Multi-system Lightroom

I’ve been doing photography for years. And, for years, I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom to manage and edit my photos. With the advent of the photographer’s plan and the two-system allowance, I’ve been able to get Photoshop as well, for a low monthly cost.

However, one feature that’s always been missing is catalog sync between systems. While some people will throw the catalog on a network share, and use it from there, I’ve never been comfortable with doing that due to corruption concerns.

Historically, I’ve just used RDP from my tablet or laptop to get to my desktop where I have Lightroom installed. There are some disadvantages to this method. For starters, if my connection dips for any reason, or if RDP decides to throttle my connection, I’ll end up with artifacts as well as a reduced color depth. It also, even at its best, feels less responsive. And, with Lightroom not being the fastest program, these negatives effects are compounded by RDP.

This solution was a two-part solution. First part was to get my 1 TB of photos to a faster, more central location than my desktop hard drive. I have a homeserver with a large RAID10 array. Thanks to dual NICs, I’ve got the network bandwidth to spare, and RAID10 is quite a bit faster than my local hard drive. RAID also lets me lose a drive without having total downtime until I can replace a drive and restore from Crashplan.

So, I fired up Lightroom, and added the share for the drive to my folder list. I then moved a few folders over for testing from my desktop. I decided that if the speed was similar between desktop and server, that there would be no harm in just moving everything before trying the sync. After doing a few tests, I couldn’t really see a difference so I started moving the rest of the photos. I did the photo moving from Lightroom so it’d keep all the data, rather than moving in Explorer and reimporting. It took a little longer, but I feel that it was worth it.

It was at this point that I remembered that I had photos in a second location. Since Lightroom is so sluggish, I have a secondary SSD where I keep photos that I’m actively working on. When I’m done with them, I move them back to the main photo location for storage. I didn’t want to lose access to these photos when I’m working on my laptop, so I set up some mapped network drives to keep everything straight. Luckily, I don’t have drive letter mixing between my laptop and desktop, so it was a quick fix.

Finally, it was time to set up the sync. I used allwaysync, since I wanted to capture the previews as well, and it seems to handle massive syncs better than some of the other tools I’ve used. Once I set it up to sync my lightroom folder to my laptop, and it finished running (It took forever due to there being over 100k small files), it was time to test.

I opened the catalog on my laptop, and all my previews, presets, and filters were right there. To test, I did some edits and browsed through some folders. Even with DNG/CR2 files, there wasn’t any extra lag as compared to running from my desktop. I’m doing this testing on an Asus Ultrabook (16gb ram/I7) running on AC wifi.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the performance, and I think that this will make photo editing a lot more mobile. For example, if I’m traveling, all I need to do is move a folder to my laptop via lightroom, and sync up when I get back. Or, I can import some files to my laptop while on a shoot to do in the field edits, and then sync back when I’m home.

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