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Lightroom catalogue synchronisation question


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I'm currently running LR and PS CC on both my laptop (when travelling) and desktop (when at home). My entire photo collection is on both computers and kept in synch by software synchronisation of the "My Pictures" folders on both machines. So far I have always excluded the LR catalogue from this synchronisation thinking it would mess things up. But that means LR edits made to images on one computer aren't readily available on the other (only the exported jpg/tif/psd files are synchronised). I don't make extensive use of the LR catalogue (I tend to import a "project" of images and then empty the catalgue when I've finished). But it would be useful to have the catalogues "in step" on both computers. So, if I'm part way through work on a project I can "handover" from one computer to the other when travelling.

 

I'm considering wiping both LR catalogues and then adding them into my synchronisation process. Will this work? NB. I'll never be working on both machines at the same time. The structure of the "My Pictures" folder and the name of the Home folder on both computers is the same.

 

If that won't work, is there another way to achieve the same result (without carrying an external disk with all the pictures and LR catalogue on)?

 

Mark

 

 

 

 

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It is possible to synchronise catalogues.  For example, on my travels (yes, those distant days when travel was possible) I keep a Lightroom catalogue on my laptop then add it in to my main catalogue on my return.  If you look at Lightroom import options, you will see that there is an option to import from another Lightroom catalogue.  You need to decide what is your master catalogue, and then import the other catalogue into this.  You can choose not to import duplicates.  Then Lightroom imports the images from the secondary catalogue (in my case, the one on my travel laptop) into the main catalogue, preserving all the edits.  
 

it is simpler than it sounds.  There are several YouTube videos about this, including one from Julienne Kost, the Adobe evangelist.  Quite how it would handle catalogues in which edits have been made to the same file in different catalogues I am not sure, however: perhaps you would need to allow Lightroom to import duplicates so that you have both versions.  If you need help, there are some very knowledgeable and helpful people on the forums of The Lightroom Queen website.
 

Graham

Edited by Graham
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22 minutes ago, Graham said:

It is possible to synchronise catalogues.  For example, on my travels (yes, those distant days when travel was possible) I keep a Lightroom catalogue on my laptop then add it in to my main catalogue on my return.  If you look at Lightroom import options, you will see that there is an option to import from another Lightroom catalogue.  You need to decide what is your master catalogue, and then import the other catalogue into this.  You can choose not to import duplicates.  Then Lightroom imports the images from the secondary catalogue (in my case, the one on my travel laptop) into the main catalogue, preserving all the edits.  
 

it is simpler than it sounds.  There are several YouTube videos about this, including one from Julienne Kost, the Adobe evangelist.  Quite how it would handle catalogues in which edits have been made to the same file in different catalogues I am not sure, however: perhaps you would need to allow Lightroom to import duplicates so that you have both versions.  If you need help, there are some very knowledgeable and helpful people on the forums of The Lightroom Queen website.
 

Graham

 

Ideally I want an automated bi-directional synchronisation (which I already do on everything in My Pictures folder). I'd just like to add the LR catalogue into that process. Neither catalogue will be a "master" (they would have equal status), and I won't make changes to both catalogues between synchronisations.

 

Mark   

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In that case, just the usual synchronisation process via your backup software should be fine.  I use Goodsync, but there are plenty of perfectly computable backup solutions. I suggest that you synchronise just your catalogue, however: if you synchronise your previews as well, it will greatly increase the time taken to synchronise.

 

Graham

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This might be too simple but I simply copy catalogs from one computer to another (or keep catalogs on an external Thunderbolt SSD - just as fast as the internal SSD)

Edited by MDM
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23 hours ago, Graham said:

In that case, just the usual synchronisation process via your backup software should be fine.  I use Goodsync, but there are plenty of perfectly computable backup solutions. I suggest that you synchronise just your catalogue, however: if you synchronise your previews as well, it will greatly increase the time taken to synchronise.

 

Graham

OK that seems to work. I used to use Goodsync but have swapped to FreeFileSync. I've just synchronised the contents of my Pictures/Lightroom folder. The extra time is insignificant at the moment (500MB/s transfer + I don't have that many images in the new catalogue I just created to test it + main synching activity is the new RAWs and jpgs). I'll keep an eye on it and may exclude the previews if needed. But I'd like to think that even when the previews get significant it will only need to sync the changes?

 

Thanks

 

Mark

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AHEM ---- Excuse my confusion. Maybe I am missing something but I can't see how this is syncing changes within the catalogs themselves (e.g. virtual copies, snapshots, presets etc).  A Lightroom catalog is a single file so sync software can only sync the entire catalog file. So this is syncing the whole catalog and any image files (no mention of xmp sidecar files which are presumably included in the syncing and are really important as they contain the metadata for the raw edits). However, the image files and xmps are independent of the catalog. Similarly, the previews reside in a single file (although it is a package - are you saying that the sync software delves into the package and can detect modified or new files within the package?). 

 

So yes this is syncing the images files, the xmps and the catalog file but all are independent of each other as far as syncing is concerned. There is no advantage that I can see over simply copying the catalog files from one computer to another. 

 

What Graham is talking about above is merging a catalog from a laptop with another main catalog on a desktop but that is not synchronisation. There is a form of synchronisation involving Lightroom Mobile and a single desktop catalog using Adobe Cloud but that is not relevant here. 
 

Edited by MDM
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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, MDM said:

Similarly, the previews reside in a single file (although it is a package - are you saying that the sync software delves into the package and can detect modified or new files within the package?). 

