I am reorganizing about 32TB of Lightroom catalogs, and I need some guidance. Either I'm doing something wrong, or Lightroom is missing some useful functions.
This is also in the process of migrating the entire library to a new location, so I've been doing the migration from inside Lightroom. This is the most recent version of Lightroom Classic CC, running on a Mac Pro with the latest OS.
In the previous organizational method, the catalogs were divided into seasons, four per year, going back not quite 10 years. Each are discrete, containing their own negatives, folder hierarchies, metadata, etc. There are also special Master catalogs that contain copies of all 5-star-rated images from the entire corpus. They, too, are self-contained.
The problems with this method are manifold: duplicates existing across multiple catalogs with no way to cross-reference, search-ability is limited to one season, Collections are limited to images from one season, etc. The seasonal approach was also to accommodate the slowness of older versions of Lightroom, previous catalogs from Aperture, etc. Each season averages out to about 500GB.
The goal is to migrate and combine everything to a Master Catalog with a singular folder hierarchy, with each previous individual seasonal catalog (and all it's folders or collections) represented as Collections instead. That way, any previous discrete Catalog is now a Collection Set, with it's old Collections now within the Collection Set. Makes sense, right? With the new speed improvements, plus storing catalogs and smart previews on internal flash storage, Lightroom is much faster now.
Now, the old seasonal catalogs aren't perfect. There are duplicates within them, they are missing images, and there are orphaned images in the folder structures that are not in the catalogs.
So, what I have been doing is opening an individual seasonal catalog, exporting the metadata to XMP, and then opening the new Master Catalog and first, importing all the images directly from the seasonal catalog's folders (bypassing the catalog). The reason I did this is because when using the "Import from Other Catalog" option, it was missing images that were not in the seasonal catalog, but also, when it copies the images, it duplicates the previous (flawed) folder hierarchy, for each seasonal catalog. It does not combine the folders or allow reorganization as it imports. I cannot tell it to ignore the old folder hierarchy and copy the images into a new hierarchy. At least with image importing, the user is allowed more control over the destination folder choices (location, date sub-folder, custom sub-folder, etc.).
I tried to just roll with this and then reorganize the folder contents from within Lightroom manually afterward, but after the first one, it won't let me, reporting duplicates, and I cannot force it to combine multiple references to one image, so it refuses to move the images, and i have two references to two different originals that are actually duplicates, but i can't combine them into the same folder hierarchy because their names are identical. Catch-22!
After importing the images directly, I'd then go back to the "Import from Other Catalog" option, and import just the metadata from that same seasonal catalog, which would also grab the pre-existing Collections. But even this process did not always work 100%.
Not only is this a kludge, but now that I am deep into this, I'm wondering if I've done it wrong from the beginning. I ran a duplicate checker, and, out of over 700,000 images, it's reporting almost 50% are duplicates. Ugh!
And now that I finished a pass importing the seasons, I'm attempting to import the special 5-star libraries. I would expect the Master Catalog to recognize them all as duplicates, since they were all exported from the seasonal catalogs to begin with. Instead, Lightroom is seeing them all as new images, which I know they're not. It doesn't see any of them as duplicates, and wants to import them all over again. SMH.
AFAIK, there is no straightforward way to ingest multiple catalogs, preserving Collections & metadata, and reorganize them into a new simple folder hierarchy.
Please, oh collective genius of Adobe Lightroom Classic Forumland, be so kind as to show me the error of my ways and shed some light on the path forward.
1. Best way to combine multiple catalogs, preserving Collections & metadata, and reorganize folder structure upon import?
2. How to force Lightroom to combine multiple image references to the same original negative?
3. Why does it see known duplicates as new images?
Sorry for the long post. Thanks so much for your help.