In this article, we’ll show you how to backup your Abobe Lightroom catalog in a few simple steps.
A lot of things can go wrong in photography. Unexpected hard disk failures, computer viruses or even physical damage from dropping the computer or theft.
These can result in lost work that in most cases is irreplaceable.
If Lightroom is your primary editing tool, knowing how to backup the Lightroom catalog will provide security for your raw and edited files. And it will give you peace of mind that your work is safely stored.
I use Lightroom Classic on my primary machine, an iMac with an external drive that houses my Lightroom catalog. A second hard drive backs up my unedited raw files and my post-processes work.
The good thing about using Lightroom Classic is that it allows you to schedule regular catalog backups when you exit the software. But backups executed from Lightroom Classic only include the catalog file.
You must back up your edited photos and anything exported from Lightroom Classic yourself. It is important to have a backup plan that includes the following:
- Setting up a regular routine for backup. It can be a daily, weekly, monthly or annually depending on the frequency of your workload.
- Pick a plan and don’t be afraid to adjust as your photography needs change. Remember that the more frequently you back up your catalog and photos, the less data you stand to lose when a crash or corruption occurs.
- Storing backup copies of your catalog and photos on a separate hard disk is a good idea. That way if the primary fails, the backup can be used to restore. For greater security, store your backup disk in a separate location from your working disk, preferably offsite or in a fire-proof safe.
Lightroom can be set up to automatically back up your primary catalog. Here are the steps you need to follow to backup your files.
By default, Lightroom Classic saves backed up catalogs to the following locations:
On a Windows: \Users\[user name]\Pictures\Lightroom\[catalog name]\Backups\
On a Mac OS: /Users/[user name]/Pictures/Lightroom/[catalog name]/Backups\
Inside the Backups folder, Lightroom Classic creates a folder with the date and time of the backup: yyyy-mm-dd hrmn. Time is represented by a 24-hour clock without a colon between hours and minutes.
The backed up catalog is saved inside the date-stamped folder. It has the same name as the working catalog as a .zip file.
You can set up your catalog backups using the following steps
Lightroom Classic writes a new catalog every time it creates a backup. To save space on your hard disk, delete or compress old backup files.
Choose Edit > Catalog Settings (Windows) or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings (Mac OS). In the Backup area of the General panel, choose an option from the Back Up Catalog pop-up menu.
You can choose from the following.
- When Lightroom Next Exits – this backs up the catalog the next time you exit Lightroom Classic, and then the Back Up Catalog option switches to Never.
- Every Time Lightroom Exits – this backs up the catalog every time you exit Lightroom Classic. Changes from every working session are always backed up.
- Once A Day, When Exiting Lightroom – this backs up the catalog the first time you exit Lightroom Classic each day. If you exit Lightroom Classic more than once a day, additional changes are not backed up until the next day.
- Once A Week, When Exiting Lightroom – this backs up the catalog once a week. If you exit Lightroom Classic more frequently, additional changes are not backed up until the next week.
- Once A Month, When Exiting Lightroom – this backs up the catalog once a month. If you exit Lightroom Classic more frequently, additional changes are not backed up until the next month.
- Never – no backups are performed by Lightroom Classic. We do not recommend using this.
Back Up a Catalog Automatically
- Exit Lightroom Classic when a catalog backup is scheduled in your Catalog Settings.
- In the Back Up Catalog dialog box, click Back Up to back up the catalog at the default location and quit Lightroom Classic.
- You can select a separate backup folder by clicking ‘Choose’ to back up to a different location.
- You can check for catalog corruption before Lightroom Classic completes the backup by selecting ‘Test integrity Before Backing Up. Testing integrity increases the time it takes to back up the catalog but reduces the risk of data loss. You can also test catalog integrity when you open a catalog. In the General panel of the Preferences dialog box, select When Starting Up Use This Catalog > Prompt Me When Starting Lightroom. Then, start Lightroom Classic. In the Select Catalog dialog box, select Test Integrity Of This Catalog and then click Open.
- You can clean up and reorganize the database files to make it run faster and more efficient by selecting ‘Optimize Catalog after backing up’ checkbox
If you want to interrupt the backup routine, you can select ‘Skip until tomorrow’ or “Skip until next week’ for skipping the backup for this one time.
Backup Lightroom Catalog Manually
To backup your Lightroom catalog manually, use the following steps. I suggest you set up a routine so that you don’t forget to this manually.
- Choose Edit > Catalog Settings(Windows) or Lightroom Classic > Catalog Settings (Mac OS).
- Choose Back Up Catalog> When Lightroom Next Exits.
- Close the window and then quit Lightroom Classic.
Now that you have figured out how to back up your Lightroom catalog, let’s look at how to restore from a backup. Use this in case something unfortunate does happen and you lose access to the primary LR catalog.
To restore from a backup catalog:
- Choose File > Open Catalog.
- Navigate to the location of your backed up catalog file.
- Click on the .zip folder
- Select the backed up .lrcat file and click Open.
- Copy the backed up catalog to the location of the original catalog to replace it.
As you can tell, the whole backup process for Lightroom is actually very easy. It might look like a complicated series of steps but once you set up the backup to a routine and process, just follow through.
Lightroom catalogs do tend to become huge files very quickly. I recommend cleaning out old backups every 6 months or so. That way you have the latest and greatest at all times.