If Lightroom were a woman, I would’ve seriously dated her (just kidding Lori… kissy faces!). Inevitably, though, what would’ve been a deal-breaker is that Lightroom catalogs don’t really like to travel very much. Any of you who’ve attempted to work on the same catalog from multiple computers have most likely come across this beloved LR message “Note: Lightroom catalogs cannot be on network volumes or in read-only folder.” Finally, with the birth of Dropbox also came a solution to sync Lightroom catalogs between computers easily by essentially saving them locally to a shared folder. Now, Google Drive provides a similar solution along with 5GB of free online cloud storage. Since I’ve been pushing the walls of my free Dropbox account for some time, moving my Lightroom catalogs over to Google Drive was perfect. Here are the basics of creating a fresh Lightroom catalog sync’ed via Google Drive. I’ll also cover how to move and sync an existing Lightroom catalog via Google Drive.
Just a heads-up, I’m running Lightroom 3. Yes, I know Lightroom 4 has been released, is really cheap, and like a millions times better. Somehow I don’t think “How about 60 minutes using Lightroom 4 instead?” will put a smile on my landlord’s face though.
1) Install Google Drive
Go to the Google Drive homepage and download the installer. You’ll need a free Google account if you don’t already have one. Google Drive comes with 5GB of free storage out of the box. This is enough for me, but if you need more there are monthly subscription plans priced from 25GB for $2.50 all way up to 16TB (not a typo!) for $800. View all the pricing options here. Personally, I don’t see myself needing more than my allotted 5GB, but this is because I only use it as a work-in-progress holding tank. Right now, I’m using Google Drive to collaborate on a large graphic design project and still have managed to fill only 3GB. After the project is over I’ll archive the project files and remove them from Google Drive.
2) Open Lightroom
Duh! This really doesn’t need to be a step except that I want to highlight a cool (and free) time-saver tool I use to open all my apps and documents called Quicksilver. I’ve set Quicksilver to open when I hit the shortcut Alt+ESC. Then I just type the first few letters of the app or doc name and hit Enter to open it. It’s way faster than mousing to the doc or rooting around in my folders. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not being paid or anything to promote their product so you know this is a legit reference. Download Quicksilver free here. It’s only for the Mac, but there’s a free PC program that’s almost identical called Colibri.
3) Create a new catalog in Google Drive
In Lightroom, select File > New Catalog. Then navigate to your Google Drive Folder or any folder therein (BTW, therein is easily one of the most odd English words ever). Hit “Create” and we’re in business. Woohoo! Time to eat chimichangas like it’s your birthday! Lightroom will relaunch itself using the new catalog, then sync to the Google servers. Now all you need to do is import some pictures from an external hard drive or even from a folder on Google Drive itself!
Switching between computers
Before you shut down the computer after you’ve finished working in Lightroom, make sure Google drive has synchronized the Lightroom catalog file. When you switch between computers, make sure each computer has Google Drive installed and that the lightroom catalog has the green check mark next to it before opening it. Also, be sure to bring the external hard drive with the pictures too . When you launch the sync’ed catalog after switching computers, Lightroom will ask you where the pictures are. Reconnect one of the images and the others should automatically re-link themselves.
Sync Existing Lightroom Catalogs with Google Drive
- Find the existing “.lrcat” file
- Copy it to Google Drive and open it
- Re-link photos
Keeping the Sync clean
You’ll notice a few extra files next to your Catalog-name.lrcat file. The “.lrcat-journal” and “.lrcat.lock” are both there to help protect your work, and the “Previews.lrdata” is where all the current previews are stored (Adobe doesn’t beat around the bush with it’s naming). To keep the “Previews.lrdata” file from becoming too large, I recommend that you set the 1:1 previews to automatically be discarded “After One Week.” You’ll find this setting under Lightroom > Catalog Settings > Automatically Discard 1:1 Previews.