How to Export Lightroom Catalogs

One of the most frequent questions I get from my photo editing clients is about how to export and import Lightroom catalogs. People tend to over stress this process, and I feel that it holds them back from outsourcing their photo editing. And while it does have a few steps, after you do it once or twice you’ll come to find that it’s not that hard at all.

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First off, why do photo editors use Lightroom catalogs? Why can’t you just send the RAW image files. 

Well if you have every tried sending RAW files over the internet you’ll understand that it takes FOREVER. And no, I’m not exaggerating that. Try it out for yourself. Try uploading and sending 2,000 RAW wedding images to a friend and you’ll find out why that process just doesn’t work out. 

Instead, with Lightroom catalogs, we utilize something called a Smart Preview. Smart previews are a compressed DNG file that has been resized to around 2% of the original RAW file. When you do the math, that saves SO much space when you are uploading and transferring. And the best part is that even with 2% of the RAW file the quality of the images are still so high that there is no compromise when editing on those small files.

As an editor this is great because we don’t need to have the orginal RAW files to be able to work on your catalogs and this speeds up our editing. Smaller catalogs render quicker in Lightroom, which in turn lets us get your catalog back to you sooner. 

Now that we have gone over some of the more technical aspects of why you would want to use Lightroom catalogs over sending the RAW images, it’s on to the step-by-step instructions on how to go about exporting your Lightroom catalogs. Below is a video that goes over that process for you. If you have any questions or get stuck feel free to reach out and I can help you out further.



Preparing Files for Export

Flag or rate the images you have edited before export. These are called your anchor images or reference images and they are extremely important for your photo editor to have in order to edit your gallery with consistent results. Every wedding is different. You want to edit images in different lighting situations (example: getting ready, ceremony, and reception) and also images from each camera body you have the day of the wedding.  Every camera body has a different camera color profile so that needs to be taken into account when editing.


Exporting Your Catalog for Editing

1. In LR select the images you wish to export (after culling and including your edited images)

2. Click File --> Export as Catalog

3. Check the following boxes on prompted screen:

           Export selected photos only            

            Build/Include Smart Previews

            Include available previews

4. Uncheck: 

            Export Negative files

5. Export to computer. Saving it to the Desktop is a great way for easy access.

6. Zip or compress the folder on the Desktop before sending via Dropbox. If you skip this step then there could be problems for your editor since Dropbox can be temperamental with any file larger than 1GB which for weddings is usually always going to happen.


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So that's it. These are the same steps I give to my photo editing clients in a File Transfer PDF and I hope they simplify the process for you.

As your photo editor I strive to make the on boarding process as painless as possible so that you don't have to sweat the little stuff. What other concerns or questions hold you back from outsourcing your photo editing? Next week I'll post a blog on how to Import Your Lightroom catalog once you receive them back from your photo editor to look out for that.