kenfisherphotography | Backup Strategy - 7 Steps to heaven

A Lightroom Backup Strategy

I had cause recently to have a major disaster on my computer which meant having to re install all my software. It brought into sharp focus(Pun Intended) for me how important it is to backup your files regularly.

All I had to do was re install Lightroom, install all my backup files and back in business.

Unfortunately there is not one key to press that will do it all for you, so here is my 7 step backup plan.

1. Backup the catalog

The catalog has an extension of *.ltcat. This file contains all the information about your images including all the adjustments you have made while in Lightroom.

By Default its located at:

Windows—C: \ Users \ [your username] \ My Pictures \ Lightroom \ Lightroom X Catalog.lrcat

Mac—Macintosh HD / Users / [your username] / Pictures / Lightroom / Lightroom x Catalog.lrcat

Go to the  Edit menu (Windows) / Lightroom menu (Mac) and select Catalog Settings.  In the General tab information area, it will tell you the name and location of your current catalog, and the Show button will open to that location in Explorer (Windows) / Finder (Mac) for you.

In the backup section you can tell Lightroom when you want it to remind you to backup.


When you exit Lightroom the backup dialog will appear.

Here you can tell Lightroom where you want the backup to be stored. Here I have targeted my external F: drive. I don’t want the backup to be on my computer because if my hard drive dies my backup goes with it.

If you look in your catalog backup folder you will see that Lightroom does not delete any of the previous ones. It’s up to you how many you keep. The files are zipped to around 10% of their original size so they won’t use a great deal of hard drive space. It may still be prudent though to have a rolling deletion strategy, I delete catalog backups older than 6 months.

2. Back up the Previews

The previews are stored in the same place as the Catalog. It’s a folder with Previews.lrdata as an extension.

3. Backup Your Images


Lightroom does not “contain” your images they are stored on your hard drive in their own folder. If you want to know where your photos are stored you can right click on the parent folder and select Show in Explorer(Windows) or Show in Finder(Mac) to lead you to the folder

There is an Option to do a Complete Backup which backs up the catalog and the images as well.

Go to File > Export as Catalog

Make sure you tick Export Negative Files(these are your images) and Include available previews then give it a sensible filename.

Again I direct this backup to an external hard drive.  This backup will take up some hard drive space so I normally delete older versions.

4. Presets and Templates

Something quite often forgot is all the work you have put in to creating and downloading presets so its important to back them up. These include Develop, Slideshow, Book and Web Templates, metadata templates and Export Presets.

By Default they are stored at:

Windows—C: \ Users \ [your username] \ AppData \ Roaming \ Adobe \ Lightroom \
Mac—Macintosh HD / Users / [your username] / Library / Application Support / Adobe / Lightroom /

To find them, go to Lightroom’s Preferences dialog, under the Edit menu (Windows) / Lightroom menu (Mac) and select the Presets tab. Clicking the Show Lightroom Presets Folder button will open an Explorer/Finder window directly to their location.


I just copy the entire folder onto my external hard drive.

5. Settings shared with Camera Raw – Default Settings, Point Curves, Custom Camera & Lens Profiles

Some settings are stored in a shared location, where they can be shared with Camera Raw hosted by Photoshop or Elements. They include your Develop default settings, lens profile default settings, custom point curves and any custom camera or lens profiles that you’ve created or downloaded.

These are stored at:

Windows—C: \ Users \ [your username] \ AppData \ Roaming \ Adobe \ CameraRaw \

Mac—Macintosh HD / Users / [your username] / Library / Application Support / Adobe / CameraRaw /

6. Plug-ins

If you have downloaded some Plug-ins for Lightroom they will need backing up too. You can always download them again from the plug in source, but I back these up anyway to be safe.

Go to File > Plug in Manager.  Click the Show in Explorer(Windows)/ Finder(Mac) to show where the plugin is located then copy each one onto your external hard drive.

7. Your Preferences

Finally, you may want to back up your Preferences file.

That includes last used catalogs, last used settings, view options, FTP settings for uploading web galleries etc.

They live at:

Windows—C: \ Users \ [your username] \ AppData \ Roaming \ Adobe \ Lightroom \ Preferences \ Lightroom X Preferences.agprefs

Mac—Macintosh HD / Users / [your username] / Library / Preferences / com.adobe.Lightroom X.plist

7 steps to heaven

Phew, that’s all there is to it. Sounds a bit of a pain but believe me when that day arrives and your computer gives up the ghost, and its when not if, then being able to get all your files back to their rightful places and be up and running in no time flat is awesome.

If you still need convincing how important it is to do this have a look at an article by Jill Levenhagan with some horror stories on the consequences of not backing up your files…. Scary..

If you want a printed copy of this please visit the Downloads Page