At my seminar last week in Salt Lake City (great folks there, by the way — had a blast!), I was talking with a gentleman and he told me his photos were backed up already because he backs-up his Lightroom catalog once a week. Ack! Another guy there thought the same thing — that backing up your Lightroom Catalog also backs up the photos you have in Lightroom.

Backing up your Lightroom catalog DOES NOT backup your photos. These are two separate processes.

Your Lightroom catalog is simply a database of edits you’ve made to your images and a collection of thumbnails of those images. It’s a list of your sorting and organization, but that’s it. Backing up this catalog is important (and to a separate hard drive I might add), because if your computer ever had a serious crash and your hard drive died, or your computer gets damaged or stolen, you’d be starting over from scratch in Lightroom, but that backup of your catalog does not include any actual photos.

Above: When you Quit Lightroom, this Back Up Catalog window appears. Hit the Choose button to choose a location to save your Lightroom catalog, and I would recommend saving to an external hard drive, or to Dropbox (as I have here) or a cloud backup. 

After you’ve backed up your Lightroom catalog, you need to back up your photos separately, and I would recommend:

(1) Putting your photos all on an external hard drive

(2) Buy a 2nd external hard drive as a 2nd backup of all those same images (ideally in a different location. That way if your house burns down or you get robbed, you still have a backup offsite. I keep one drive at the office, and a 2nd at home, and I sync them up once-a-month).

(3) I would have a third backup in The Cloud (I use Backblaze.com) because if your area experiences a natural disaster (ask folks in Houston, South Florida, New England Coast, Louisiana), you’d lose all your photos in both locations – home and office – at once.

So, most importantly — make a backup of the photos on your computer. Today if possible. And get a 2nd backup. Hard drive dies. Always. Especially when it’s the least opportune time possible, so protect yourself with a backup of your entire photo collection. Then get to backing up your Lightroom catalog.

Hope that helps you sleep better at night. :)

Only 10 more days ‘till the Photoshop World Conference! Whoo Hoo!!!
Even though we’re only 10-days away, people are signing up every single day — you can too, and join us in Orlando, May 31 – June 2nd. Tons of Lightroom training every day of the conference. Details/tickets here. 

Here’s wishing you a great Monday, and a kick-butt week!

Best,

-Scott

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.

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