Lightroom Catalog Settings

By Gene McCullagh
February 17, 2009 | Comments: 6

As we've seen, there are many preferences that can be adjusted in Lightroom to make it work the way you like. But that's not all! Each catalog has its own settings to allow you to further customize your Lightroom experience! Let's take a look at <bold>Catalog Settings</bold>.

Catalog Settings can be found under the Lightroom menu on the Mac and under the Edit menu on Windows.


There are three main tabs here: General, File Handling, and Metadata.

The General Tab


The Information section provides you with some important data about your catalog. Clicking the Show button will open Finder or Explorer and bring you to where your catalog is stored on the disk.


Backup controls how often your catalog is backed up. Selecting the drop-down menu reveals several choices.


Choose the backup frequency most comfortable for you. A word of caution regarding Lightroom's backup featured is needed. This only backups up the catalog database. Your images files are NOT backed up using this feature. You should make a regular habit of backing up your images using whatever backup technology you have.

Another important point is that by default Lightroom puts the catalog backup in the same folder as the catalog itself. While this affords a measure of security should your catalog database become corrupted it is a good idea to choose another location for the backup. You can do this when Lightroom prompts you to do the backup by changing the location indicated in that dialog.


The Optimize section is fairly self explanatory. Click on the Relaunch and Optimize button to have Lightroom clean up your catalog database and optimize performance.

The File Handling Tab


An number of previews are built and stored by Lightroom and stored in the preview cache database. The Standard Preview is what you see when looking at an image in the library loupe view. You should set the size to closely match the monitor resolution you work on. The preview can also be set to Low, Medium, or High quality. The better the quality the more room it takes. However, for critical judgments High quality is crucial.

Lastly, 1:1 Previews are built as needed or upon import. These are the previews you see when you zoom into an image for a full sized pixel to pixel view. These previews are large so Lightroom offers you the opportunity to set an interval for automatically deleting the 1:1 preview. You can choose to never delete them but be cautioned that they take up a great deal of space. Also, they will be built as needed when you zoom into an image. If your system is relatively robust then a small delay while the preview is built is a small price to pay for the disk space saved.


According to Adobe documentation, the Import Sequence Numbers are supposed to indicate the number of images imported. However, I have not found this to be the case. You can set a number here that will be picked up by the file naming template elsewhere in Lightroom.

The Metadata Tab


Finally, the Metadata tab lets you set some important metadata features.


There are three choices in the Editing section. As you type entries into metadata fields, Lightroom will make suggestions based on previously entered data. If you prefer not to have these suggestions then uncheck this option. You can also start over by clicking the Clear All Suggestion Lists button.

Metadata can be included directly in JPEG, TIFF and PSD files. If you would also like the settings from the Develop module included in the metadata in these files then check this option.

As you work with images all of your changes are stored in the Lightroom database. You can manually write that information out to the image files (or to an XMP sidecar file in the case of RAW images). Checking the Automatically write changes into XMP option will record all of your changes into the database AND write them out to the file. This is extremely convenient. However, if you are working with a very large catalog and making a large number of changes you could see a performance hit with this option selected. In that case you may choose to turn this off and write out your changes manually after you are done.


Normally, Lightroom will never alter any data in a proprietary RAW file. Here is one exception. If you change the date/time stamp for an image you may want the original RAW file to reflect this. if so then check this option.

Why would you alter the date/time stamp for an image? One common case is this. You take your camera on vacation and forget to reset the clock to the local time where you are. Consequently, all your images will have an incorrect time. You can adjust the time in Lightroom to correct this. This option would write that change back to the RAW file.

That wraps up our look at Catalog settings. As you can see from this and the many many options in Preferences, you can customize Lightroom to work any way that fits your personal workflow. A truly flexible application!

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Cool! Thank you!

Great info, I will definitely put it to use! I always learn something here. Keep it coming!


Do you have an option somewhere to be able to change the catalog every time lightroom starts? Or it is impossible and I have to start the current catalog to be able to switch to another one?

Hi Eric!

It's in the Preferences. Check out my post at for default catalog settings.

"The Optimize section is fairly self explanatory. Click on the Relaunch and Optimize button to have Lightroom clean up your catalog database and optimize performance."

I admit it sounds self explanatory, but it doesn't really tell us what files by location are getting remade or cleaned. And what if any space on the drive(s) need to be accessible to have the optimization process work quickly.

Lightroom's catalog is a database file. Optimization cleans up that file and makes the database run more efficiently. It does not do anything to other files and requires minimal disk space to run.

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