Backups are crazy important. No matter how “good” hardware gets, nothing is 100% reliable. So everyone should have two backup strategies — a backup medium and an off-line backup (even if it is just a USB drive you keep in your desk at work!).

Workflows and Backups

Everyone’s workflow is a little different. For me, everything ends up on the Drobo (everything). I even render and work with live files directly from my Drobo. Frequent backups are made to a USB-attached hard drive, and then there are nightly online backups for safety.

My workflow pretty much doesn’t use my iMac or MacBook Pro’s hard drives. Everything is on the Drobo. This way, when my iMac dies for good, it’s no big deal, I haven’t lost my work, just my shirt (having to buy another iMac).

Exceptions to the Rule

One thing that doesn’t follow this workflow is my Lightroom Catalog. Although it is perfectly fine working with my images right from the Drobo, for some reason, Lightroom goes into “Walk Like A Snail” mode unless the catalog file is on a local drive.

So that’s free tip #1: make sure your Lightroom Catalog is on a “local” drive, not USB, not Firewire.

But that’s a bit of a risk. A suddenly dead drive means bu-bye catalogs. Sure, all my images are safe, but losing the catalogs would be a serious drag.

Lightroom prompts you to do occasionally do “backups” — but the default directory points to the SAME device as your catalog! Sure, that’s helpful if a catalog is corrupted, but not much help if your drive goes south.

Moving your Default Backup Directory

The good news is, Lightroom lets you change the location of your backups. You can save them just about anywhere you have drive access, including USB attached 2nd backup devices, Dropbox, etc.

One drawback is that this setting is in the “Catalog Settings”, not the “General Settings”. So each time you create a new catalog, you will have to follow the following steps. For those of you that create a new catalog on January 1st each year, that’s going to be a little hard to remember; might want to set a reminder. 🙂

The Easy Steps

Here are the steps for moving your default Catalog Directory to a different hard drive:

  1. While Lightroom is open, go to Catalog Settings. (Note, NOT the application preferences, this is a catalog setting!)
  2. Under the “General” tab, look for the “Backup” heading, and “Back up catalog” subheadings.
  3. We want to select the “Every time” option. Depending on which Lightroom you use, it may say “Every time Lightroom starts” or “Every time Lightroom exits“. Regardless of which one you have, pick that one.
  4. Restart Lightroom.
  5. At some point, you will see a “Back Up Catalog” popup window, and the first option displayed is the absolute path to the backup directory location. Click the “Choose…” button. You can now select a location on any other drive to store your Lightroom backup catalogs!

This setting persists for each catalog, so you only have to set it once, which is nice. And I suggest using a very descriptive folder name so you don’t mistake your “backups” for your “actual catalog” (mine are all in a directory called /LightroomCatalogBackups/, clever enough).

Hope this tip helps!

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Joe Lippeatt

Event Organizer at HoustonPhotowalks.com
Joe is a Houston-area photographer and Project Manager for the IT / Software development company 24Moves Consulting.Joe provides software, web development, SEO and marketing consulting in the day, and photography events on the weekends.
Joe Lippeatt
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