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Posted by Gerard Murphy – February 26, 2014 browse all

How Many Photos are in the Average Lightroom Catalog?

We’re kinda data geeks here at Mosaic, and we occasionally get the question of “how many photos are in the average Lightroom catalog”. So we looked into this and wanted to share our findings, because hey, we found it interesting… and thought you would too!

After synchronizing tens of thousands of Lightroom catalogs for our online photo backup product and Lightroom iOS App, here is what we found.

The results are a little surprising… Lightroom catalogs are not nearly as large as many would assume.

While the average Lightroom catalog size is 15,888 photos, the median number of photos in a Lightroom catalog is 5,095. (A smaller number of very large catalog moves the average up.)

The first quartile is only 794 photos. The third quartile is 19,388. This means that the majority of Lightroom catalogs are between 794 and 19,388 photos.

Note the bin sizes differ.

It seems that many photographers choose to have multiple smaller catalogs as opposed to one large “master” catalog. In fact, a whopping 21% of catalogs that we synchronize are smaller than 500 photos. The photographers with the smaller catalogs are much more likely to synchronize / backup multiple catalogs to Mosaic than just one. Obviously one photographer with thirty 1,000 photo catalogs skews the “average” number as there are more catalogs that are smaller than a photographer with a single larger “master” Lightroom catalog.

Only 2% of the catalogs we synchronize are over 75,000 photos.

There could be a number reasons for this. Although this is speculation, we have noticed a large spike in Lightroom usage in the past year. And we aren’t alone. In this survey from”http://digital-photography-school.com/post-processing-poll-results” target=”_blank”>The Digital Photography Schoolon what post-processing software is used most often, “Lightroom is up 10% from two years ago to 42% currently.” (19% report using Photoshop.) It could be that many new users didn’t migrate older photos into Lightroom but started with only new empty catalogs.

A caveat: These numbers may or may not represent Lightroom users as a whole. Of course, Mosaic users are naturally better looking, have lower cholesterol, higher SAT scores, more friends and are generally more interesting than typical Lightroom users (note: we only have anecdotal evidence to support these claims). But beyond that, we don’t know too much about how our users compare to the Lightroom audience in general. I’d assume that Mosaic would skew slightly more towards a “professional” photography audience, which makes the smaller catalogs even more surprising.

A few notes on the data: This is based on a random sample of 3,000 Lightroom catalogs, which should be a significant enough sample size. Also, this is “per Lightroom catalog” and many photographers have multiple Lightroom catalogs so this is not representative of “a total number of photographs in a photographers archive.”

It’s certainly a bit surprising that 82% of Lightroom catalog have fewer than 25,000 photos. How many photos are in your Lr catalog? Do you have multiple catalogs? Why? Let us know in the comments below!

Gerard Murphy

Gerard Murphy is an entrepreneurial do-er who is the CEO / Co-Founder of Mosaic. He is also a decent guy who loves his family, taking photos and startup culture. Loves promoting Mosaic to the world. Gerard has written several articles on entrepreneurship, marketing and photography that have appeared in publications including Forbes, LinkedIn and Photofocus.

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  • Raden Adams

    When I upgraded to LR5 a few months ago I had over 53,000 and I am just an avid amatuer hobbiest, I guess you would say. I was shocked so I have been deleting more now and I am down to over 45,000. But, for some reason, I just don’t like deleting anything and I have found photos from 3 or 4 years ago that I just now edit and some of them are some of my best shots.

  • http://www.danilew.com/ DaniLew

    As an early Lightroom adopter, it was best practice to keep separate catalogs. However, since LR4, I have one combined catalog that is just under 50K.

    • MosaicArchive

      This is a great point. Although Lightroom can now handle pretty large catalogs, some folks may still be sticking with the smaller catalogs because they fear the catalog crashes that were far more prevalent pre-Lightroom 4 and are all but solved in Lightroom 5.

