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Steve you have a bit of a confusing situation there alright.
What does the Folders panel of you catalog look like???
It seems like you have lots of image folders/file in where your catalog is stored. I would not recommend this situation.
Do you just have one catalog???
Start with these questions...
Geoff has the right idea.
In the Library module, right-click on the Folders in the folder panel and select "show parent folder" a few times and this will show you where and how your images are stored on your hard drive.
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I think it is definitely worth the OP getting a clear understanding at this point, about what the specific Import options are / have been doing.
The first question is: whether what is imported to LR is something which was already in the computer (defaults to ADD, though you can change to MOVE or COPY); or coming off a camera / card reader (defaults to COPY).
The dated folders in the screenshot look, to me, as if there has been both a manually controlled destination folder, and automatic subfolder creation too (set by default, as installed). In that case you'd get a lot of independent date structures happening: the "2015 / 03" (March) from one import would be independent of the "2015 / 03" (March) from another import, even though both in reality do refer to the same March 2015.
It's more usual to use either one or the other approach (as below, referring to the Import screen) - and not both together:
A unified date structure lets you view everything taken e.g. in a given year or month, with a single click - then you can drill down to individual days / shoots / whatever if required. It doesn't mean you HAVE to think about your images in terms of date primarily; that is just a side-benefit of how they happen to be physically stored. You'd usually use that in combination with other ways of selecting and searching, for example a text search on certain words.
And if naming of shoots is important toward finding these images (such as, the client's name or the location as well as the date) then one can follow a hybrid approach: to consistently use one of the LR-native auto filing schemes at import, such as YY / MM / DD, or else some customised variant - and then afterwards to edit (within LR, so it does not lose track) the name of the resulting "day" folder, adding whatever identifying text is useful (such as client name), but keeping the date at the start. This ensures a chronological listing. But you can still do a text search for images, using a client's name (say), and all images whose folder names include that word, as well as if they have it as a keyword, will show up.
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Sorry for the reply being late,
I am going to attach more pictures of my process below. I only have one catelog because I like having my work in one place and since I do not take hundreds of thousands of pictures a year I figure it will do fine for now. this is the folders image when in the "develop" module. these are located within the Lightroom folder on my external hard drive like shown above.this is what I do when I am importing photos into light room and the settings I choose.
I always then export my raw files again into a folder onto my external hard drive and this is where I then put the edited exports as well. I am confused and wondering if I am backing up my raw files 2 times.
Thanks for all the help,
According to the import dialog, you are copying the files off the camera into a directory tree organized by event(?) then by date.
According to the settings, you are not making a second copy of the images.
If you are running the import a second time, this is bad thing. Instead, use the option to create a second copy during the import (top right of the dialog).
Your directory naming suggests that you are storing your images in a subdirectory under the directory holding the Lightroom catalog. If true, that is probably not a good thing, but that can be improved later.
If you want a better idea of what your directory tree looks like, in the folder panel in the left pane in the Library module, right-click on one of the directories and select "show parent". Repeat as desired.
always then export my raw files again into a folder onto my external hard drive and this is where I then put the edited exports as well. I am confused and wondering if I am backing up my raw files 2 times.
Lightroom is not altering the content of your Raw files while you work (it is working "from" them, but not "on" them). Therefore you will gain nothing extra by saving another copy of these files, after editing those pictures. The two would be identical in every way.
Working with a Raw image in LR, consists of setting and adjusting metadata (conversion instructions) for the picture's appearance, and also non-graphical metadata such as keywords etc. This metadata is held in the Catalog. If you back that up, you have a secure copy of all this information. You also have a copy of each picture's editing History providing the ability to show an image in its current edited state, in a completely unedited state, or in any of the remembered intermediate states. Among these remembered states, will be any points at which you have Exported - labelled as such. If you want, you can also save a named Snapshot to preserve a particular image state. This keeps that available regardless of further editing, and even if you were to clear the image's History list within LR.
Much of this metadata (including Snapshots) can also be written to the file system, saving out a backup duplicate of that Catalog information (although this does not operate for a Virtual Copy).
In the case of a proprietary Raw file, this would get written as an XMP file alongside the Raw (NEF, whatever). If you then edit some more in LR, and then re-write this XMP file (or if you have LR set to do this automatically after each change), then that XMP file gets overwritten. So unlike the Raw files, XMP files do change over time. If this same Raw file with its accompanying XMP file was sent to someone else, all the latest embodied LR edits could be seen by that person - either by importing to LR or else by opening straight into ACR. This person could then also view the same image in an unedited state, or else recall any Snapshots that you had made, and which were included (as the full History was not) in the XMP.
So you may want to include these XMP files in each regular backup (of all newly added or changed files since the previous backup, for that whole set of image folders) but most importantly: also, an up to date backup of the LR Catalog.
First off the Finder window you posted is lacking in information. You can turn on the Sidebar and have the Full Path shown at the bottom of the Finder window. That way you wouldn't need to ask, "Where actually are these pictures located". The full path to them would be displayed at the bottom of the Finder window.
I am not saying light room is altering them what I am asking is if I am importing these files into a folder and making a copy of them off of my SD card and into my lightroom folder on my external hard drive. I always build smart previews even tho I never use them I am wondering if these are the smart previews or if these are the actual pictures off of my sd card. If they are the actual files off the sd card then I don't need to make another backup to my external hard drive.
- import files off sd card into lightroom
- they get added to a new folder inside my ONE lightrrom folder
-then make a folder on my hard drive and copy sd pics to that folder ------is this step repetitive of the one above?
Yes, your third step of "make a folder on my hard drive and copy sd pics to that folder" is a duplicate of what LR did.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Making a backup copy of your pictures is a good thing. However, you are better off putting the backups on a different hard drive than the LR copies are on. If you click the checkbox on the upper right of the import dialog, LR will do this for you.