share a lightroom catalog with two computers

How to share a Lightroom catalog with multiple computers

This is current for Lightroom CC version 2015 release 1.1


Unfortunately there is no way using the Adobe cloud to share a Lightroom catalog between two computers. If you are wanting to work on an iPad and a Desktop computer (this includes a laptop) then it is easy and built in to the CC subscription model, and it works very well. Just turn on the “sync with mobile” pane…

However, for a lot of people we want to sync between multiple computers…ie one at the the studio and then one at home or a laptop.

This takes a little bit more work…but it’s not as complicated as it sounds. In essence all we do is…

1) Create smart previews on import

2) Export folder/collection from source computer as new library (don’t copy negative files)

3) Copy this new catalog onto the remote machine

4) Import this catalog into your remote computer, or just double click on to to open as is

5) Once all edits are done, export the catalog or copy it back to the source computer

6) Import the catalog


When importing your files from the camera/card reader build smart previews.


Export the folder/collection as a catalog


You can untick “Export negative files” and “Include available previews” but you need to tick “Build/Include Smart Previews”

This keeps the export to a relatively smaller size.


Export as this…


Once it has exported you should have two files as this…a Lightroom catalog and the smart previews data file.


Then you need to copy the files from the source computer to the remote computer. In the screen grab below the source is an iMac and I am using the built in screen sharing to copy them over to a MacBook Pro. You can do this wirelessly or I will just connect a Thunderbolt cable between the two for speed.



On the remote computer. Import the copied catalog into your existing Lightroom catalog, or you can just double click on it and open it as a standalone catalog



Import into catalog


All edits are intact from the source computer


 When you have finished editing on the remote computer, we just reverse the process and export.


Then copy the catalog back to the source computer and import it back in.



Lightroom then checks the catalog file for duplicates.


Click “Metadata and develop settings only” and uncheck “Preserve old settings as a virtual copy”


The metadata is then imported and applied to your existing catalog file. Any edits you have done on the remote machine are now applied on the source catalog. This may seem all very complicated, but it is straightforward and does allow you to work on more than one machine.

During the hight of the season I will set on iMac up to export a wedding gallery and copy another wedding across to the MacBook Pro and work on that whilst the other is busy. Then when finished just export the catalog back to the main machine.

Just make sure you delete catalog’s that are no longer needed and keep good housekeeping…otherwise you’ll forget which catalog is the current one !

There are as with most things, lots of different ways of doing this, this is just the way that I do it.



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