into the proper folder on our studio computer, I’m using the default setting which is Add New Photos to Catalog Without Moving (as shown here), but if you want to copy them directly from your hard drive into a folder on your computer, you could choose the Copy option instead. There’s a third option, but I have no idea why at this point you’d choose to not import the photos. Just click Import, and these photos will appear as a folder, with all the edits, keywords, etc., you applied on your laptop.