Catalog Carousel

My (in)decision on a new Lightroom catalog has been made irrelevant by the fact that I’ve run out of hard drive space. I’ve been using a convoluted backup “strategy” that resulted in multiple copies of files with multiple backups on multiple drives. From one perspective, this is good, because barring a catastrophe I will always have at least one copy that is valid. In reality, though, I can’t find anything, I don’t know which file is the “right” one, and I’m out of storage space. I could just go buy another drive, but that is only a technical solution to what is a systemic problem.

Over the past week I’ve been thinking about how best to organize my stuff for the future, and reconsidering decisions I made about all of my old stuff.

Part of the problem is history. I have personal digital photos in iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, and in scattered folders. I have scans of family slides, negatives, and scrapbooks in a separate system. I have some client work that is self-contained. I have an ongoing project that is completely computer-based and part of my Art Practice1, but isn’t (seemingly) connected to my other work though it could be.2

Here is what I’m working toward:

  • Non-client (digital and scanned film) photographs go into one master catalog
  • Client photographs each get their own catalog
  • Family images (I have decades of slides still to scan) get their own catalog
  • Resartus gets its own catalog
  • School gets its own catalog (this catalog lives on a portable drive)

This is still separated quite a bit, but it gives me some smaller chunks that can be more easily moved to an archive drive to save active space.

I will also change how I actually handle the new images on import. I use a program called Ingestamatic that names the files based on some EXIF data and then puts a copy in my “negatives” file and puts another copy for Lightroom to see. Previously, when I imported to Lightroom I would make a DNG copy from the 2nd copy.3 I don’t mind making a DNG, but it has finally occurred to me that I don’t need to make a copy of the 2nd copy, I just need to move the 2nd copy into my Lightroom catalog (converting on the way).4

I can’t just delete the existing “2nd” copies because some of them are directly referenced by various catalogs. OOOPS.

So now that I know where I want to be (and how I will do it going forward), how do I get there? As far as I can tell, it’s going to be a combination of tedium and terror, with a bit of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. Some of these images I haven’t seen for years, including many photos of loved ones now deceased. I think, however, I will work backward through time.

  • First, consolidate all of my non-client non-school non-family Lightroom catalogs. Lightroom has a mechanism for this, and I believe I can merge catalogs without losing any Lightroom edits (no matter where the edit took place).

  • Then, get my Aperture & iPhoto libraries in shape to use the Lightroom Aperture import plug-in5 to add them to my catalog. I also need to consider what to do with PhotoBooth photos and movies.

  • In the meantime, make sure I’m not triple-dipping on the Resartus catalog, the Family Scans catalog, and the School catalog.

  • Oh, I need to get that off-site backup thing going, too.

  • Finally, rearchive the new stuff and delete all of the old stuff. (See? Terror)

I need to get this done, because I need to make some photos before I go batty. Wish me luck.

  1. Pretentious much? 

  2. None of this has anything to do with the physical objects. That’s a nightmare

  3. If you’re counting, that’s three copies, and that’s before backing up. 

  4. Debating the merits of Adobe DNG is boring. Don’t go there. 

  5. I’ve never intentionally opened Apple’s Photos app, but I may have to in order to prepare the older files.