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Master Your Image Library

What are the drawbacks of this second method? Well, unfortunately, not all catalog metadata is written into XMP. The most important items (that I know of) that can’t be communicated from catalog to catalog using XMP are virtual copies, Collection information, pick flag status, develop history, and if you’re renaming files on location, a significant little bit of metadata that the Lightroom catalog thoughtfully stores, the original file name. So if your location workflow is heavily dependent upon the use of virtual copies or Collections, then this method may not work for you.

Using keywords can be a perfectly viable workaround to using Collections on location. And using Snapshots in Develop can be an easy alternative to relying on Develop history or virtual copies for alternate interpretations of a photo’s processing instructions. As for pick flag status, this limitation is also easy to work around using keywords or star ratings.

I find that one of these two methods always works well for me when I can’t take my entire master library with me on location. Learning how to work with multiple catalogs does take a bit of experimentation, bit it’s well worth the effort. Just be sure to perform your experiments on a backup copy of your libraries.


The reason there’s very little consensus among photographers on the subject of using RAID drive configurations is because there are so many variables. RAID drives come in lots of different flavors, and they have evolved considerably over the years, so there are no easy answers. Just like any other hardware purchase, it’s always best to arm yourself with enough information before you commit a RAID to your backup or archive workflow.


RAID drives can be configured to enhance system performance, or to provide data redundancy, or both. And in each case there are trade-offs. A pair of hard drives that are mirrored for redundancy (RAID Level 1) can provide one basic form of backup protection, but with the drawback that any mistakes you make will be instantly mirrored to the backup, too. Another type of RAID (Level 0) splits up, or “stripes,” your data across multiple hard drives for faster performance, with the obvious drawback that if one drive fails, the entire RAID will be lost. Finally, solutions such as NETGEAR’s X-RAID2 and Drobo’s BeyondRAID combine several RAID levels with proprietary technology that provides both increased performance and data redundancy. But increasing the complexity of any system also can come with its own cost.

Having said all that, and given how far hard drive and general RAID technology have come in the last decade, I feel that a RAID setup can be effectively used as either your daily “working” drive or as a “backup” drive. But I probably wouldn’t recommend RAID configurations for something that you call your “archive.” (See my previous DPP articles in the December 2009 and March/April 2010 issues.) In my definition of a true archive, you want your data to be in the most plain, vanilla format as possible, in other words, just files and folders that easily will be readable by someone, perhaps years after you leave the business as a photographer, or even after you pass away. This definition also requires that your archive drive be in the most ubiquitous format possible to help ensure the greatest chance of compatibility with future hardware and operating systems.

So go ahead and take advantage of the benefits that using RAID drives can bring to your daily workflow. But do your research first, and never let your guard down against potentially putting your photos at risk!

George Jardine began his career as a professional photographer, and his work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens, Interior Design and many other publications. He joined Adobe Systems in 1993, and in 2002 he began work on the Lightroom project. Jardine teaches workshops and consults for digital photographers, and is a freelance video producer. You can find his tutorials by visiting his blog at


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