Here are some bits and pieces of Lightroom knowledge around the catalog and preferences that I more or less recently acquired and thought worthy of sharing.
1. Preferences Reset
One common advice given in forums, in particular when someone is experiencing problems with Lightroom, is to “reset the Lightroom preferences“. Apparently, older entries in the preferences file, from previous Lightroom versions, make newer versions of Lightroom choke, or something like that.*
It is important to know that Lightroom does NOT make a backup of your OLD preferences file when using the reset method with the keyboard combo while launching the software. That’s usually not THAT much of a big deal – except with regards to your plugins: they will all have to be re-enabled, manually. When you’re using some of the – quite popular! – plugins by Jeffrey Friedl for example, you will also have to re-register them with the author, because the registration is tied to Lightroom’s preferences file, apparently.
Before you reset the preferences, make a backup of your existing preferences file. Adobe has an article online with the file locations for common Lightroom files – including the preferences. A very comprehensive article in the Lightroom Queen Forums about resetting the Lightroom preferences explains what else you need to be aware of, if you choose to do this (or are being told to do so).
I wish Adobe would a) automatically create a backup of the OLD preferences file when resetting them, and b) split the preferences into separate files to give more fine-grained control over WHAT exactly is reset – so that the plugin information can “survive” a preferences reset, for instance.
2. Folder Color Labels
There are a few things that cannot be accessed/restored/saved anywhere else but in Lightroom’s catalog – virtual copies, stacks and the flags (pick/reject), for example. Another one is the color label that can be applied to folders. This feature has quickly become an important part of my workflow. Unlike the color labels for individual images, which are stored in the metadata (see XMP & backups) there is no way to export them or preserve them, besides the catalog itself.
When your catalog is damaged, the folder color labels are lost with it – which is expected. However, when you “Import from a different catalog” (to an existing catalog) or “Export to a new catalog” (from a folder or collection [set]) then the folder color labels are lost in the process, too. Bummer.
It’s vital to have a backup of the catalog, of course, but the fact that I use these color labels a lot now made me think about whether I should incorporate some sort of labeling into my actual folder names, in addition to the folder color labels – just to be on the safe side. With 12+ years of photo organization in Lightroom, a dependency has grown on it that makes me uncomfortable at times.
3. Publish Collections
When you “Export to a new catalog” by clicking on a folder or collection (structure), only the “regular” Collections and Smart Collections that contain photos from the exported set of images will be created in the new catalog – that’s not unexpected. What’s not so great about using this feature is that NONE of the “Publish Collections” is created in the new catalog that way (the same is true when using “Import from another catalog” – a scenario in which I can understand the restriction a bit more, because the existing catalog you’re importing to might already HAVE existing Publish Collections).
At present, there appears to be no way of preserving/exporting and backing up Lightroom’s Publish Collections, except with a catalog backup. So again – when the catalog has some sort of problem, you’ll lose them.
I have about 180 Publish Collections at the moment (among other things, they keep my website and Lightroom in sync, via the WP/LR Sync plugin for Lightroom and WordPress). The fact that they can’t be backed up any other/additional way is another one of those things that makes me wonder whether it’s a good idea to build a Lightroom workflow around them…
*) this shouldn’t happen, of course: proper software QA should catch these problems, so that they can get fixed, instead of just having the user throw away their individual settings with a one-size fits all “miracle cure” (which the prefs reset it is not); Lightroom has bugs, all software has bugs, and Lightroom Classic probably contains millions of lines of pretty old code at this point – code that Adobe won’t touch to update unless they really, really have to, because… well, they’re a business answering to shareholders, why would they waste that money, to make a user with a fringe case of a bug happy? :P