Cataloguing my digital picture collection into the one catalogue

Just after Christmas I started to catalogue my digital pictures into the one database. Up until now I have had them stored on various media using a number of different picture cataloguing systems..Some were on thumb-drives, others on USB portable discs, some on optical discs and labelled with the contents, and other were on old hard disks long removed from computers that are no longer used.

I first started moving over to digital photography when the Minolta 7i came out around late-2001 to early-2002 so I have a big backlog of pictures to catalogue.

The first decision that has to be made is which catalogue database to use. After a few days looking at the top contenders and even downloading the trial versions and testing some of them, I ended up selecting Adobe Lightroom. Adobe Lightroom was fast and the standard preview thumbnails are small yet contain enough resolution to show the pictures to someone when you are not connected to the main database on your server.

Also you get the nice built-in linkage over to Photoshop, and the pre-Photoshop tools that allow you to first 'develop' the picture are very mature and effective; and the 'develop' edits are non-destructive to your master original image. With Adobe allowing you to subscribe to the Lightroom+Photoshop bundle for $9.99 per month this also works out to be a reasonably economical option.

Once the catalogue database tool has been selected the next thing you need to get sorted out is your approach or procedure for loading in about 30,000 images.

Again, after looking around the Web to see how others have done it, the approach I decided to take was to load the images—as I found them—into folders on my QNAP server. Then load each folder into the Lightroom database without any pre-selection audits. Then after each folder is loaded into the Lightroom database I go through it and make all the pictures I don't think are worth keeping as "Rejected"; which just requires tapping the X key. Once that has been done for a complete folder import then I do a permanent delete which deletes the images out of the Lightroom database plus it deletes them off the server—they are gone for good, never to be seen again.

Lightroom standard thumbnail view preview page (showing 6 previews wide).

So far I have just over 14,000 pictures catalogued in Lightroom. The actual image files for these 14,000+ pictures are consuming 220GB on my QNAP server. But the Lightoom database catalogue file—which resides on my Surface Pro 3 and is backed up to the QNAP server—is only 148KB. Even more amazing, the standard thumbnail preview images—also stored locally on the Surface Pro 3—are only consuming 8.6GB. Yet they contain sufficient detail to show to people when not connected to the server; so I am basically able carry my 14,000 image picture library around with me.

The Next Stage

Once I get all 20,000+ of my digital pictures into the Lightroom catalogue—with the obvious duds deleted—then the next phase will be to work through what I kept and rate them all. That could take another few months to work through.