 

Yes, I've now checked and that appears to be exactly what FreeFileSync is doing. It just copies the changes inside the Lightroom Catalog Previews.lrdata file package (i.e. new/updated previews and a couple of small database/index files. So it's quick The Lightroom Catalog.lrcat is a single file and gets copied in full if anything inside changes. But it's a relatively small file. So that's quick too.  There are some Sync packages that can even handle small changes in big single files by only copying the blocks within the fie that have changed (I seem to recall Goodsync can do this). AFPS relies heavily on keeping track of changed blocks too.

 

9 hours ago, MDM said:

What Graham is talking about above is merging a catalog from a laptop with another main catalog on a desktop but that is not synchronisation.

See his second post above.

 

Here's what I did;

Step 1 manually copy my ~/Pictures/Lightroom folder from Mac 1 to Mac 2 in full (I only have one catalogue)

Step 2 use Sync software to keep the 2 folders in sync from then on.

Restriction - Can only use LR on one Mac at a time and must sync between Macs before swapping from one Mac to the other. But I'm quite used to working like this as the same restriction applies to quite a few of the other files I "sync up" just before travelling and then as soon as I return. I could perhaps use cloud sync instead, but;

1) I sync pretty much everything (so my MacBook is pretty much a "portable clone" of my iMac)

2) I don't always have good internet access when travelling

 

Whether there's a "gotcha" in my process I'm not sure. It will depend how tolerant LR is to changes made by a different copy of LR. So far it seems OK and, as you know, LR supports swapping between catalogues quite happily (albeit in a slightly more manual way). If I had a big valuable LR catalogue I perhaps wouldn't risk it as the danger of corruption might be greater?

 

Mark

Edited by M.Chapman
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OK that is interesting about the previews. I tend to copy manually so have never tried syncing macOS packages between two computers. I have learnt something new here.

 

So you are essentially copying the catalog from one computer to another using the sync software - in other words it is exactly the same as drag and drop for the catalogs only.

 

I have never had any problem moving catalogs around between computers, running them on external drives, having the images on internal or external drives and so on. I have never had a catalog corruption either that I can recall. The key thing is to remember here is that the catalog is just a database, small in size, very easy to back up and contains no images, just information. Even if a master copy did corrupt, it is trivial if one has a backup of the catalog file itself (previews are separate of course). I did recently have a corruption of a Final Cut Pro Library (similar in many ways to a Lightroom catalog but for video) but was able to restore it very easily as it makes basic backups of the database regularly.

 

The cloud sync only works for Lightroom Mobile and a single master Lightroom Classic catalog as far as I know. I decided a few years ago to figure out how all that works but have never used it for anything more than an experiment. It is very slow even with a fast internet connection in my experience and it would not be suitable for what you are doing in any case. I think if one wanted to use cloud sync as part of one's workflow, then it would be what they are now calling Lightroom rather than Lightroom Classic but I know nothing about that and intend to keep it that way. 

 

 

Edited by MDM
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, MDM said:

So you are essentially copying the catalog from one computer to another using the sync software - in other words it is exactly the same as drag and drop for the catalogs only.

For the catalog - yes as it's a single file - so the same as drag and drop.

For the LR previews "package" only the previews that have changed or been added are copied.

For RAWs/JPGs/TIFs/PSDs any new or altered image files are copied

The key is that the ~/Pictures directory structure on the 2nd Mac has to be the same (and kept that way) as it is on the 1st Mac so the relative locations of each image refererenced in the LR catalog are the same on both machines.

 

8 hours ago, MDM said:

The cloud sync only works for Lightroom Mobile and a single master Lightroom Classic catalog as far as I know.

 

In principle any service that provides a locally synched copy of the catalog should work with Lightroom Classic. I see there's quite a good review of the various techniques here.

https://lightroomkillertips.com/using-lightroom-classic-on-multiple-computers/

 

But, because I'm synching my images using FreeFileSych (aka FFS...) using a direct cable connection, I may as well include the LR catalogue too so the images and catalog are kept in step. I might look at adding in my Import, Develop and Export Presets folders too, so they are also kept in step.

 

Mark

 

Edited by M.Chapman
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9 hours ago, MDM said:

 

The cloud sync only works for Lightroom Mobile and a single master Lightroom Classic catalog as far as I know. I decided a few years ago to figure out how all that works but have never used it for anything more than an experiment. It is very slow even with a fast internet connection in my experience and it would not be suitable for what you are doing in any case. I think if one wanted to use cloud sync as part of one's workflow, then it would be what they are now calling Lightroom rather than Lightroom Classic but I know nothing about that and intend to keep it that way. 

 

 

 

 

I was talking about using Adobe Cloud for synchronisation between Lightroom Mobile and a Lightroom Classic desktop catalog. It would be useful if shooting news, for example, where you use Lightroom Mobile in the field and then want to synchronise back to a master catalog. I just learnt it to see how it worked with an iPad but it is currently of no practical use to me. It is slow as well. It would be much faster now to copy the images from the iPad to an external drive. I have no intention of getting into the Lightroom ecosystem/Adobe Cloud.

 

For me a fast external SSD with images + catalogs works best. There is no need to sync anything - just plug in to whatever computer. I still back up of course on to a separate external drive but the images do not live on an internal drive at all. So many ways of working .......

 

 

Edited by MDM
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2 hours ago, MDM said:

For me a fast external SSD with images + catalogs works best.

That's probably the way I'll go if my stuff ever exceeds the size of my boot drives. But I've a way to go yet. Currently running 1TB SSD boot drives and only using 60%. I gained quite a lot of space with my "bare metal" install of Catalina which was well worth doing, although it took a while.

 

Mark

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