  • urbantiki

    I always – ALWAYS – use separate catalogs for separate shoots. When you can easily export your best photos into a separate, ‘all-star’ catalog, why risk the fate of all your edits to one single catalog? It’s way too risky.
    It’s like folks who buy a 128GB flash drive and use it for every shoot. I just feel the risk is too great. We use no larger than 32GB cards, and always shoot with a second, redundant card in the camera — why put all your eggs in one basket?

    • MosaicArchive

      I have heard this argument often and I understand it. However, I think the flawed piece of logic in this is the ability to backup your catalog. The Lightroom catalogs (LRCAT file) is not terribly big and can be backed up as you quit Lightroom. In this case you have the protection in case something goes wrong with your working catalog.

      I also write my changes to the file, so that if my catalog gets corrupted, I still have my final edited state. Although this is a little bit of a “belt and suspenders” approach, I feel very safe with a larger catalog especially since the stability of Lightroom is worlds better in Lightroom 4 and 5.

      The benefits of having all my photos in one place and not having to manage loads of catalogs then significantly outweigh the risks for me.

      • urbantiki

        Those are fair arguments. I might run a concurrent larger catalog for awhile to test those concepts out.
        My psychoses about this stuff are based on years of being in IT, and being old enough to remember not having to depend on computers… :-)

        • MosaicArchive

          A healthy psychosis regarding backing up your photos is perfectly rational :)

  • Dave

    I have ONE mega catalog with 122,000 photos…the lrcat file is about 2 gigs…so much easier to have one instead of many….then I have it backup to my Dropbox folder every time I quit….then I will go in and clean the old ones out…just keeping the newest 2 versions of the Lrcat file.

    • MosaicArchive

      Backing up your catalogs and getting them offsite is highly recommended.

      Putting the older backup catalogs in Dropbox is a great approach that we recommend.

      • Dave

        Yeah…I have been using Lightroom since 1.0…always had just ONE catalog…searching them all is the best thing! Got 2 off site backups in 2 different states :)

  • Levi Sim

    I’m a full time photographer with over 257,000 in my catalog. I used to do multiple catalogs, but the stability is now very good, and the ability to collect and search through all my images is wonderful. Does this make me the 1%? ;)

    • MosaicArchive

      You are in the top 1% of everything you do Levi :)

      One thing that may not be clear from the data is that one photographer with thirty 1,000 photo catalogs can skew the data pretty significantly.

      It seems that Adobe’s efforts to enhance the catalogs stability have not been broadcast to everyone yet.

  • Sandy Young

    I’m a hobbyist for the most part, but I also do 1 or 2 portrait sessions a month. I’m really active with my personal photos; in my 3rd 365 project. My LR5 catalog has 38,585 images in it – spread between 2 EHD’s and my laptop. I recently purchased a new laptop, with 12 GB of RAM — that REALLY helped with LR’s performance — I’m NEVER annoyed or waiting for LR or PS anymore! :-)

  • David H Brooks

    one catalogue, 85,000 photos

  • lordchris

    Mine has 124,353.00 photos in it all together. Started in 2005 plus a folder of scanned slides from even before that. It includes all my raw files plus all finished work.Luckily I have a dual Xeon machine and Lightroom runs well with no slowdowns to worry about.

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  • Sean McCormack

    210,000 and growing. I do have a few small catalogs for work I just don’t want in my main catalog. I shoot nightclub stuff that has a 1 week shelf life for example, Better to deal with the separately.

    • MosaicArchive

      Hi Sean! If you have a couple small ones then your average would also be less then 210K.

      I think the take away for us is that we have some work to do on convincing folks that a single catalog approach is the right way to go (for the most part – as you said there are “one offs” as well.)

      • Sean McCormack

        That’s not the question you asked though. ;)
        You asked for the average catalog, not the average of your catalogs. If you were getting technical, then I’ve all those old catalogs that are 160K, 170K, 200k etc, so still quite large. Honestly I’d keep that other stuff in the main catalog, but I’m really not up to seeing photos of drunk students day to day!

  • Christine Roosa

    I have about 5000 photos in my catalog. I’ve been using LR for 3 years I think and am an intermediate amateur photographer shooting mostly just family stuff